In my fairly short, somewhat corporate career I’ve met my fair share of business people. Anyone from CEO’s and building owners to entrepreneurs and freelancers, and I’m here to tell you – if you don’t already know – it’s a jungle out there. I know the song says “don’t believe the hype,” but seriously, don’t. When I innocently entered the corporate world, I had no idea how cut throat the world of business would be. And let me emphasize that it doesn’t let up and it doesn’t get better. You will make allies, you will make connections, you will expand your network, but all of them are, and should be strategic. Even if you don’t realize what the function of a business relationship is the person on the other end definitely does. So be smart, y ponte trucha. Here are the main things I’ve learned:
Be careful who you trust. Everyone is fishing for information. Everyone. People always want to know what others are working on. You may start to get invited to coffee dates, people will want to “pick your brain,” other people might just beat around the bush trying to pull info from you. Don’t underestimate the fact that you have valuable information that someone wants.Even if it’s a stranger, keep your secrets guarded because there is power in information.
I remember being approached by a woman at some exclusive networking “party” who had been to one of my events. She was so excited to meet me and I thought nothing about answering all of her questions about how I plan and execute everything. A couple months later she put on an event with nearly my exact same concept with nearly all of the speakers I’d worked so hard to find on my own. My advice to you, stick to “stuff & things,” which is my go to saying when someone gets a little too bold with their line of questioning. “What are you working on Yvette?” “Oh you know, stuff and things.”
Don’t lowball yourself. If you want to work for trade that is entirely up to you. Only you can decide if the ends justify the means and what exactly you’re going to get out of a trade-off arrangement. But if someone is asking you to work for well below your worth with little to no benefit to you, WALK AWAY! If you work for less they will NOT just suddenly decide to pay you more out of the goodness of their hearts. That is not a thing. I’ve been asked to “help out” a million times and I would do it for a “good cause.” But at the end of the day it was a lot of work and use of my resources for no payout. In fact, I’m still waiting to get paid from an event I “helped out” with nearly six months ago. If someone doesn’t respect the time and skill you bring to the table enough to compensate you for it don’t expect a positive outcome. They will always try to push you to do more and more until you fold and they find some other poor soul to work for pennies.
Get everything in writing. Get real familiar with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) because they will be your best friend. Handshake deals are bogus, every single person on this planet changes when money is involved. You can find a simple template online and tweak it to fit your needs. It’s best to have things like parameters and expectations spelled out to avoid any nasty “misunderstandings” later on. An MOU is a legally binding document so you can use it in court should things take a turn. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just done something because the person seemed cool only to have them flip the script and act brand new. Even if you’re friends – especially if your friends – write it down and always consult a lawyer before you sign anything. If you get a contract and the document doesn’t make sense in normal non-lawyer terms then they are trying to pull something shady.
Never say you already know something. Obviously if it’s a job interview say you know everything! But if someone is taking the time to tell you about their experience or the way they do things, listen carefully. It is erroneous on your part to assume that your way is the best way. There are plenty of people out there who have lots of tricks and tips that would be super helpful to your practice–whatever it may be. I have a baby face so people tend to assume that I am very young and that I don’t know much about the industry that I’m in. It used to bother me and I would get all upset that people were explaining things to me like I was stupid. When I stopped feeling like I had to prove myself, I realized that this was a huge asset. I’ve learned so much by simply allowing people to give me advice drawn from their own experiences.
Note: if the advice is condescending feel free to tell them to kick rocks.
Always be kind and easy to work with. Just for reference I’m a hardcore Scorpio with a sharp tongue and a very low tolerance for BS. That being said, professionally I put the sass on pause because you never know where a connection will lead. Always go the extra mile to be as accommodating as possible because it is truly a small world and your reputation will follow you. I’ve seen so many people confused why deals and partnerships didn’t go through or why they didn’t get invited to an event. Nobody wants to be the person to tell them that it’s because no one likes them. Being likable is key! I know, I know, that sounds counterintuitive. As women we constantly see re-affirming things online about not people-pleasing, but being likeable for the sake of career advancement is necessary. At some point a person that you might be on the fence about may be the one that brings a great opportunity your way. You never know! Unless someone is being misogynistic, racist, or some other kind of awful you can smile through it for an hour.