There are things I wish someone had told me prior to entering the big bad world of Corporate America. Who knows, maybe people tried to tell me, and I just wouldn’t listen. I probably didn’t want to listen, because, after all – I know everything. That being said, I have no regrets about my career choice, and continue to learn and grow in an industry that I love. But just in case you’re a newbie, trying to navigate the shark infested waters of big business, here are some tongue in cheek tidbits of advice:
One year at a big name and you can do whatever you want.
I’m going to quote another movie here, just to hammer my point home. “All you need is for one person to think you're cool, and you're in. Everyone else will be scared to question it.” Rob Gellar (David Arquette) said that in Never Been Kissed, and I live my life by it. Seriously. It’s SO TRUE in Corporate America. Rob knew it, Andy Sachs knew it, and you should know it too. One big name on your resume and you can do what you came to New York to do. Or Los Angeles. Or San Francisco. Insert your city here. My point is, when you are just starting out and you want to make it in a highly competitive field such as journalism, the law, business, whatever - networking is a key factor in your next job. A big name for at least one year is your golden ticket.
Research the job you are applying for.
“Who’s Miranda?” Who’s Miranda?! Are you kidding?!?! Why don’t you just ask who Anna Wintour is (hehe)? Two rules to interviewing you must never break: 1. Research the company, 2. Research the person you are interviewing with.
“You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Ok folks listen up, I thought when I got out of law school I was going to make six figures, and get right into the entertainment legal industry, like that (insert snapping fingers here). Unfortunately, the biggest economic downturn since 1929 occurred 2 years before I was set to graduate, and there were literally, NO. JOBS. Everyone wanted the “magical” 2-5 years of experience. I call it magical because everyone wanted it, but no one wanted to give it to you. So it was magic if you had it. I had to start out doing something that I did not love. I didn’t even like it. At the end I almost hated it. But I did it. Because I had to start somewhere. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s not always going to be your dream job. In fact, very few people get their dream job right out of school. Most people have to start at the bottom. It’s called paying your dues. Everybody pays them, unless you’re like, Obama’s nephew. You have to leave the nest sometime. And when you leave the nest you have to pay your own bills. And let me tell you, after rent, utilities, food, gas, and taxes, there’s not much left. “To jobs that pay the rent!”
Always go into your boss’ office with a notepad.
Ok, so I can’t believe Andy went into Miranda’s office without a notepad. I mean, this girl went to Northwestern? Are they just letting anyone in these days? I did not go to a school anywhere near Northwestern on US News and World Report, and I actually did not learn this lesson from The Devil Wears Prada. I used my common sense, and at my first job as an executive assistant I went into my boss’ office with a notepad, so in case he asked me to do five hundred things I would remember all of them. I’m just throwing this in there because if you don’t know this you should. After Andy forgot everything Miranda said to her the first time, except for the skirts, she never went in without paper and a pen again, did she?
“Tiny man, huge ego.”
So true. I am telling you there is a reason Napoleon Complexes are Napoleon Complexes. Small men feel like they have to make up for SOMETHING by being assholes and driving equally small cars, like Porches. Enough said.
Insecure people will not be happy unless everyone around them is panicked, nauseous, or suicidal. And they are generally at the top of the totem pole.
Le sigh. This is a tough one. It is particularly tough for me because I want to be at the top of the ladder, and I want to get there without losing my soul. Here’s the deal guys, not everyone at the top is soulless. However, a good number of them are, because you can get to the top fast if you are willing to step on people to get there. But here’s the flip side of that: if you show no fear, they will leave you alone. Please note, Nigel showed no fear in the presence of Miranda. Everyone else did. Miranda seemed to like him more than anyone else in the movie. He did his job, avoided her as much as he could, and was professional in front of all the other employees, including Miranda. He showed no fear, and she did not attack him once. That’s the key to not letting them get to you. Trust me, it takes some time to get to the point where you know that what other people think of you doesn’t matter. It really does not matter. If you let them get to you, they win. If you let them make you feel scared and small, they will take pleasure in that. Don’t give them any pleasure at all. Show no fear, hold your head high, and do your job with professionalism. You win.
(Please note, I realize Miranda screwed Nigel at the end, which is why I say, in order to move up, you need to move on. You’re welcome).
Skinny, beautiful people get ahead faster.
Guys, studies have shown! Beautiful people make more money, get promoted faster, and are generally more successful than average Joe’s. It’s just a fact of life. I have no advice for this one. The Devil Wears Prada taught me this, science confirmed it. There ya go.
Your parents will never stop worrying about you. Ever.
Dude, how cute is Andy’s dad? The check at dinner? SO CUTE. Parents never stop worrying about you. I don’t know what it is. I think when your kid pops out, extra worry hormones are released and they never stop over producing until one of you dies. You will always be your parents’ baby, and you will always be dumber than they are, and you will always need a little help (by this I mean monetary help). No matter how big you grow, how many degrees you have, or how much money you earn. They will always worry about you, and they will always help you. Period.
You will cry two to three times at your first job. After that nothing will faze you.
Ok listen, when this happened to me I was twenty-two years old, just out of college, and I grew up in a suburbian bubble. I didn’t realize that the mean people I saw on TV actually existed. But that’s not the worst part. When you realize that someone you thought you admired is actually the world’s biggest prick, you will lose your shit. It’s ok. Close the door to your office, or go to the bathroom, let it out. I promise, after the first or second time you will never cry again. You’ll be as hard as a rock. Then you can be fearless, and no one will mess with you.
If you don’t like your job, quit.
Ok ok I get it. It’s a recession, there aren’t a whole lot of jobs out there, the bills don’t pay themselves. I get it. But start looking elsewhere! Seriously, start looking around, going on interviews, talking to people. Andy should have been networking her ass off. Yeah yeah I get it, she worked 20 hours a day. I did too at one point in my life. But you are interacting with a lot of different people in those 20 hours. Pick the ones you can trust, and feel things out. Let them know you’ve hit a ceiling and you’d like to go somewhere where there’s growth. It’ll make you feel better. I promise. Then when you actually do land a new job, and you quit? Best. Day. Ever.
You need a mentor.
You need a Nigel. They are out there. Find yours, and hang on to him for the rest of your life.
Your friends will NEVER get your job.
Sometimes work has to come first when you’re proving yourself, but your friends who are not in your industry or on a similar path will not understand that. They will get mad at you for not spending enough time with them, and make you feel like a bad friend for working too much. OR, they will only see the good things about your job (read: free trips to amazing destinations, and free gifts). They will not understand office politics or abusive bosses and co-workers. And when you try to tell them why you want to leave they will either glaze over or they will tell you that you cannot leave, ever, because you meet celebrities and you go on free trips to exotic places. Just stop trying to tell them. They don’t get it, and they never will. Just accept it now and just do you. If they are your real friends they will love you no matter where you work and they will understand when you have to be at work, because they will want you to succeed.
“You seem nice, you can’t do that job.”
Yes you can. Looks can be deceiving. Lull them into a false sense of security with your too-niceness, then pounce like the lion that you are! Andy did it. You can too.
You will miss birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays due to work.
Andy: My personal life is hanging by a thread.
Nigel: That’s what happens when you start doing well at work. Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke, it means it’s time for a promotion.
Nigel was keepin’ it real. It’s true. Real people work on their actual birthday. They work on their spouse’s birthday. This is the real grown up world people! You are going to miss birthdays. Also, if you have a very demanding job and/or you are extremely successful chances are you are missing anniversaries and holidays. I know plenty of business people who have had to work on weekends and holidays. This is the world we live in. If your friends don’t get it, ask them if they’d like to support you in the manner that you’ve become accustomed to. Yeah. Didn’t think so.
“You want this life, those choices are necessary.”
You will need to make decisions in your career that you do not want to make. That’s called being an adult. Sometimes we have to choose to get ahead over someone else. Business is business. I’m not saying step on someone to get where you need to go, but look, Miranda was going to fire Andy if she didn’t go to Paris! She needed that damn job! Do you know how much rent is in New York? I don’t because I live in LA, but I hear it’s more expensive than LA. And my place is pricey. So look, she made a call. She decided she didn’t have another job waiting in the wings and she wanted a roof over her head tomorrow. I get it. She made an adult decision. Period.
Whatever you do, do it with integrity, because your reputation will follow you for the rest of your life.
At the end of the movie Andy realized that she was making sacrifices so deep her fundamental beliefs were changing. And she walked away. No back up job, no plan. Her soul was worth more. And I love that. She had worked there less than a year, she didn’t have a new job, and she lived in New York – land of ridiculous rent prices. But her soul and her integrity meant more to her than changing the core of who she is. Love. Look, your reputation will follow you everywhere, for the rest of your life. Ask yourself, who do I want to be?
The people you work with will knife you in the back.
I really hate that this had to happen to Nigel. I love Nigel. He reminds me of my mentor. But he got the knife in the back. Miranda LIKED him, and she knifed him. It’ll happen to you too. Sleep with your eyes open.
Cool jobs are still jobs.
Look, if you’re lucky you will get a job that sends you on cool trips like to Paris, London, New York (if you don’t already live in New York). You may get a job in which you meet celebrities (yay!). But here’s the deal guys, a fun job is still a job. There are still office politics, you likely will have to work at those celebrity-meeting-functions, and those trips are not vacations! You have to work while you’re there!
It’s ok to disagree with your boss.
This is scary the first time around. It really is. I’ve been there. I know. But when you know you are right, you have to say something. For some of us, we are legally bound by a duty to say something (i.e., lawyers). For others, we realize that there is a higher law. Something greater than ourselves out there at work, and not saying something would damn our souls forever. My point is this: there is one reason and one reason only why Miranda gave Andy that recommendation in the end. I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: Andy had balls. She did. She had more guts than any of us can ever hope to have. Her boss called her bluff and Andy showed her cards. Let me tell you, Andy had cojones. And that was ok. Miranda was wrong, and Andy let her know it. Not everyone wants to be Miranda.
Please please please do not go into work tomorrow and give your boss the finger, throw your company phone in a large body of water, or tell your boss to F off. No. Not what I’m saying. What I am saying is this: It is okay to disagree with your boss. It will happen in life. I can guarantee it will happen. Sometimes you have to say something. Sometimes maybe you keep it to yourself. Always know that you do not have to think the way your boss does to be successful. In fact, it’s good that you don’t agree with him/her from time to time. It means you have a brain.
Be nice to everyone you meet. You never know when you’ll need their help.
Dude, Andy totally just gave Emily thousands of dollars worth of clothes. And Emily wasn’t even nice to Andy! Just think what Andy would have done for her if she was nice! Ok maybe the clothes were the only thing Emily wanted that Andy could give her. But here’s the deal, in many industries the assistant one day, is the boss the next. All it takes in this world to be the boss is one amazing idea. And by amazing I mean multi-million dollar amazing idea. Be nice! The assistant may be able to do something ridiculously spectacular for you not too far off in the future.
Networking will save your life.
Ok so Andy didn’t network, but Miranda DID! And it saved her freakin’ life. Ok guys look, Jacqueline Follet was trying to steal her job, and Miranda squashed that. She had connections and she went to the freakin’ CEO of the publishing company and had a long ass list of people who would FOLLOW HER if she left the magazine. Guys- designers, models, photographers. Successful people would follow her. That saved her job, ok. Networking will save. Your. Life. Period.
You don’t need to sell your soul to make it.
Look here’s the deal, you are never going to be happy if you are not doing what you love. If we’re being honest with ourselves, Andy did what we all want to do at some point in our lives. Get honest people. Andy left in style. She hated it there, and she did what we all fantasize about doing at jobs we hate. Look, I’ve been Andy. By month 6 you are networking and looking for a new job so that you are out of there at the one year mark. And then you leave with 2 weeks notice and you don’t burn a bridge because maybe, just maybe, you might need that boss as a reference down the line one day.
Your industry is probably just like mine: small and incestuous. Chances are you will run into someone your former boss knows and who likes your former boss. My point is, we all fantasize about walking out of a shitty job the way Andy did. But we don’t, because in the real world, rarely can you leave a job like that. Andy knew she was burning a bridge. But she hated it there, so she followed her heart. Miranda called her out. She told Andy that they were essentially the same person. And Andy was like, no I’m not, and basically gave Miranda the middle finger. We all wish we could do that to our jerky bosses. But we can’t. All we can hope for is to get another job that’s amazing and closer to what we really want to do with our lives. Andy sent us all a message by throwing that phone in the fountain. She said look, I don’t need to sell my soul to make it. I’m gonna follow my heart and make it anyway.
Again, not telling you to destroy company property. I am telling you to listen to that little voice inside you that’s telling you which way to go…seriously it has a roadmap.
A Female Business and Legal Affairs Executive