5 Things Young Professionals Can Learn From Taylor Swift
There are two schools of thought when it comes to superstar Taylor Swift: Either you love her, or you hate her. But no matter where you find yourself on the spectrum, it’s hard to ignore her absolute domination of the pop and country scene, selling more than 1 million copies of her latest album, “Red,” in its first week and selling out her arena shows in a matter of minutes.
And she didn’t become a phenomenon overnight. Taylor grew up strumming the guitar, belting out Disney songs to anyone who would listen, and writing her own ballads about her life experiences, which eventually parlayed into a full-time gig as a songwriter for a major recording company in Nashville. Now, four albums deep and countless tour dates later, she’s managed to remain seemingly humble, demonstrating humility and a refusal to rest on her laurels — two things every young professional should take notice of.
What else can we learn from America’s sweetheart about what it means to find success in your career? A few things:
While it would be easy to let others run the show and tell her what to do, Taylor has taken ownership over her own career, serving as the CEO when it comes to decisions about her set, choreography and the other myriad choices that have to be made on a daily basis. She has always credited her parents for instilling in her a strong work ethic, once saying, “My parents raised me to never feel like I was entitled to success. That you have to work for it. You have to work so hard for it.”
Millennials tend to get a bad rap for being an entitled generation, depending on instant gratification to find happiness in their everyday lives. This means it’s even more imperative that we put our noses to the grindstone and prove our worth — and then some. Whether you’re just starting out or have been working for a year or more, get people to notice you by asking questions, asking for more responsibility and never assuming that “good enough” is good enough. Request monthly one-on-ones with your manager, and solicit feedback that will help you perform better and more efficiently. Your extra efforts will be appreciated.
Building a Brand
From her social media presence to her merchandise and everything in between, the Taylor Swift brand is steady, sparkly and memorable. Well known for her jaw-dropping reaction every time she wins an award and the coy way in which she politely accepts compliments, to be a part of her world is to be a part of a “Lisa Frank-style Technicolor dreamscape, where growing up means driving to the store to pick up your own candy for dinner.” You’re prone to toothaches while watching her in interviews, and she’s widely known for going the extra mile for her fans — once hosting a 15-hour meet-and-greet in Nashville.
What do you want people to remember about you? What are your passion points? What sets you apart? These are important questions that every young professional should be asking themselves on a regular basis. Social media is a great way to begin to shape your brand and develop an authoritative voice in your particular vertical. Consistency is key, and the persona you project online should be the same one that people experience in person. Be authentic and genuine, and soon you’ll find you’ve developed a niche in the marketplace that allows you to grow in your career and extend that all-important network.
Taking the High Road
While peers like Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan find themselves in the tabloids every other day, Taylor has largely managed to avoid the pitfalls associated with young Hollywood, opting to bake cookies and cuddle with her cat over club hopping and alcohol. She’s well aware that she’s a role model for young girls, and takes that responsibility seriously.
Don’t let your lack of experience in the workforce cause you to make rash decisions without first gathering all necessary information. As a person on the younger end of the spectrum, some colleagues will make assumptions about your ability to handle certain situations, and it’s imperative that you prove them wrong by remaining level-headed and calm in the face of adversity and challenges. Be aware of the persona you’re projecting, and do your best to remain mature, poised and confident whenever possible. Buck the stereotype.
Keeping Your Eye on the Prize
Taylor knew from an early age that she wanted to be a singer, and while she never could have dreamed about a future on this scale, she always kept her end goal in mind. She convinced her family to uproot themselves from a quaint Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania to country music row in Nashville so that she could pursue her dream. “I began absolutely non-stop tormenting my parents, begging them on a daily basis to move there.”
She’s not immune to criticisms of her talent and singing ability, and spends every day perfecting her craft. Not everyone is lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do from such an early age, but once you discover what that is, attack it with vigor and purpose. Read books, read blogs, secure informational interviews, audition, take a class, get certified and do whatever you need to do in order to put yourself on the fast track to success in your field. Even the act of writing down a handful of your goals can make them feel more tangible, and therefore, make you more likely to keep reaching for and achieve them.
Being Thankful and Giving Back
A $4 million donation to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for a new education center. A $250,000 donation to various schools around the country that she had either attended or was affiliated with. At a final dress rehearsal for the North American leg of her Speak Now tour, Taylor held a benefit concert that raised more than $750,000 for tornado victims. She’s been awarded numerous times for her philanthropic efforts, one of which was presented by First Lady Michelle Obama, and shows no sign of stopping. “No matter what happens in life, be good to people,” she says. “Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
Part of being a well-rounded member of society means always being thankful for the opportunities you’ve earned and been granted — and giving back when possible. As a young professional, you may feel like you don’t have enough experience to offer advice to others (Why would they care about what I have to say?) But the truth is that every challenge you’ve faced, every obstacle you’ve overcome has been a learning experience, and those following in your footsteps can benefit from your knowledge. Offer to give a guest lecture at your alma mater about best practices for landing a job in your particular industry, or join a Twitter chat and put your two cents in when someone asks for advice about interview tips, networking, etc.
Charting a Course
While these things may seem like common sense, they’re not always common practice, and, therefore, bear repeating. Taylor Swift has built an empire through a strong work ethic, building a solid brand, taking the high road, remaining focused and giving back. As a young professional still paving your own way, it’s important for you to adhere to these best practices in order to establish yourself and keep pushing forward.
Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online MSN programs, offering one of the nation’s leading midwifery programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.
*Taylor Swift image is from google images