How to Succeed
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For some reason, I have started receiving a number of invitations from local stores to go and spend an evening looking at stuff—”new fall collections,” for example. It could be women’s shoes, beds and bedding, or other wares; whatever the merchandise, the invitations just keep coming. They come by mail. The stores call our house. And, lest I think I am special, the stores advertise these events to the public at large through the newspaper and their websites.
I have only attended one of these events so far, at a clothing store inside of the Palazzo Casino in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its promise: the vendor supplied nothing more than some iced bottles of Budweiser, placed off to the side in a metal tub. The invitation had said something about “hors d’oeuvres” and a “romantic evening”—but in reality there was nothing romantic about it. There was nothing more than a few cold beers on the floor next to the women’s belt section; they weren’t even imported.
My wife had been excited about attending the sales event because she had received a postcard about it in the mail.
“They probably invited everyone in this zip code,” I told her.
“I don’t care,” she said. “We’re new in town and this is the first thing we have been invited to.” That, technically, was not true. There was a politician (who happened to be gay) who had been inviting me to various events in town, which I had been politely declining. It was an uncomfortable situation because some of the invitations involved things like going to a dinner event with the politician. My wife had been out of town when these invitations came about, and I did not want to go alone with the guy because I was nervous it might turn into a date. I was hoping the politician would invite me to an event where I could bring my wife, instead of going as a man-date.
The event at the store made me sad that we do not know more people in Las Vegas. My wife spent about an hour getting ready for our night out. It was a real letdown when we got there and all that was waiting for us was some cheap beer. No Diet Coke, no wine, no snacks—not even a really amazing sale on something of interest. Keep in mind, I have not drunk a Budweiser since I was locked in a room inside my fraternity as a freshman and forced to drink twelve warm ones until I vomited. To this day, the smell of Budweiser makes me want to vomit.
I could tell my wife was very disappointed because she had prepared for star treatment. She had even hand-carried a special formal purse, and we had hobbled uncomfortably through the casino because she was wearing high heels. One might have looked at the two of us and thought we were going to a wedding.
The store was very crowded, surprisingly. I looked around and saw a bunch of men wearing primarily cargo shorts and polo shirts, who were equally pissed off to be standing around a women’s clothing store on a Friday night. One man had a beer in each hand and was working through them in short order. Most of the women were talking with the salespeople and seemed pretty excited to be perusing the store’s new “fall merchandise”—which did not look any different from anything else that was for sale in the store.
I stood around for about fifteen minutes looking at women’s magazines, but eventually I became so bored I went to look at a chocolate store that was a few doors over. The chocolate store was selling chocolate-covered nuts in a bag no bigger than my hand, which held probably no more than forty small nuts inside. Since my wife and I were not going to be eating for a while, I figured this little snack might tide me over.
When I took the nuts to the counter, the salesperson told me the little bag would cost $18.
“Are you kidding?” I asked.
“No, I’m perfectly serious. These are special nuts and the recipe is by our founder.”
“Who’s your founder—the Dalai Lama?”
As if the fastidious salesman were telling me about a great religious figure, he spoke in hushed tones about the founder, some rich woman living in the suburbs of Chicago. In a story that sounded as if he were describing a great historical figure, the likes of which are rarely seen in any human lifetime, the salesperson explained to me how the woman’s husband was a doctor and how she was bored staying at home and began experimenting with chocolate recipes, and now she has a thriving business with chocolate stores in four U.S. cities.
“I don’t care if this woman has the ability to fly. There are no more than twenty cents’ worth of nuts in here!” I told the salesman.
Since I was angry I was going to have to spend $18 if I wanted a bag of nuts, I stormed out of the store with a bit of bad will, empty-handed. I felt seriously offended that someone was trying to charge me $18 plus tax for around forty little nuts. After my wife and I left the Budweiser event we had been invited to, I took her by the chocolate store to show her my shocking discovery.
“Can you believe someone is charging $18 for forty small nuts! This really pisses me off!” I said, handing her the bag of nuts for examination.
The salesperson was giving me a mean look while some other guy was at the counter with his wife, trying to convince her it did not make sense to spend fifteen bucks on a chocolate bar that was no bigger than the size of perhaps two or three average fingers put together.
“They tried to charge me $18 for a bag of nuts!” I yelled at him from across the chocolate store. The man and his wife looked up at me and did not say anything. I think they thought I was a little nuts. I knew how much they were struggling over cost because I had gotten angry at the salesperson about that a few minutes earlier.
“That’s what the bag of nuts costs,” my wife said.
“I know, but it makes me angry. I wanted a bag of nuts and I could not even buy one for less than eighteen bucks.”
I’d poked around in the chocolate store for around fifteen minutes by then, and the entire time I was there, I had not seen a single person purchase anything. Eventually the guy and his wife walked out without getting the candy bar. At the same time, the store that had invited us to its Budweiser party had been selling stuff like crazy. People were actually standing in line drinking their Budweisers, buying various items.
The store that had thrown the Budweiser party was equally outrageous in terms of its pricing. I saw a $350 pair of tennis shoes, a $220 cotton T-shirt, and a few other things before I had been outright alarmed by the pricing there as well. However, people were actually purchasing the stuff. As I thought about it later in the evening, I realized that that the reason the chocolate shop and the women’s clothing store were doing such different amounts of business was that the clothing store understood the importance of getting people in front of its merchandise—and the chocolate store was not making any special effort to do this.
The chocolate store had been decorated with expensive white tiles and was kind of intimidating for a candy shop. Everything was laid out in a fashion that made you almost nervous to look at it, much less touch it. The salesman was dressed in an expensive suit, had perfect teeth and skin, and spoke with some sort of affect that might have been French or something even classier—I could not tell. In all, the chocolate store was an intimidating, aloof, expensive, and off-putting place.
In contrast, the clothing store we visited was grossly informal. Clothes were on cheap racks. The salespeople were dressed very casually and spoke with common accents. Some of them even looked a little rough around the edges. In short, the clothing store was “approachable,” and people were not afraid to stop by there. Even with its high prices, the clothing store seemed to be selling a lot of goods and was getting people to come in. The clothing store had a more human element.
Open houses, free Budweiser, postcards in the mail, and all of these types of things are simply a way of getting people to view what is for sale. In order to sell anything, you need to make sure that you get people through the doors of the store to see what is available. If people do not know what is being sold, they are significantly less likely to purchase anything.
The clothing store was bringing in new customers in droves, all due to its open house. I am sure it holds these sorts of events every season and for various other reasons as well. In addition, the store has called my wife on occasion upon receiving new merchandise. I have seen their advertisements all over the place, and the business is continually doing everything it can to get customers into the store.
While I do not know for sure, I would say that the chocolate store will go out of business long before the clothing store we visited. The clothing store understands the importance of getting people into the store. Even the high prices of the clothing will not prevent people from buying something if enough people get through those front doors.
Also, the attitude of the clothing store is not going to keep customers away. Being approachable, open, easy to relate to, and more, is usually more effective than the opposite. It should go without saying that the easier you are to talk and relate to, the better off you will generally do when it comes to business—or anything else in life.
What does any of this have to do with your career? Your effectiveness in your job search, business, and more will always be dependent on your ability to get people to (1) see and (2) purchase your merchandise. Since as an employee or job seeker you and your work are your merchandise, if people do not know you are available, you simply cannot do well. The clothing store with the Budweiser event understood the importance of getting people into the store, and my wife and I feel for it. A store that is on a busy corner will typically do better than one that is not. You will always do better when more people see your merchandise than if they do not.
When you are looking for a job, this means getting yourself in front of every possible person you can. The world and its various employers need to be aware that you are around. Do not wait for the perfect job to come along. Instead, ensure that you get out and meet people who can potentially help you in your job search.
One of the most important things that you need to be aware of in your career, and when you are looking for a position, is to keep moving and continue to be seen. The more people realize you exist and are available, the more success you will find.
Finally, you need to be approachable. You need to make it easy for people to relate to you, to talk to you, and to get to know you. Be friendly, open, and honest.
The people who typically do the best in anything are those who are able to (1) be seen and (2) relate to people. In your career you need to make sure that you are always seen and that people can relate to who you are and what you stand for.
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Tagged: approachable people, aware to career, career advice, career advice | a harrison barnes, historical figure, how to find a job, job market, job search, job search advice, job seeker, legal recruiter, maritime disasters, new job opportunities