By TE Cunningham

It’s that time again – interns starting at the office. I was thinking about how early in their career path they are, and what I wish I had known when I was their age, just finishing up college and getting ready to start a promising career.

Here are ten things I wish I knew earlier on:

  1. Don’t Bus Throw. Never pass the blame, even when someone on your team or someone else’s team screws up. Take responsibility for the error. You’ll earn the respect of the employee or employees who screwed up, and you are modeling the right message to them. Also, most bosses are smart enough to know where things broke down. They will appreciate your “The Buck Stops Here” approach.
  2. Don’t Fight Technology. I remember an employee and dear friend grabbing my “Calendar at a Glance” book and yelling “no more.” She insisted I move to outlook (yes, kids, we used to make appointments in paper books), and barely a month in, I wondered how I ever lived without it.  How much more efficient I could have been if I’d only taken the time to learn it right off the bat.
  3. Find Mentors. I had so many great bosses and mentors, and I still do. Trusted business associates who will advise you and shoot you straight are a commodity to be valued.
  4. Do the Research. If there is one thing, I still fight myself on today; it’s putting my “gut instinct” on hold and doing more research before making a decision. Research matters, as does listening to other opinions before you act.
  5. This one is for my young female colleagues. Men and women are built differently; like it or not. We bring our strengths and weaknesses to the business world. If you cry, it’s because you care. I’ve had employees of both sexes break down in my office over the years, and I’ve certainly had my moments of weakness. Shake it off, don’t beat yourself up and remember that passion and caring about doing a good job are great things.
  6. While we are on the “females in business” side of things, let me say this: If someone calls me the “B” word now, I take it as a compliment. I had a former boss whom I respected very much tell me I was the best negotiator he had ever seen (and he was amazing at it). Being “tough” and “strong” are sometimes necessary, so don’t let the negative words get you down. Take it from me – I worked in the NFL (where I had a ton of great mentors – see #3)!
  7. Care about your co-workers and care about your employees. I spent way too many years trying to please those above me, even when it felt wrong to me, at the cost of those beside me and those who worked for me. I wish I could take an awful lot of choices back.
  8. Tell the truth, especially when it’s difficult. You will be amazed at the respect it earns, and you never have to try to remember “what you said.”
  9. Have fun at work. I was so lucky to have careers in music and sports – hard work but so much fun and so many great people to be surrounded by day in and day out. Work hard, chase success but not at the cost of enjoying yourself; you will spend 1/3 of your life at work or better, depending on the industry, so laugh a little!
  10. Don’t sacrifice a personal life. When I look back now, I realize just how many things would have been different if I had the man at my side that I do now. Love, family and friends are not replaceable with a career and don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s worth it. It is not.