By Whitney Barkley, @TheWriteGirl_
Entrepreneurship can be a scary journey. Trust me – I’m living it as I attempt to create an online barter platform for female entrepreneurs. Each day is never the same and it can be a challenge to be the only one planning, creating, and implementing within the short 24 hours we have in a day. Although I never know what will happen the next day (or the next hour, for that matter) I think long and hard about the lessons, experiences, and advice I’ve received to qualify me for this journey. You may never be able to predict the success of your ventures, but you can apply the outcomes of previous experiences. Here are a few examples:
No One Owes You Anything
I once knew an intern who was on the prowl for employment after her marketing internship at a nonprofit. She showed me a response email from a local magazine editor, who gave her an unapologetic, play-by-play description of why she did not want to continue the interview process with her. After the intern (nervously) expressed her opinion about a fancy-schmancy event in front of the editor’s clients and sent an email of her resume (minus a cover letter) without the proper salutations, the editor quickly made a mental note that the intern would not be a good fit for the position.
The intern was upset the editor did not email her in advance to cancel the interview and felt that she wasted her time preparing for an interview that no longer existed. After she vented and told me her concerns, I told the intern that she should be very grateful for the feedback she received. More than 60 percent of job seekers do not hear back from an employer following an interview, according to a SnagaJob Survey. Being grateful was the least she could do.
Here’s the thing – although the intern did not make it to the interview, she received valuable feedback that most employers wouldn’t bother to give a candidate. Based on the intern’s experience, I was ultimately reminded that no one owes, her, me, you, or anyone anything. This is an important mantra to adopt as an entrepreneur because it will prepare you for the worst case scenario of rejection and humble you when someone is willing go the extra mile to help you.
*As a side note, the intern did get a job. A great full-time job with benefits, too. It took a while, but she was grateful for the experience – it showed her how to be better for her next pursuit.
Learn How to Accept Experiences – The Bad Ones Too
The sooner you learn that life is a roller coaster, the more prepared you will be for the ride. Up until several years ago, I could not quite understand the concept of “good” days and “bad” days. I would have periods where life would be birthday cake, ice cream, rainbows, and unicorns. Then, a less-than-perfect day (or week, or month) would creep into my life unexpectedly, leaving me venerably overwhelmed with anxiety and emotion. During that time period, I would lose my concentration, isolate myself from family and friends, and blow off my goals because somehow a bad day robbed me of my confidence, intelligence, and skills.
After a while, I became tired of placing all my energy into panic – it is consuming to be a reactor rather than a proactive planner. When you go through the good, the bad, and the ugly, there is always a valuable lesson at the end. Instead of allowing bad times to consume you, find value in mistakes and learn how to confidently make the next time better or prevent mistakes altogether.
As an entrepreneur in her early stages, I already have felt the wrath of bad days, which can range from not knowing the next step to take in my journey or spending hours dissecting code to learn the basics in order to intelligently have a conversation with a web developer. Regardless – I make it through the day. Having the more difficult, intricate days helps me appreciate the ones filled with triumph. This will come in handy when it’s time to celebrate the strides made as an entrepreneur – both big and small. I also learned that making a mistake does not make me any less intelligent. Whew. This is especially important because as someone who is building a business, mistakes are more than likely to happen. Accept them now. Dissect them later.
Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed
This year, I began to teach part-time at a small broadcasting college in a nearby city. I am a strong proponent of exposing students to the real deal, AKA real people who are currently in the media. As I perused through LinkedIn one morning, I noticed that a journalist advertised that she was teaching a Google for Journalists course. After clicking on her profile, I learned that she had relocated further in the Midwest and had a more “senior” role in the newsroom. “She’s perfect!” I said to myself as I eyed my syllabus.
Unfortunately, I had one problem.
I hardly knew her.Thinking back, the journalist had commented on a few of my blog posts and we had small interactions. Still, for me, I was unsure if this was enough to merit an InMail message. So I deliberated. Time passed. Time wasted. I twiddled my fingers. I made a decision.
I wrote a quick note, congratulating her on relocating to a new market and letting her know how honored I would be if she did a Skype teaching session for my class. I quickly reread my message and clicked the “send” button before I viciously backspaced my message into nothingness.
I sighed and went about my day.
After a few days I noticed that I didn’t have a response. I was fine. I was happy with the fact that I tried, an action I wouldn’t normally do if I really wanted to ask someone something. Then, out of nowhere, the lovely LinkedIn icon appeared in my smartphone notification. She wrote back.
Not only did she write back, she offered to come to my class in person when she was back in the area. Unfortunately the date offered did not work, but she was willing to allow me to reach out to her again when I taught a similar class in the following semester. Well, I’ll be darned.
My adrenaline was rushing after that experience. I wanted to continue to ask and continue to be audacious. Asking is probably the most important part of entrepreneurship because, let’s face it, you can’t do it alone. Entrepreneurship is a web of perseverance, hard work, faith, and relationships. Closed mouths don’t get fed and a quick email or LinkedIn message may be the link between you and your next opportunity. Life has shown me now is not the time to be bashful – it’s the time to live, ask questions, get rejected, and be extremely satisfied with knowing that you tried. That’s what this entrepreneurship thing is all about, right?
Whitney L. Barkley is building The Barter Babes, LLC. from the ground up. As a first-time entrepreneur, she is constantly failing and making small strides while living life in between. Connect with her on Twitter: @TheWriteGirl_