5 Lessons from the Oscars

Tonight a worldwide audience tunes in to watch “The Oscars.” Created in 1929, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seeks to recognize professional excellence in the motion picture industry. Many tune in to see if their favorite film wins, to see what their favorite star is wearing, or just to be a part of a global communal event and, well,  tweet about it.

But let’s face it, everyone is there to advance their own profession in one way or another, so let’s look at takeaways for your career.

People notice what you wear. Someone once sang, “It’s not who you are, it’s how you dress.”  That’s true, to some extent, at the Oscars—and to some extent, at the office. You hope to be judged for more, but your office doesn’t have to have a red carpet for you to know that no matter where you work your appearance is one of the first things people notice. While the cameras of the world may not be on you, everyone you interact with notes what you’re wearing. The plus side? It’s also one of the few things you alone can control. Remember the old adage…dress for the job you want. Look professional and prepared (Google “dress for success”).

Thank others. One of the most boring aspects of the awards show (besides, sometimes, the host) is the winner with the long, drawn out blustering acceptance speech.  No one climbs the precipice of success alone, so thanking others is admirable and appreciated. but a thank you shouldn’t sound obligatory it should be sincere. While you may not have access to a Sunday night primetime audience, you do have plenty of social media tools at your disposal. And while tweets and comments are a great way to say thanks, never underestimate the power of a personalized thank you note.

It’s not just about the stars. The base of the Oscar statuette has five spokes representing actors, directors, producers, writers and technicians. In addition to awards given for best actor, best director, and best music—often to names we  know—awards are given for sound mixing, costume design, and makeup—usually to names we don’t. Even if you’re not the “face” or “star” of your organization, know what it is you contribute and strive to be the best at it. Make yourself indispensable, and you’ll last longer than the pretty faces, anyway.

The best work isn’t always recognized. The Monday morning water cooler discussions center around who won, who didn’t win, and who should’ve won. But if there is one consensus about the Oscars, it’s that “the best” doesn’t always get the reward. You won’t always get that job, that promotion, or that recognition, no matter how deserved. There will always be lucky first-timers, irrational favorites, and sympathy winners. If you’ve ever felt jilted, take heart from actors such as Cary Grant who have never won an Oscar. If the reward you want is something controlled and bestowed by others, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get it. The only solution is to put your focus on being the best performer you can be today, and keep your eye on tomorrow.

What’s your own “Oscar?” While you are sitting on your couch watching others have their big night, think about what you want to win and what would be a good representation of that success. It’s fun to see others celebrate their giddy success, but you deserve to celebrate yours, too. Oh, and when the day comes that you walk up to the podium, please remember the three classic rules of public speaking…Be sincere, be brief, and be seated. Thanks.

“Sorry, I just bring out the tray”

That was the remark of a server who placed the wrong meals in front of the wrong people at our table, prompting everyone to switch plates and side orders. Not a huge deal. And working in a restaurant isn’t easy (I’ve done it). But we live in a rapidly changing world where even the time-honored role of waiter and waitress may soon be replaced by technology. To stay relevant the trick is to bring your best game to whatever it is you do, and not just bring out the tray.

More business? Not today, thanks!

Shimmering rows of new vehicles gleamed in the late afternoon sun as I pulled into the dealership. The latest models of every style and color awaited my inspection. Ah, the potential!

I was in the mood to hear some special offers. I was in the mood for that new car smell. So I strode into the dealership and six men in ties paused in their conversation around a reception desk.

“Hi,” I said.

“Sorry, we’re closed,” one of them replied.

“Closed?”

“Yea, we’ll be open again on Monday,” another fellow added.

“Monday?” I looked at my watch, it was five minutes past the hour. They nodded then turned to resume their conversation as I sheepishly backed out through the doors.

Closed? I thought as I walked across the lot. And the more I thought about it the stranger it seemed.  This wasn’t a dollar-type store, this was an establishment that sold 4000 lb vehicles with $45,000 thousand dollar price stickers. How did they know I didn’t have a blank check in my pocket?  How did they not want to find out? 

I know what it’s like to work long hours so I tried to think of ways to give them a break;  maybe it was a really busy day, maybe they all had important post-work plans, like a wedding or funeral. Maybe management was strict about the hours—some kind of policy or something. Even then, wouldn’t one of them have wanted to get my contact info to follow up with me first thing Monday? You would think.

I thought about the lengthy, costly, time consuming process involved in getting me into the dealership: the vehicles had to be designed, then manufactured, then shipped, and marketed. All that work to get the vehicle on the lot and someone like me through the door.

As I drove away with a plan to go elsewhere all I could think of was that being a leader in whatever business you’re in means being open to opportunity beyond 9-5.

Today more than ever, right?

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