Entrepreneur and author Stone Shankman had a checkered career.
He worked at AOL’s fledgling newsroom in the mid-90s, created a tool connecting reporters to desired sources called Help a Reporter Out in the early 2000s, and sold HARO in 2010 for less than $5 million. dollars. Shankman has since written several books, given a TED talk on the importance of being kind, and started a popular ADHD podcast.”Faster than normal.”
Shankman’s No. 1 career advice for those just starting out: “Be bright from the start,” he says.
For him, that means knowing the parameters of what you’re doing and sticking to those parameters. That’s it.
“I don’t need you to redefine pi,” Shankman says of the level of excellence he advises. “I need you to suck a little less than everyone else.”
This can be widely applied to customer-facing work. If you offer food delivery, for example, deliver meals in a timely manner and make sure they’re all still in their assigned containers (spilled food doesn’t count). If you’re designing wedding invitations, be sure to print them exactly as agreed with the couple and get them done in time to send them out.
But it can also be applied to jobs that don’t require selling a product or service. If your top priorities are keeping your business site running smoothly, stick to them and do them well. If you work in public relations and your job is to pitch your clients’ stories to the media, make sure you’re pitching the right media.
Given his authorship and his podcast, the latter is a storyline Shankman is familiar with. Public relations people often turn to him to cover their clients who have nothing to do with the subjects he usually covers.
“My all-time favorite was about a year ago when I got an email around Mother’s Day that said, ‘Dear Peter, we know working moms like you are struggling'” , he said.
“We live in a world where the bar is incredibly low,” he says.
Another career tip: Brush up on your grammar and spelling, says Shankman.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) find misspellings in restaurant menus, store signs and advertisements annoying, according to a 2015 Dictionary.com survey of 2,052 adults. And this frustration extends to other business correspondence.
Shankman tells the story of taking his daughter to a socialization class when she was six months old. “I get an email at the end of the day, ‘Dear Mr. Shankman, Thank you so much for allowing us to spend time today with Jessica. It was a wonderful experience and we hope to see you and you again soon. Jessica.'”
“My daughter’s name is Jessa,” he said.
Shankman found this exchange incredibly frustrating. Spelling mistakes can be a sign of general negligence. This erased any sense of trust Shankman had in the organization. He brought her back but repeatedly spoke to management about the incident.
Shankman acknowledges that spelling and grammar aren’t everyone’s strong point ― that’s fine, he says. See if your employer will pay for you to take a course or see what online resources are available for free about this.
If you provide the service you promised in a clean and professional manner, “I’ll come back every time,” he says.
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