Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Caleb, I graduated from the University of Montana Business school in 2017 and I am the Men’s clothing manager at Dillard’s in Missoula.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
Fail fast. It’s kind of become a cliche now, but it’s true. When you are thrown into a new career or position there are so many unknowns. Trust your gut, make decisions, and learn from when you mess it all up. It’s not a good feeling to have a poor performance on a task, but next time you’re in a similar position you’ll have experience to look back on and avoid the same mistake. Its an uncomfortable part of growth, but I truly believe it is one of the most crucial.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
I don’t know that it was necessarily a mistake, but my favorite is that I used to kind of panic and freeze when I had to do something that I didn’t know how to do. I wasted a lot of time over thinking it and just staring trying to figure out where to start. I’ve learned to just jump in. Just start. Pick a spot and go. You can maneuver around and you WILL figure it out as you go, but you have to just dive in and start.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
The retail industry will be radically different from what we see now. The landscape will be barren and the companies that survive from here will all have one thing in common. Service. It is the only thing that can give a brick and mortar a chance to survive against the internet giants. Putting your customers first with every decision you make, regardless if you are selling clothes, managing accounts, or working a huge marketing campaign – your customer’s satisfaction is the only thing that matters at the end of the day.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Not to settle. A lot of advice I heard in school was to never settle for less than what you want. And to a degree that’s true, but the odds are stacked against you trying to land the dream job after you graduate. Absolutely you should push and fight for what you want, but don’t be above baby steps and lower level jobs. If you don’t get the job you want right away, take a lesser job and work your butt off and build connections to get where you want to be. Sometimes you have to settle, so you can set yourself up for a big step up later. In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to? Making too many personal sacrifices for the job. Don’t get me wrong, I come in early and stay late more often than working the “scheduled” hours we have. But I’ve learned to trust the people around me and let them get things done so I can enjoy a day off and recoup. I average about 45 hours a week, sometimes it’s as much as 70 when absolutely necessary. When you’re at work, go 100% but avoid burn out and be conscious of your mental health. You’ll hate your dream job if you don’t find the balance.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
“Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Been. Exactly as the title says, it helps you navigate difficult conversations. From firing to personal conflict to everyday relationship problems this book gives examples about how to go about these talks. I’m terrible at conflict and tend to fold quickly when pressed, whether it’s a conversation with a girlfriend, subordinate, boss, colleague, or family member, I have a hard time with confrontation. I get flustered easily and my point gets lost along the way. This book helped me be able to formulate my point and be able to articulate my feelings better, while also being able to better see the other person’s point of view and have a more rational conversation, rather than an emotionally charged argument.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Invest in people. Invest in your boss, your coworkers, your clients, everyone you come into contact with. Build relationships. Your grades and work performance can only take you so far. People get jobs over more qualified applicants because they like the other person better. Sometimes that sucks, but its a fact of life. Working your butt off and connecting with people will get you further than performance alone.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“Happiness is a choice, not an automatic response.”
My father always said this and I really didn’t understand it until a few years ago when I hit the biggest wall of my life. Things went upside down fast and I was miserable. But I remembered my dad’s old saying, and it’s true in all aspects of life. You have to choose to be happy. Your degree will not make you happy. Your job will not make you happy. Your partner will not make you happy. Unless you choose to be happy yourself first. Being a happy person is in your control and you have to take ownership of it to get through the turmoil life throws at you.