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WWTD – What Would Taylor Do?

I have looked to my parents, family, and friends for help and guidance in navigating life as a young working professional.  Yet I have found unexpected inspiration and mentorship from none other than Taylor Swift. Yes, Taylor Swift, who, according to the Billboard’s Greatest Artists of All Time list (2019), is the 8th best artist of all time. After this year’s Spotify Wrapped told me that I am in her top 2% of listeners, I thought about all of the ways that she has influenced both my music taste and my life over the years.

Even though she is most known for her music and corresponding accolades, Swift is also renowned for her business acumen and advocacy. She is a living legend in the music industry, and there have been many articles written about all that she has done to advocate for herself and pave the way for other artists. The lessons that Swift has imparted on other artists, and the changes she has enacted in the music industry, can and should be applied to other types of workers and other types of businesses. As I have begun settling into the professional world and my role here at TalentQuest, here are three lessons I have learned from Taylor Swift:

1. Advocate For Yourself

There have been several moments in Taylor Swift’s career that have been defined by her self-advocacy. In 2015, when it became known that Apple Music would not pay artists any royalties during the three-month free-trial period given to new listeners, Swift made a public statement denouncing the decision. They quickly changed their stance and promised to pay Swift and other artists during the free trial period. Swift’s most recent and most significant example of self-advocacy is her decision to re-record the six albums she made under a previous label and sold to a record executive instead of her once her contract expired. Rather than sit back and accept defeat, Swift plans to re-record all six albums, thus making the originals virtually worthless and finally giving herself full ownership of her work and allowing her to be properly compensated.

While you and I may never need to stand up to corporate giants, we can certainly still advocate for ourselves at all stages of our careers. When entering a new position, especially during this time of Great Resignation and labor shortages, negotiate for a higher salary or other benefits rather than accepting the first offer that comes your way. Make sure to speak up if you feel you are not being heard or recognized for your work, and especially if you or others are experiencing any sort of mistreatment or discrimination. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a raise or promotion, especially if you have been exceeding performance expectations or have taken on additional responsibilities. Know your worth!

2. Be Open to Change and Take Risks

Taylor Swift has not won this many awards and sold this many records by being cautious and sticking to the status quo. Throughout her career, she has reinvented herself and her music multiple times. Even though changing up the identity of her sound is innovative and keeps people guessing, it also runs the risk of her fans not liking the ‘new’ Taylor. Recently, she made the risky decision to re-released a 10-minute version of an older song – because long songs do not typically become hits. This song, however, quickly shot to #1 and broke the record for the longest song to hold that spot.

I’m not saying you should reinvent yourself every two years or quit your job to do something you have never done but being open to change and taking risks can pay off. Openness to change is the first step towards innovation, and innovation breeds success. Don’t just write off ideas or opportunities simply because they are new or have not been done before. Take that leap of faith in yourself by sharing and following through with your ideas. You may not write a record-breaking song, but maybe you can come up with the next big idea that can take you or your company to the next level.

3. Listen!

One thing that helps make Taylor Swift so successful is that she listens to her fans. When asked about her re-recordings, Swift said in interviews that she was going to listen to fan input and try her best to give them what they wanted. Keeping her word, she did listen to fans, and it has paid off with the success of her latest album.

While it may not be possible to stalk your customers, we can still do our best to listen to them. In one-on-one interactions, ask questions and be curious to find out what they want and more importantly, why they want it. If we know why someone needs something or wants something, we are in a better position to serve them and meet their needs. Also, try to get feedback from clients in real-time, when possible, not just after. It is always better to have the opportunity to make informed decisions and change course rather than get a bad review or have a client leave unsatisfied. In the end, you may even find out what you and your company need to do to better meet the wants and needs of your clients!

Improve relationships. Promote collaboration. Develop great leaders. 

Lizzy Engsberg is an Associate Consultant with TalentQuest. A recent Honors graduate from Agnes Scott College with a healthy academic perspective, Lizzy serves as a partner and support to clients’ talent management needs by providing data analysis, personality profile benchmarking, survey design and analysis, as well as broader organizational support solutions.

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