After winning re-election to the Oval Office, President Barack Obama made a speech in Chicago aimed at healing the political divisions that have fractured the country. He assured the American people the country is not as divided as its politics suggest and “the best is yet to come.”
Along the way, he also provided advice that can benefit any driven professional, whether the state you live in is red or blue. Here are a few takeaway lessons:
Gratitude goes a long way
The president began and ended his speech with gratitude. He thanked the people he worked with, his family and his supporters. President Obama thanked all voters, “whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign.”
Taking the time to say thank you is timeless career advice. It starts before you even get hired, when you thank the interviewer for meeting with you and follow-up afterwards with a handwritten thank you note. You should express appreciation for your team members on a project and your boss after a promotion. “Thank you” should become your go-to phrase in the workplace. If you make people feel appreciated, they will be more likely to want to work with you again.
President Obama may be the most powerful man in the country, but he knows he didn’t get there on his own. Recognition helps build loyalty, which is a major factor in long-term success.
Disagreement is not a dirty word
In politics and in business, disagreements are inevitable. That is not a bad thing. In his speech, President Obama stated, “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future.”
The presidential election can get heated just like a workplace disagreement. Being passionate about your ideas is a positive quality. There will be times when your coworkers or clients vehemently oppose your suggestions. As the president said, it “can be noisy and messy and complicated.”
Yet there’s nothing wrong with conflicting opinions. In fact, dissimilar points of view can lead to some of the most innovative ideas. How you deal with dissenting viewpoints is what’s important. Debate is fine as long as you keep it clean and learn how and when to compromise.
In the end, like Democrats and Republicans, you have to be able to work together if you want results.
Branding, branding, branding
President Obama used the word “forward” nine times in his victory speech. It is not coincidence that “Forward” was also the president’s 2012 campaign slogan. Branding is a crucial component of a presidential race.
Even if you aren’t running for office, creating a strong personal brand is advantageous for your career path. Like it or not, certain words or images will come to mind when coworkers hear your name. Specific websites will appear if a potential employer Googles you.
So don’t leave your image up to fate. Build your personal brand to control how you want to be seen and what sort of impact you want to have in your field.
Honesty is the best policy (when it’s done right)
Politicians have to be careful about what they say and how they say it. Measured honesty is a smart career choice. Make your voice heard, but don’t go saying whatever you’d like without a filter.
In his victory speech, President Obama said, “I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly.”
This was a moment of calculated honesty. The president was acknowledging the frustration that many Americans felt, but then he continued by putting an optimistic spin on these feelings by giving examples of people who made a positive difference during the campaign process.
Ranting about what you hate at work might make you feel better temporarily, but it won’t fix anything. Try expressing your feelings while providing ideas for solutions. Addressing an issue is the only way to solve it, but you don’t want to alienate the people who can help you solve the problem.
“The recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems,” the president said. “But that common bond is where we must begin.”
Listen to everyone, especially those with differing opinions
After his four years in office, some people were displeased with how President Obama did his job. Listening to these people will help the president figure out what’s broken and how to fix it.
The president said, “Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president.”
Adopt this attitude in the workplace. Even if you think you know better than some of your peers, genuinely listen to what they have to say. You can learn the most from the people you least expect to teach you.
Showcase your personality
As soon as President Obama started talking about his wife and children, the audience began to cheer. Talking about his family helps people relate to the president. When he stated that “for now, one dog’s probably enough,” it helped show off his personality. You could almost hear people thinking, “Aw, let the girls have another puppy!”
Letting your personality shine can help with your career. With the amount of hours you spend at work, you will be a lot happier if you can be yourself. Trying to mask your personality may even lessen your chances for new career opportunities. A lot of companies factor how a candidate will fit into their company culture when making hiring decisions.
Don’t stifle your personality, show it off. Put your best qualities forward and go after what you want. As the president said, “you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”
Erin Palmer works as a writer and editor with Villanova University’s online masters in public administration programs. Erin writes about career and nonprofit topics covered in Villanova’s online HR and MPA programs. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.