There’s a Richard Hendricks in each and every one of us.
Or, rather, we all share that spark, that desire to do something truly innovative, to stake out on our own and make something great. There’s a reason, for example, that Steve Jobs is the icon of our time, the man against whom every success in every career is measured.
But most of us won’t end up like that, inspiring the world to think different and invest billions of dollars into making the future today. But we very well could end up like Richard Hendricks.
Richard, for those of you don’t know, is the main character of HBO’s Silicon Valley, an intelligent coder who, in the pursuit of making an app, stumbled upon a truly game-changing technology. The show, brought to us by Mike Judge (of Office Space and King of the Hill), chronicles the struggles his startup “Pied Piper” and the comedic nastiness of startup culture in the Valley.
But the heart of the show, really, lies in how difficult it is to execute a big idea, how to drag the indifferent, the lackadaisical, the ego-driven kicking and screaming through long nights and setbacks, how to manage stress so extreme you wake up every morning soaked in night sweats…
Basically, the heart of the show centers on what it takes to succeed professionally in America right now.
6 Career Tips HBO’s Silicon Valley Knows You Need
People like you if you’re nice, but respect you when you’re ruthless.
When coming at your career, there’s limited room for friends. Yes, you’ll want to be nice, to be a team player, to positively contribute to your office culture, but being too nice will find you giving unwarranted equity to people who don’t contribute and allowing your focus to be broken or diverted by big personalities.
There’s always a workaround.
Whether your social strategy is falling short or, say, one of your large competitors has found a way to block your business from getting web hosting, there’s always something to be done. Backing off a stalled strategy and retreating to safe zones are never ways to change the world. Push forward, put in the elbow grease, and find the success that’s hiding in your failure.
You must either develop incredible social skills or learn to hide behind someone who has.
Richard has his Erlich, but anyone who watches knows he’d be much better off speaking for himself. So many of your skills, your creations, need to translate to simple, confident pitches and presentations, and without these skills (or someone who’s always willing to go up to bat for you), you’ll find your value falling on deaf ears.
Never settle for a job where you aren’t heard.
You may end up with the cushiest job at the greatest company on the planet, and, if that’s where you want to be, great. But, when there, if you find that you’re just another cog executing someone else’s vision, and no one listens to you, all the nap pods and green tea in the world won’t make up for it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in uncomfortable positions. They’ll make you more flexible and more versatile.
Professionalism comes in all shapes and sizes.
The paradigm has shifted, and even among West Coast VC’s, suits and ties aren’t the norm. Don’t sweat whether teammates appear different than you’d expect them to (and don’t be afraid to come dressed comfortably for work [unless downright forbidden]). Professionalism is really all about passion, execution, and accountability, and we need look no further than Gilfoyle or Dinesh to know that the clothes don’t always make the man or woman.
When in doubt, S.W.O.T it.
Though the show (and everything that parodies professional culture) makes fun of corporate tools like SWOT analysis, using lists to understand possible complexities of major decisions can be super beneficial and reveal enormous side effects of things you’d normally wouldn’t think about.
Of course, there are also a lot of things about Silicon Valley that you probably wouldn’t want to emulate: Erlich’s method of generating company names or negotiating with VC’s or… basically anything Erlich does.
But there are some very real, very practical skills for those who want to do well embedded in the show. And those, if nothing else, are worth listening to.
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