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How Being The Youngest Sibling Helped My Career

Without even realizing it, youngest children develop skills that come in handy later in the workplace.

How Being The Youngest Sibling Helped My Career
[Photo: Flickr user zherun]

Youngest siblings often get caricatured as spoiled, entitled, loud, attention-grabbing brats. While some do share those characteristics, being the youngest child in a family can force you to acquire other traits that can set you up for success in the long run.

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I grew up the youngest of seven kids, and the experience has shaped me into the person I am today. In fact, being the youngest actually helped me develop skills that have helped me throughout my professional life.

1. How To Grab Attention

As the youngest, I had to fight to be heard. Whether that meant shouting over the dining room table or coming up with the funniest joke, I had to find a way to compete with nine other voices in the room.

The same is true in business. To be heard you have to have good ideas, confidence, and the ability to make people listen. Shouting (usually) is not an option.

2. How To Compete

My household was very competitive growing up. My siblings and I competed for everything: food, attention, who was the better athlete–you name it. My siblings were bigger, stronger, and smarter than me (if only thanks to more life experiences), and I had to learn to compensate in other ways to win.

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In business, you face talented peers and competitors, and you have to figure out how to adapt and compensate for shortcomings. That may mean out-working or out-hustling peers, or putting in more time or more effort to get results.

3. How To Succeed

As the youngest, I watched my siblings fail and succeed–a lot. And I learned from their mistakes, figuring out when my turn came how not to make the same ones, especially during my teenage years.

Then, like any youngest child who looks up to their older siblings, I’d try to replicate their successes. Whether that meant hitting the batting cages every day to become an all-state athlete, or working to achieve certain grades to get accepted into a particular university, I knew what it would take to reach a certain goal by watching their examples.

Being observant and learning from others’ experiences that way can help you succeed faster in your personal and professional lives. You know what mistakes not to make, because you’ve internalized the lessons others learn firsthand. You’ve seen what it takes to succeed, and you emulate the characteristics of those people.

4. How To Endure

Nearly every youngest child gets teased and forced to do things they don’t want to. With six older siblings, that was inevitable for me. I had to learn to stand up for myself, develop thick skin, and persevere in any situation.

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This lesson came in handy during my first year in sales for LaSalle Network. I sat next to the CEO of the company and made cold calls all day long. He listened to my calls, talked in my ear, coached me on what to say to the prospect on the other end of the phone, and pushed me to “call, call, call.” I wasn’t sure I could do it. There were many times I thought about quitting, but I stuck with it, and today I lead a team of 15 sales people and more than 50 recruiters at what I consider to be the best company in Chicago.

5. How To Get Creative

With six older siblings and an age gap of 13 years between the eldest and me, my siblings were often out of the house doing extracurricular activities or spending time with friends. This meant they weren’t always around to play. It forced me to be creative and invent games, friends, and fun things to do on my own.

This creativity has served me well in my role. In sales, you have to be creative to catch a prospect’s attention, speak to their needs, and earn their business. Whether that’s singing them a song on a voicemail, or dropping off champagne when they get promoted or a branded onesie when they have a baby, you have to be continuously thinking of new, creative ways to stand out.

6. How To Make Do

Good, bad, or otherwise, the youngest sibling normally receives a lot of hand-me-downs: clothes, athletic equipment, Halloween costumes–whatever. Like it or not, you learn to make the best of what you have and appreciate everything you’re given.

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Beginning my career at a startup, we didn’t have the newest technology or the nicest equipment. We were scrappy savers and made do with what we had. This endeared us to clients and to one another. We were humble and gracious and appreciative of every order, and every opportunity we were given.

Maureen Hoersten is chief revenue officer for LaSalle Network, where she is responsible for the oversight of new business development and client development, as well as office services and customer service recruiting.