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Career Lessons I Learned From Beyonce

I saw a quote recently that read, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Beyonce. Then always be Beyonce.” I have to admit, being Beyonce would be pretty good. Beyonce has achieved an incredible amount in her 32 years. She’s not only an amazing singer, dancer and entrepreneur, she’s a brand – just the name Beyonce conjures up images of success, talent, empowerment and wealth.

Over the years, there have been lots of career lessons I’ve learned from Beyonce, both in the way she handles business and in the way she conducts herself. Below are the main lessons I’ve taken on board: 

Stay humble in embarrassing situations

Beyonce was involved in an embarrassing moment back at the 2009 VMA awards when she was up against Taylor Swift for an award for Best Video. Taylor won and while Beyonce clapped graciously, Kanye West, for reasons known only to himself, decided to run onto the stage, interrupting Taylor’s acceptance speech and start a bizarre rant about how Beyonce should have won. Even if she inwardly agreed with Kanye, Beyonce looked suitably baffled and refused to let it reflect badly on her. Instead she invited Taylor up on stage with her later in the show when she won an award in another category, allowing her to have the acceptance speech she missed out on. The only person who looked stupid in the end was Kanye. 

It’s a lesson to us all - when someone praises us at the expense of someone else, put yourself in their shoes and stay humble and grounded at all times.  Be flattered in private, but always stay gracious in public. 

Surprise people

On 12 December 2013 just before midnight, Beyonce released a visual album on ITunes overnight with no warning at all, leaving fans delighted and the media scrambling to keep up with her.  There were no fancy marketing techniques, no promotional interviews, just a great album which proved that Beyonce thinks of the fans before the marketing machine.  In true Beyonce style, it wasn’t just any old album, it was a visual album, which meant that every track was accompanied by a music video.  Although we can’t all release albums (and if I did release an album I guarantee people would not be downloading it!), we can learn from Beyonce by being slightly unpredictable in our work.  By doing things differently and mixing it up once in a while we can keep things fresh and leave people wondering what we’re going to do next. 

Don’t let others bring you down

Destiny’s Child, the 90s girl group that catapulted Beyonce to fame, were a revolving door of different members arriving and leaving, with Beyonce being the only constant. She was affected badly by fighting within the group and went through a period of depression. However, the adversity made her stronger and she came out of the situation a tougher person. It’s a good lesson to learn. Other people may try and pull you down, but real friends will be pleased about your success – so surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and learn to triumph in adversity.

Don’t let people walk all over you

In Beyonce’s documentary Life is but a Dream, she states, “I think I realized that business and being polite, doesn’t match. You can be fair but me being polite was not me being fair to myself.” We could all take a leaf out of Beyonce’s book – there have been countless times at work where I’ve gone along with something I don’t agree with simply because I didn’t want to risk not being liked. However, sometimes I should be more assertive. Beyonce’s words ring true – if there’s something you feel strongly about in business, sometimes you need to assert your authority in order to steer things the right way. Having an opinion and voicing it doesn’t make you disagreeable or difficult to work with – it just means you stay true to yourself.

Limit social media exposure

Beyonce has a verified Twitter account, but she very rarely tweets, yet she has 13,042,847 followers.  She maintains an air of mystery so that when she does have something to say, people listen.  Social media is important in business and can provide a brilliant communication platform, but don’t overdo it. There are some celebrities that tweet every two minutes and ultimately their more valuable messages are diluted by the other things they are saying. It’s important to get the balance right on social media forums - make sure that when you do communicate, what you say is worth saying. That way, people will be more inclined to listen. 

Diversify, but know your strengths

Beyonce always has several projects on the go, including endorsements, movie roles and perfume ranges. However, her main focus has always been singing. Over the years she has evolved from girl-group member to solo superstar and she’s done this by ultimately sticking to her R’n’B roots. Her smooth lyrics and powerful voice guarantee that each song she releases is a sure-fire hit. It’s the same in our careers – if something is working well for us, why change it? Always identify your main strength and make the most of it. If there are other areas we would like to explore and develop in business, we can do this whilst not losing focus of our main talent. In other words, know your brand and build it as best you can.  

Family comes first

Throughout her career, Beyonce has managed to maintain a successful marriage to Jay Z and be a mother to Blue Ivy (And really, who else could get away with calling their daughter Blue and making it seem effortlessly cool?).  Beyonce and Jay Z are a power couple, yet they don’t use their relationship as a publicity scam, and Blue Ivy is rarely seen. In fact, in 2010, Beyonce decided to take a break from her career just to travel and spend time with her husband. It’s a lesson we could all learn – have other passions outside of your career. Whether it’s family or friends, find something to make you happy outside of work and hopefully your work will improve.

Beyonce’s global empire is an inspiration to us all and her image alone is a symbol of feminism and power.  However, success hasn’t come easily to her – she’s worked hard to get to where she is today. Talking about her career, she once said, “I strongly believe that if you work hard, whatever you want will come to you. I know that’s easier said than done, but keep trying.”  Surely  we can all learn some valuable career lessons from this talented performer and entrepreneur.

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