It is a Monday night and, here I am, sitting in a new trendy bar in Lincoln Park Chicago. The bartender reminds me of one of those no-BS tough guys. I order an Al Capone because I like the name, but I hate the actual whiskey.
But, who cares? I am deep in conversation with an interesting guy. I love conversations like these. The ones that are random and make you feel like you can take on the world. He says something that sticks with me, “Every single human interaction that we have changes us in some way. I truly believe that. And what is even more profound is that sometimes those that we only spend a few minutes with can change us more than people we have spent our entire lives with.”
Syed Shah is an ambitious Millennial ready to leave his mark on the world. How exactly, he does not yet know. But, he does not see this uncertainty as an obstacle. I encourage you to read on and become forever changed by his unique perspective...
1. Give us your spiel on who you are and what you want to do with your life:
I’m your average Millennial that just wants to make a difference. I think at the end of the day I want my life story to say that I made a difference either in this world, this country, the company I work for, or even someone's life. I think every Millennial strives to make a difference and that’s what I’m after doing. You have to fake it till you make and that’s what I live by!
2. When did you know that you wanted to be in Sales?
I really didn’t know until I got into the industry. I was a pre-med student coming into college because that’s what I thought I was destined to do. Then I realized blood made me queasy and I really hated the smell of most hospitals. At the end of the day, I think I tried a bit of everything in college and realized I just wanted to do something where I could talk to someone different each and every day and Sales really gives me that option. I’m a people pleaser and in a sales career the more people you please, the further you’ll go.
3. You once said that you believe that every single interaction we have with others changes us in some way. Could you elaborate on this thought?
I think we meet people for very specific reason. There are people you will meet in your life for mere hours or days that will shape your core belief system more than people you have known your entire life. Every interaction is sacred and can lead to a great relationship/opportunity. With that said, everything happens for a reason.
I was always a very passive person and would never seek out interactions with others. One day I decided I wasn’t happy with it and wanted to change. You need to find who you are socially and just grow comfortable with it. It’s a big part of growing up.
4. In an interview, you were asked what skill you have that is better than anyone else in the world. How did you respond?
I told them I’m probably the best in the world at being totally average at a bunch of stuff. It’s really daunting to think think that you could possibly be better at something than 7 billion other people. There are people in this world that know a lot about a little and then there are people who know a little about a lot… I definitely think I sway more to the latter.
5. You were a two-time state champion in debating and went on to be fifth in the nation your senior year. What got you to this level?
The love for competition. I was always a big sports fan, I knew the ins and out of baseball, basketball, and football. With that said I’m also 5 foot 7 and not athletic at all so I never got to be super competitive at sports. Debate gave me the opportunity to try and be the best at something and it really is something I relished. I loved that I could go into a tournament and have a realistic shot of not only winning individually but helping my team compete and be the best. It helped reach a part of me that I always knew I had, but never really explored.
6. How has your skill in debating helped you outside of the classroom?
It really has made me more confident not only in my public speaking ability but overall. I think everyone should be able to see the fruits of their labor pay off and see if they are dedicated to something and work hard they have a shot at succeeding. Debate showed me that and showed me that if I work hard enough I can really be a winner.
7. What makes you tick?
Building something. All day long my mind is racing at 1000 miles a minute with ideas, at points. I just realize I need to stop thinking and start executing. I am definitely an ideas guy and I really love hearing about plans in their infancy, be it a business idea or a night out for drinks. I want to be someone who has a voice at the table. I always tell people I have a loud voice and I want to be heard, but I’m also someone who plays well in the sandbox.
8. Being in Sales, you have to be able to face rejection. How do you accomplish this?
You have to remain even keel. Never get too high and never get too low. I know that I can’t walk around with my chest puffed out if I close a big deal, but I also have no reason to hang my head if I lost a deal after giving it my all. Failing will eventually lead to success.
9. What is the hardest part about being a Millennial in the workforce?
It’s the fact that most of us are ideas people and we don’t nearly take enough time to execute them. That’s one of my biggest flaws especially. I just expect to be heard or given a voice immediately because I think my ideas are better than everyone else, when in fact they’re probably fairly juvenile. I think balancing out the thirst for entrepreneurship and just the day-to-day operations of a traditional business can be very difficult.
As a Millennial, what obstacles do you face?
What can you do to eliminate those?
Asking yourself these questions can help you to one day have the voice that gets you heard. Until then, realize that every single interaction or challenge that you are currently facing can build you into the person you were meant to be. Never underestimate the smallest of occurrences. They can sometimes hold the greatest impact.
Based in Chicago, Jessica reports on career motivation, marketing, entrepreneurship, and many other topics. She is devoted to helping others see things in a different light.