“Come have drinks with us!” A client said to me when I started my first grown-up job. OMG, someone wants to hang out with little ‘ol me! How exciting, I thought. I was 22, extremely impressionable, and brand new to the “corporate” world.
I couldn’t believe all the attention I was attracting as a newbie. People were inviting me places left and right and were the nicest anyone had ever been to me. I thought I was golden. I thought it would never end.
My boss warned me time and time again that these people were not my friends. I thought he was sabotaging my happy moment. I even got crazy and thought he might have been jealous at one point. I mean, I was amazing through and through, right?
But just like so many other things in life, all good things must come to an end.
About nine months into my new gig, I realized these clients were never my friends. They were nice to me because they thought they could play me. They saw me as a sweet little 22-year-old that knew nothing about the business. They thought they could take advantage of my ignorance in order to get what they wanted.
Well, guess what? They thought wrong. I quickly caught on that everyone had a hidden agenda and that every word I spoke could later be used against me. I also realized that if I didn’t keep my guard up I could get squashed in two seconds.
The day I realized the truth, it hurt. It hurt a lot. I had to make a fatal mistake in order to realize that clients will never really be my friends. I let my guard down for just a moment and that moment would forever haunt me. I was not in control and everyone knew it.
I promised myself I would never lose control like this again.
After getting lost in the glamour of being the fresh face on the block, I decided to put my big girl shoes on. I would no longer be looked at as this girl who knew nothing, not even her limits.
I used to tell my clients every part of my life story. I though, F#*% it. What do I have to lose? Unfortunately, I had everything to lose. People could use such insider info to see what made me tick and what my mental capacity was at any given moment. They could gauge me and that is never good. Especially as a young female in a male dominant business.
So, from that moment on, I decided to only give clients a sliver of my life. I would only tell them the parts that were exciting and/or boisterous. I created a persona that was based on the real version of myself with some slight modifications. If I sounded like a snobby bitch to some, so be it. I would rather be seen as that than as an inexperienced, anxiety-ridden mess (which I was at the time).
I now know clients were never really my friends and that is fine. We all have agendas in life, and we all want others to further help us accomplish our own. Life is a series of exchanges and I get that now.
I’m sure some clients do become friends to some people, but it is not typical or necessarily convenient while conducting business. Lines are grayed and important decisions can be compromised. It can often become a huge conflict of interest. That being said, the choice is up to every individual. Choose your friends wisely.