Career Lessons Learned From the Back of 7 Ubers
Inside: Career lessons learned from seven Uber drivers who have it all figured out.
I don’t travel for work often, which suits me just fine. As a working mom and homebody, I enjoy doing my thing at the office but also getting back to the homestead for dinner.
But I had a couple of work trips lined up this month during which I spent quite a bit of time on airplanes and perhaps more time in Ubers.
I expected my Uber drivers to successfully get me from point A to point B. What was less unexpected from my time in Ubers was the career lessons I took away from the seven men who drove me places. They were each incredibly different, and they each left an impact on me.
Career Lessons Learned from 7 Uber Drivers Who Have It Figured Out
Driver 1: Akmal
Music Choice: Indian Pop Music
Akmal picked me up at my house to drive me to the airport in a Corolla, so I already liked him. Corolla buddies for life.
About halfway to the airport, Akmal got a phone call which I could tell he felt uncomfortable answering, but he did. The phone was on speaker so that he could talk hands-free. I heard a language I wasn’t familiar with on the other line, followed by Akmal speaking back in that language and then English. A voice then came on the phone in English. Back and forth they went.
I picked up pieces of the conversation because we were in close Corolla sized proximity and quickly realized this was a complicated medical situation. A very grateful man thanked Akmal for all his help at the end of the call.
After he hung up, Akmal explained to me that his friend was at the hospital for a medical procedure and he didn’t speak English. Akmal interpreted for him from afar so that he could understand what tests he needed and the next steps.
Career Lesson: Show up for people.
Show up for your friends, show up for your coworkers, show up for your family – just show up. Whether that’s a text to check in, hopping in the car, or interpreting from afar.
Use the skills you have, and the love in your heart, to make a difference in someone’s life.
Driver 2: Josiah
Music Choice: Jazz
It was pouring rain when I got into Denver and into Josiah’s Elantra. He was driving us through rush hour traffic across the city to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, and doing so expertly I might add.
What really stuck out about Josiah was his music choice. After I FaceTimed with my kids back home, who chose that specific time to request that we get a puppy (???), Josiah put on some jazz.
I tried to get into it, but turns out jazz just isn’t my thing. And now I’m very concerned that I’m at an age in which I’m supposed to like jazz and I’m going to have to pretend to like jazz… In any case, jazz was definitely Josiah’s thing.
We didn’t talk about it, but I could tell that Josiah could probably rock out these songs on his own instrument the way he hummed and drummed along to the beat. This wasn’t simply a music choice, it was a passion.
Career Lesson: Find ways to bring joy to your work.
Maybe Josiah wasn’t passionate about being an Uber driver, but he found a way to bring what he loved to the job which gave the work a new energy. He was making an income, and being true to himself.
Bring your own jazz to work, whatever that looks like.
Driver 3: Ysma
Music Choice: None
Ysma picked me up to bring me from my brother and sister-in-law’s house to the hotel to get ready for my work event. He had a spacious Rav 4 and easily navigated the busy streets.
Ysma didn’t say much on the ride. But I didn’t either because I was running through my presentation in my head. Later that evening I was going to be stepping way out of my comfort zone to lead a new coaching exercise. It involved getting the participants into a state of free attention by leading through some mini-meditation.
I was very nervous.
So I appreciated the silence. A lot actually. By the time I got out of the car I had run through the tough parts of the presentation several times over and felt more prepared.
Career Lesson: Read the room.
I don’t know for sure if Ysma could tell that I had a lot on my mind or was just a quiet dude, but I’m going to give him credit on this one.
Understand your customer and cater accordingly and you’ll be getting five stars.
Driver 4: Glen
Music Choice: Classic Rock
Time to head out to the event with some help from Glen and his Acura RDX.
Two things I appreciated about Glen right off the bat. 1) His name was Glen, and as my husband Glen would say, it was Glen spelled correctly. 2) I am always happy to rock out to a little Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
Glen drove right past the restaurant though. And I saw it, but I didn’t say anything. Why? Because I thought he knew what he was doing and I didn’t, even though I plainly saw the restaurant right there. He turned the car around and apologized a minute later when he realized his mistake. No big thing at all, but I definitely learned something.
Career Lesson: Speak up!
Come on, lady. Trust your own judgment and use your words.
Don’t watch the restaurant/ your career/ your life fade into the rearview mirror while you twiddle your thumbs and let someone else who “knows better” drive.
Shake off that impostor syndrome and use your voice.
Drive 5: Hayelom
Music Choice: Top 40 Pop Music
The event at the restaurant wrapped up and it was time to head back to the hotel. The presentation and coaching exercise went over really well, but I had used up all of my extrovertism. Definitely time to pack it in for the night and recharge.
I waited by the front door until Hayelom picked me up in a Prius. First things first, high five for saving the planet, Hayelom. Well played, sir.
We jammed to some Ariana Grande on the short ride and Hayelom and I spent a little time small talking about the weather in Denver. The wild swings from sunny and 75, to hail, to snow in May. Nothing earth shattering, just some casual chit chat.
Career Lesson: Small talk can add up to big talk.
I don’t love talking to strangers. I’m generally introverted and can get shy. If we met in person you’d expect me to be funnier right off the bat. Instead I might be a little awkward and talk about the weather.
Some people think small talk is for the birds, but if you’re feeling shy it’s totally fine to go ahead and break the ice with some weather talk. Small talk can add up to big talk if you are training yourself to be friendly even when you’re uncomfortable.
When you speak with someone new you might make a new friend, you might build your network, or you might simply use some of your energy to speak kindly to another human while breaking down your own walls. That’s good too.
Read more on networking for introverts.
Driver 6: Mark
Music Choice: 80s Easy Listening
Mark was the rock star who drove me from my hotel to the airport at 3:45 am in his Camry. He was fortunately much more wide awake than I was, and said he told me he preferred to get out and drive early when there isn’t any traffic.
Mark asked if I was a Patriots fan since I was heading back home to Boston. We then spent the next 30 minutes talking about Broncos and Patriots playoff games, draft picks, and defensive strategy. We discussed when we thought Tom Brady might retire and Peyton Manning’s pre-retirement injuries.
It was very early o’clock, but we had a seriously good chat.
Career Lesson: Understand yourself and when you’re in the zone.
For Mark, early o’clock was his zone. He was up and at ’em before the crack of dawn because he’s a morning person and felt he did his best, and most efficient work, before the sun came up.
I’m actually the same way. Not 4 am… but 5 am. 5 am-6 am is my sweet spot for creating, and when I finally realized that my productivity skyrocketed. Understand yourself, and capitalize on your most productive hours to reach your goals.
Driver 7: Thao
Music Choice: House Music
Last leg of the trip from the airport back home. I was completely wiped when I got into Thao’s Mitsubishi Outlander and was happy to be getting home.
We chatted a bit about the casino that was set to open next month in Boston, and the traffic patterns leaving the airport. I learned about where he leased his car and the restaurants in his neighborhood.
I was trying, but I was “up at 3 am” tired and started to nod off. Thao noticed and said “Don’t worry about it if you need to take a nap. I know where we are headed.”
I didn’t end up taking a nap, but I honestly felt like it would have been fine. The backseat of Thao’s car had a charger for iPhones, his background check information displayed, and 20% off Uber business cards. He was as professional as they come and I trusted this stranger I’d never met to get me home safely.
Career Lesson: Be a pro.
Take your job seriously and show others that you take it seriously. When you give your work a half effort you are going to produce a half result, and people will take notice. When you give your work your full effort you are going to produce a full result, and people will take notice.
This is not to say you need to be perfect, not at all. But do your best work, show up like a pro, and you’ll earn people’s trust.
One last tip before we go, share your tips with others. Don’t be stingy.
If you’ve learned some valuable career lessons, shout them from the rooftops. If you have good advice to give, offer it up. And if your Uber driver teaches you a thing or two about career and life, then tip well.
Was the pun intended there? Oh, 100%.
Read More Career Lessons:
Cover Letter Tips from a Career Coach (And a Preschooler)
Networking Tips for Introverts: Overcoming the 5 Major Objections
How Kevin Garnett Took My Job and Introduced Me To My Husband