There’s a lot of assumptions about the corporate world - how it works, how to get ahead, and tips on how to become as successful as you can as quickly as you can. Sometimes these assumptions are true, but most of the time, not so much. The best way to learn is through experience, right? Sure, but when it comes to our careers and entire future, we’re left wishing someone gave us real tips and expectations before we started.
Because of today's ever-changing landscape of talent, this might be unknown territory for people who've been in the game for a while now. Or...maybe not! If you're a long time corporate warrior, let me know if I missed the mark on this one.
However, for all you corporate newbies out there, get ready to have some serious truth handed to you.
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As a young business gal, I’ve been navigating these murky waters for some time now. Below are 5 things I wish someone had given me a heads up on when I first realized I wanted to join the corporate world.
1. Your Personal Vs. Professional Life
For me, working for a company that feels like family and has people with good senses of humor was a must. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean you have to hate your life, right? Well, with that, when I first started I found myself quickly needing to readjust how coworker relationships work. Learning that “The Office” wasn’t an accurate representation of office culture was such a bummer and quite frankly, I’m still not over it.
When I first started, I thought I was super weird for me to not be immediately connecting with all my colleagues. I mean, I think I’m pretty cool...
What I’ve learned is that there’s a difference between relationships at work vs. personal relationships. You’ll be connecting soon...just give it time. You don’t need to overshare, be nosey, or stretch the truth trying to find common ground. Be yourself, be kind, and throw in a good movie quote every now and again and you’ll be good. Just let it be.
Work, life, balance is a real thing...and so is burnout. Being able to have your two lives separated (to an extent) is not only healthy, but highly recommended.
2. Everyone is their OWN first priority
...and THAT’S OKAY.
Truth is, everyone is looking out for themselves – your awesome boss and best work buddies included. As much as you may feel supported in your job, you’re ultimately the only one who can truly look out for you! When making career decisions, you need to be the one keeping your own best interests in mind. Now, I’m not telling you to be selfish and act like a jerk - being a team player is one of the most valuable skills you can have.
What I mean is, don’t limit yourself and stay stagnant in your professional career because you don’t want your current coworkers to be upset or disappointed in your choices.
Follow the opportunities that are going to further your career and help you hit your goals. Those opportunities could even be moving to a new location all together! And guess what, that's great! Don't hold yourself back! The people who really matter, a.k.a the ones you’d want to keep a relationship with, will totally understand and do the exact same thing if it was them.
3. Know Your List of “No”
Think of it as dating. While you might not know what you want yet, you sure as heck know what you don’t want. I recommend anyone starting out in the corporate world (even if you’re content in your current position) to sit down and write a list of things you don’t want in a position. This could be things like, working alone, being completely reactionary, sitting all day, etc.
For all those recruiters contemplating new roles and differentiators, this is your time to listen up! Think about the most frequent "no"s you've seen to help figure out common trends and possible hiring highlights.
I consistently do this exercise even though I love my current position and the people I work with. This is healthy to keep yourself and your own professional goals aligning with your current efforts. It will also help in keeping an open relationship with your manager about where you are now, verses where you want to be.
I’ll write a few of my realized “no”s and when my quarterly reviews come up with my manager, we can have a very proactive touch base within my current position, finding solutions, and keeping me motivated and refreshed.
4. Erase The Corporate Ladder Phenomenon
“Climbing the corporate ladder” is something we’ve all heard before. Well...I’m telling you to unhear it. Once joining the corporate world, we’re lead to believe that success comes from climbing this stupid ladder until the end of time. What if you hate ladders? What if another ladder looks more appealing? What if your shoe becomes untied mid ladder climb and you don’t know what to do?
Truth is, success comes from every direction, so look around you! In today’s world, there are many career options that look nothing like the options available to previous generations. And guess what, YOU are allowed to choose whatever option that makes you the happiest.
You can change the direction of your future. Once you realize that, do it! Understand that you can move in different directions - from up to zig-zag!
While hypothetically moving across this zig-zag ladder, it has very real possibilities of moving you across the country or internationally...who knows where a job will take you! Being prepared for these travel opportunities will leave you with the upper hand and ready for whatever gets thrown your way!
5. Maximize Your Resources
My role now allows me to help house many young professionals in furnished apartments. Whether I'm working with HR managers, helping arrange their colleague's travel needs, or working with the traveling individual themselves, I see first hand how stressed they are. Just know there's an abundant amount of resources ready to help you navigate the corporate world. After all, it's competitive out there and millennials entering the work force aren't staying in one place for long. Travel, more often than not, is a staple for young professionals these days.
If you aren't used to business travel, while it's exciting and exactly what most young professionals ask for, learning the ropes can cause a lot of anxiety! Helpful survival guides, self care hacks, packing tips, and expert advice on where to stay has the ability to leave you at ease and ready to hit the road.
More and more companies are using corporate travel as a way to attract top talent and maximize their employee retention rates, so if you aren't familiar with the go-to's of business travel, you better study up!
Fellow corporate newbies: We have time to make our own path, learn from our mistakes, and kick some serious corporate butt. Remember, the biggest lesson I can give you (both personally and professionally), is that NO one has it all figured out. More often than not, these people we’re aspiring to be like are just as clueless. We’re all trying to navigate our own journey! Be passionate, self motivated, and soak in as much as you can. We got this.
Corporate “oldies”: I want you to think...what advice would you have for your younger self?