There was something I wasn’t prepared for when I received the phone call that I had landed my first office job post-college. Naturally, my first reactions were excitement and enthusiasm. I knew what kind of employee I was, obviously. I’ve worked with me forever. Driven, organized, punctual, perfectionist, goal-oriented, team-player. I was going to NAIL this new job. Here I was… on the road to my forever career.
[Cue being knocked off my high horse to learn that I knew NOTHING.]
If you don’t want to read my extensive background (no harsh feelings), scroll down to my list of 10 tips of how to survive transitioning into the corporate world.
Let me back up and talk about my job history. The jobs I’ve held in the past consisted of a retail environment (which side bar, EVERYONE should experience at some point in your life if you’d like to work on your humbling perspective, along with waitressing), and secondly, working for vendors located at my local water park; this was a seasonal position that lasted 7 years. The first vendor at the water park that hired me was a photography company, where I started with the Photographer position, which basically consisted of the manager handing you a camera and said “Here, go take 100 pictures,” about 10 times per shift. Eventually I moved up to Assistant Manager, and then Site Manager through the years with this photography company. Right here during this snapshot of time is where I adopted an unrealistic expectation of, “of course I got the promotion, it’s obvious how well I work. So they rewarded me with the position I deserve.” No, Sarah.
Fast-forward >> The photography company ended their contract with the water park company, and I was referred to apply with new vendor that would be joining the park. They were in need of a Site Manager, and I was their girl. I landed the job, and I was beyond the moon excited. Here in this position is where I experienced my first business trip (wait, I get to travel to another state, stay in a hotel, and not have to pay for it?! Oh, but I can’t do anything personal… so it doesn’t matter anyway), launched this brand new location AND managed how it would run the rest of the summer, and hired all my own staff. This was great. If you knew me, I (still) find comfort when processes are done my way. You may view this as a flaw, I view it as efficiency at its finest.
Fast-forward, again >> Here we are, back to discussing what I thought would be my first and last office job, and would be the start to my life-long career. Let me start by saying, I worked for a man that later admitted that his goal when hiring new people is to “break them, and later re-build them to do things his way.” Now don’t get me wrong, I got some of my best training here. This man was the most organized, efficient, no b.s. person I’ve ever met in my entire life. He built an entire company by himself using his negotiating skills and the smoke & mirror concept, making his company look larger than it actually was. Long story short, I learned here that bosses and coworkers are not going to assume you’re a great worker until you prove it. And it takes a long time.
It can get very discouraging when you feel that you’re putting your all into a job and then others don’t assume your greatness from the start. Especially as a woman, I’ve realized being a boss ass b*tch is few and far between, so it could initially come off as too good to be true to others. It took about a year to gain the trust of my boss and coworker at this job, but when I did it was great because this is where leniency began to take place. They began to let me set up and process projects my own way, make suggestions and sometimes even took my suggestions, and send emails without having each and every word read for accuracy before hitting “Send.”
At this job, it was very easy to get along with my coworkers because there was only one! And the universe paired me up with a great one. Our boss was constantly in and out of the office, so I spent 40 hours a week with one person, whom I was VERY… let me repeat… VERY fortunate to have been ‘stuck’ next to. I am still very grateful, because there was not one day I wished I did not have to go into work because of him. We worked great together, were like minded, worked with the same ethics, and actually ended up being life-long friends after the job. I will talk about how to stay coworker friendly next, when I talk about my current job, because I didn’t have to put so much attention on this aspect working here. Unfortunately, I left this job after two years because it was a small business that could not offer a benefits package. I was reaching 26 in a couple of years, and I had to be sure I placed myself in a situation that offered health insurance.
Fast-forward to current times >> This was my first real corporate setting job. Starting in 2015. I was eager to remove myself from such a close-knit scenario where in order to ask for a day off I had to tell the boss why I was taking it. This job offered the full benefits package, the hourly wage, and a position where I only had to wear 1 hat instead of 50!
Here’s what I’ve learned working in a corporate setting:
If I thought proving my work ethic was hard before, JOKE’S ON ME! Now there are even more people I have to prove myself to. TIP: Be consistent. Trust does not build overnight. Though you may think your accuracy and work ethic is going unnoticed, one person at a time your coworkers will begin to realize they can rely on you to get tasks done in a timely and clean manner. Keep in mind, you’re working with a large team, and word will spread if you’re a good worker or not. Patience is key with this one. If you’re as good as you say you are, prove it… keep proving it… and you will shine in time. Make them notice you.
Go the extra mile. TIP: You should always go the extra mile at work, but if we’re realistic we can honestly admit that everyone loses steam and cannot do this every day or we will burn ourselves out. But ESPECIALLY during the first few months of a job, kick it into high gear and show them what you can do. Say yes to everything with a smile, triple check your work before sending it out, and be the most detail-oriented person you know. If you’re trying to go the route of getting noticed at your new corporate job, show them what you’re capable of from the get go.
Stay busy, especially at the beginning. TIP: Good employers will ease you into the position slow. When you’re left alone and you complete the task assigned, don’t sit at your desk staring at your empty screen with no papers in front of you like a deer in headlights, waiting for someone to approach you. Take initiative and ask for more work. Ask if there’s any product knowledge you can read on your down time. It looks terrible when the boss says, “what are you working on?” and you have to say “Oh, nothing right now.” Be a self-starter, employers love independent workers.
Make suggestions, but stay in your lane. TIP: There is SUCH a fine line to walk on this topic. In a corporate setting, you’re exposed to many departments and positions, and you’ll learn how your personal position intertwines with their’s. Limit suggestions to topics that only directly affect your position. Though you may have an efficient suggestion, it’s not your place to jump in and put your two cents towards a position you do not perform on the daily. Turn the tables and picture someone outside of your position doing this to you. Your initial reaction will most likely be, “I’m sorry, do you do my job every day? No.” Step in the other person’s shoes and be sure to have a FULL understanding of how the process is done before saying a word.
Keep your personal business, your business. TIP: This is a personal preference. I don’t like to share too much of my personal life with people, because it is natural human tendency to chit chat. I personally do not like posting my life’s events on a billboard leaving doors open for other people to openly discuss when I am not present. Avoiding yourself as a topic of conversation eliminates all possibilities for stories to be misconstrued.
DO NOT GOSSIP. TIP: This was actually something my Dad taught me a long time ago. One, you’re there to work. Two, just like with friends and acquaintances, you will get a bad reputation for being the person that talks about other people. This ties back into trust. People will not trust you, and will not like working with you. The last thing you want is not being able to call in a favor or have issues working on a project because “someone doesn’t like you.” Just bite your tongue and don’t do it. Do your job, and go home.
Be OK with starting at the bottom. TIP: You will realize long-term employees do not like to see the newbies fly past them on the hierarchy of job titles. Though it may not be your intention, they may begin to feel threatened. Master each level of the totem pole starting from the bottom and embrace each level. This will earn you respect and avoid others assuming that you were just “handed” the job.
Keep a smile on your face. TIP: Just do it, trust me. You don’t want to become the one everyone labels as miserable all the time.
At the same token, be firm. Don’t let others walk all over you. TIP: Coworkers will test you at the start. If they can get away with leaning on you and you don’t push back every once in a while, yes, they will take advantage. Try to find the balance between being a team player and being someone’s punching bag.
Keep a list of your daily tasks. TIP: Now this may seem time consuming and unnecessary. It personally works for me because I work at a desk and am not constantly walking around my building, so it may only apply to some positions. I’ve found keeping a notebook and labeling each page with the date and recording my work has multiple benefits. One, you’re always able to justify your workload. Employers like to know their employees are being used to their maximum potential. Two, it helps to keep track of your open projects and to-do’s. Three, it helps track past completed projects in case the boss ever says, “was this completed?” The last response they want is the “Uhhhh…” face. It looks much better to the boss when you can say, “Yes, this was completed on Friday, March 9 and emailed to Barbara at 11:58am.” THAT’S how you get noticed.
Now, I’ll be honest, I will say being a young female, I have been subjected to countless passive aggressive experiences that were very disheartening and unexpected. Being told that I have to “mature up” before I’m ready for a certain position; essentially being told I’m too young without actually saying it because this would probably be a HR discriminatory issue. Being told that ‘so and so’ is worried their job is at jeopardy because they’ve noticed how high performing I’ve been in my position. Straight up not being taken seriously by some people because I’m a woman (yes, stereotypes are real and they are not limited to females). Getting eye darts shot at me instead of support from my colleagues for excelling at my job. At the end of the day, of course it doesn’t matter what other people think. These are just some tips on how to make your life a bit easier in a corporate setting. Keep in mind, you’re spending 40 hours a week in close quarters with the same people for 52 weeks out of the year. Things can get hairy.
The best advice I can give is have always good business ethics, always do the right thing by your coworkers, perform highly in your position even if it feels like no one is watching, and just DO YOUR JOB AND GO HOME. Don’t make work your life. Don’t lose sleep over your job. Don’t go home and talk about problems at your job. You’re wasting your time and breath. Your paycheck stays the same if the deal goes through or not! Save your mental effort for your own dreams and endeavors.
Happy herding :)