5 Tips For Surviving In Corporate America
Whether it’s your first professional position working for a corporation or your fourth, there are always lessons to be learned both personal and professional to maximize your experiences for the corporate beast.
Now bear this in mind, it doesn’t have to be a huge company either – if your company has 6 employees or 600, the rules of the game are the same!
Each one of us has a varying back-story of work history. Some decide to stay home and work raising children and tending to their family while others decide to put the parenting on the back-burner and commit to achieving their degrees and develop a strong foothold in their professional careers. Whichever way you choose, eventually you will have to deal with the rules of the corporate shuffle – and that’s where things get tough. Some lessons were hard learned, others made through observations, but either way, some personal mistakes we make can be job threatening and that’s aside from the professional ones.
My back-story: Prior to meeting my husband, I had only completed one year of college and left school to be with him. At the age of 19, I was newly married and knew I wanted a family immediately. At the time, I wanted to develop a new skill that would allow me to work part-time while raising a family, and since I had always enjoyed makeup and was naturally good at cutting hair, I knew becoming a licensed cosmetologist would be a great option. Off I went to school and completed my coursework.
Directly after I completed school, I became pregnant with my first child and shortly after that my second. By the time my oldest was around 8 years old, I made a decision to start working part-time and went to my local salon and off I went to a new and exciting journey. Eventually, I worked full-time and that decision seemed to be a good fit.
Twenty or so years later, I knew I needed a new direction. I had yearned for a higher education degree all of my life and knew I had to listen to that calling. I enrolled in college and completed both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. You can read more about that experience here. I landed my first corporate position almost directly after the completion of my degrees and off I went into a new and exciting chapter of my life.
Working for a local salon and working in Corporate America, were two very different experience with one exception – they both involved dealing with humans. Looking back on both divergent roads, there were certain lessons I wish someone had taught me. It took years of often painful experiences to finally “get it’ – the dos and don’t of sustaining an emotionally content career.
1 – Divulging Too Much Personal Information: We all want to feel like we belong, and developing allies at work is essential for fruitful teamwork, but there is a huge difference between making strong connections with your peers and crossing the line into confessing your personal woes to coworkers.
Never talk about the details of your personal life at work. Easier said than done you say? Well, even if a co-worker starts confiding in you and starts sharing TMI resist the temptation to reciprocate. Everything you say can and will be used against you especially in times of a crisis.
A coworker will quickly jump on an opportunity of telling your boss that your finances are a mess, or that you and your hubby are having marital issues. You run the risk having that information shared company-wide as well. Simply stated, keep your personal life out of your professional one.
2 -Yes, Of Course, There Will Be Gossip: OK, so we all know gossiping is inevitable in our personal and professional lives so, why do we keep engaging in it when we all see the negative impact it produces? OK, so again with the “human nature” thing I suppose.
At work, gossip is especially deadly. Gossiping will break down the social support at work you worked so hard to achieve. When faced with getting wrapped up in it, I found that staying silent and nodding works especially well. I also quickly bail out of the conversation with an “Oh, darn, I forgot I have to return a call”, trick.
Do anything you can to not get actively involved in it. In our personal lives, gossiping can often be harmless and even good for a few laughs, but in our professional lives you have to ask yourself is it worth losing your job over?
3 – If You Wear It, They Will Talk About It. Professional attire is a biggie. Regardless of what you wear, I can guarantee someone will comment on it. Always be mindful of what you are wearing when you step out the door to work of course, but also remember that even when you are wearing a very professional outfit, someone will talk about.
There are certain things at work you will have to put your ego aside and not let upset you and this is one of them. As long as you know you look professionally dressed don’t sweat the small stuff.
4 – No One Likes A Complainer: Think it but don’t say – that was my survival mantra for work. Whether I wasn’t feeling great or had a huge amount of work to catch up on, I hardly ever complained to anyone. Even the folks you trust can’t be trusted at work. Cynical you say? Well, yes maybe, but if you want to survive at work it should be your mantra too.
The working environment is dog-eat-dog no doubt and you, unfortunately, have to be on the defensive at all times. I can remember the one time I complained openly about a project deadline at work and later that day my manager called me and asked if I had any concerns I would like to discuss regarding the project.
Yes, negativity can spread that quickly at work. Coworkers think for some odd reason that putting you in a negative light will help boost their short road to success.
5 – Bring Your Lunch But Not Your Ego: Your ego has no place at work. I know that sounds impossibly difficult, but corporations don’t like egos – they like worker bees. remember, you are a part of the collective much like the Borg in Star Trek. Your ego has no place there. This is another example of “think it doesn’t say it”.
If something hurts your feelings, don’t express it. Feelings and work don’t make a good cocktail. Sharing feelings is for home. Wait to share them with your family and friends – not your coworkers. The same goes for boasting. Make a point not to boast about the comment your manager said to you about being one of the best on the team, or what an excellent job you are doing. Your coworkers will indeed become resentful and there go the allies you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Some other great advice for working outside the home, be sure to read my post about not taking things personally. It’s packed with some great tips as well.
It sounds all grim and negative, but taking steps to protect yourself at work with these simple tips can save your professional career. Yes, there will be times when you can laugh and actually have fun at work. I know I have plenty of times. Which brings me to a time when I was heard laughing after a training session and was actually reprimanded for laughing in the training room. I ironically laughed about it after the initial shock worn off.
Go to work to work – and before you know it, you will be climbing that corporate ladder in no time!
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