Lessons I learnt from the Corporate World

We have been spending some time recently talking about work and the working life, especially since GG & BB will start their six-month industrial attachment next year and I thought that some of what we discussed could be of use to others, especially someone who is either just entering the corporate space or are a few years in and want to succeed in their careers.

In no particular order, here’s what I have learnt:

  • Be good to those below you more than those above you. Treat everyone with the respect you expect from them for yourself. Be nice to everyone, you never know when you are being judged.
  • Be careful when you work with friends, it may sometimes end badly
  • Keep your opinions about others to yourself and never share it with anyone else at work
  • Don’t Gossip! Especially in the pantry and public spaces, you never know who could be listening
  • Office politics is a fact of life and you can’t escape it. Learn to play the game
  • Network, network and then network some more. As you grow in your career, your networks will become more and more useful and informative.
  • Make your boss look good. That’s the key to success because they are the only ones who will battle for you and promote you. Make sure you know what your boss needs to accomplish and do your best to help them accomplish it.
  • Document everything! Your wins, commendations, compliments and learnings.
  • Train someone else to do your job and do it well. Because if you are irreplaceable in your position, you will never move up because there is nobody else to do what you are doing and doing best.
  • Any organisation you work for is not running a charity, they are here to make money and you have also been hired for that reason. You are hired because you have something that the organisation needs and any employment is a two-way process, one where both parties benefit.
  • Be reliable, be punctual and if you give someone a deadline, make sure you stick to it and in fact try to finish your work before the deadline.
  • Under promise and over deliver. It’s very simple actually. If you think you need 2 days to get a task done, ask for three days. This way, you have an extra day for any unforeseen circumstances that may come up and you are prepared and if all goes well, you get the task done ahead of your deadline, making you look super-efficient.
  • Become friends with all the secretaries, PAs and other co-ordinators. They will help you in tight spots and are also a good source of information that may not be found elsewhere.
  • Stay calm, cool and collected even if you are a withering mass inside. Be like the swan who looks calm and placid above the water, but is furiously paddling below it.
  • Leave your emotions at the door when you enter your place of work. Always think twice when you send emails or make phone calls when you are angry or upset. One tip I use during these times is to type your email first without typing in the email address and keep it aside for a while. Then when you are in a better frame of mind, edit the email, add the email address and send it.
  • Be well-dressed at work. Stand out, but not in the wrong way. If your work environment is conservative, then don’t wear outlandish clothes and vice-versa. Discreet jewellery, perfume and clothes which are classic will be better than fast fashion.
  • You are your own brand, so everything you do, say, write, dress, behave showcases the brand. So, create the brand that resonates with your work environment and maybe a couple of steps above your current role and stay true to your brand image at all times.
  • Have a life outside the office. You are not just a corporate drone, you should and must have a life outside of work. Have a hobby and do something that is totally unrelated to what you do at work.
  • Ask and encourage feedback from your managers because sometimes there may be something that you don’t see, but someone more experienced may instantly see.
  • Share successes, especially when you work as a team. When you do this, you let others share the glory and they will feel part of the successful project. Also, it never helps to have people think positively about you and your ethics. Giving others a chance to claim credit is an easy and effective way to magnify results.
  • Never stop learning. Every opportunity, good or bad teaches you something, even if it is what not to do, so don’t stagnate and become too comfortable in your job.
  • Always look at the bright side, and the positive side of things. Don’t get bogged down by pessimism. When days, weeks or even months are difficult, take heart and the hardest times will pass.
  • Focus on what you do best and try to compensate for your weaknesses. Nobody is perfect and everyone has some areas they are not good at, so amplify your strengths and work on the weaknesses.
  • Procrastination is something all of us are prone to, but procrastination has clear repercussions in the workplace resulting in challenges such as falling behind tasks. So, make sure you have clear daily goals which you tick off before you start slacking.
  • Failure is not the death kneel of your career. You will fail and multiple times in your career, but don’t stress about them. With no mistakes, there would be no opportunity to learn. Every failure gives you the chance to grow both personally and professionally.
  • Speak up. In meetings, in discussions and anyplace where you may have some input. This is not the time to be shy and refrain from speaking. If you have something to add to the discussion, make sure you put your point across. It may not be accepted, but for every ten points you put across, maybe one will be the one that is what was needed. But also ensure that when you speak, you understand what is being said and don’t speak illogically and nonsense.
  • Proactively seek new responsibilities, but only if you can handle. Conversely, don’t take up anything and everything that is thrown your way. Learn to say no to those above you if you are unable to manage or are hitting way above your weight and expertise.
  • Learn that everyone is expendable. If you don’t go to work, your organisation will not shut down, they will move on. But if you are not around, your family will be extremely affected and will find it very hard to move on. So don’t prioritise your job over your family.
  • Never burn bridges. You never know when you may have to go back to someone you have fought with, bad-mouthed or just generally been unpleasant to. People remember and will take their revenge when its their turn.
  • Work hard when you are at work, and when you leave the office, try to turn off. Most importantly have fun doing what you are doing and the eight or nine hours you spend at work won’t feel very long.
  • Stay two steps ahead. No matter what we do, success is less about any given moment and more about the next. Learn to anticipate what your manager or customer needs before they know how to ask for it and that’s one of the quickest ways to distinguish yourself in the workplace. Take initiative and don’t wait around to be told what to do, but at the same time, don’t make any assumptions, either.
  • Don’t take anything personally. Be professional, even when you think someone is out to get you.
  • Don’t trust anyone, especially at work. Everyone is looking out for themselves and a someone you consider a friend can easily throw you under a bus to save themselves. And at the same time, there’s a well know saying which is apt here to keep your friends close and enemies closer and is 100% true in a corporate setting.
  • Listen more and speak less. We have been given two ears and a mouth for a reason. So listen more than you speak and actually listen instead of rehearsing what you are going to say. At the same time, pay attention to what is happening around you and you will never be caught off guard.
  • Never betray anyone’s trust. Keep other people’s secrets as well as your own, and don’t share information that was given to you in confidence
  • Keep your social media to your social circle. Don’t ever add your co-workers and bosses to your social media platforms. You wouldn’t want them to know what is going on in your life which can give them ammunition to hurt or harm you. This doesn’t include LinkedIn as that is a work social platform.
  • Be flexible. Have an opinion, but don’t have hard opinions.
  • Don’t run after money. No doubt having money in the bank and being financially independent is important, but don’t let money dictate what you are in life and what you want to do in life. Let money be an accessory, not the focus.
  • Go the extra mile. Nobody ever achieved success by doing the bare minimum. Go above and beyond and you will be rewarded in one way or another.
  • Last, keep your goal in front of you and remember that whatever you do, you need to be true to yourself

So, there you have it, 40 lessons I learnt while in the corporate world. I am going to share it with BB & GG and their friends. Hope this was useful to you too. If you have more lessons from the corporate world, please share in the comments below.

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