There’s bound to be a cloud of naivety that lurks in the shadows as you take your first steps into the corporate world. You’re generally oblivious to the brutal yet self-defining moments that loom in the distance; the shiny new Mac, Instagram-worthy stationery and free for all coffee machine will certainly create a few blind spots. As I approach my one-year anniversary as a member of the 9 to 5 cult, I feel obliged to share with you a few of the powerful lessons that I have learned along the way, in the hopes that it will equip you with the resilience and motivation for overcoming the inevitable speed bumps of corporate life.
Lesson 1: First impressions matter
Much to your dislike, the book is often judged by its cover and first impressions do last forever. People who don’t you will make an assessment of your confidence and intelligence based on the way you present yourself – from your choice of attire to your posture. Ensure your body isn’t conveying conflicting messages and digging a hole for the stellar first impression you were aspiring for.
Lesson 2: Develop an emotional shield
You’ve got to develop an emotional shield to guard against the condescending remarks you’ll most likely encounter at some point during your professional career. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t end in high school. Much like an ant infestation, it can be difficult to exterminate this issue. Clients, customers and worst of all, fellow staff members can pose as toxic, two faced beasts who will attempt to obliterate the confidence levels you have worked tirelessly to build. The lesson here is to not dwell on the situation at hand, as painful as it may be. Your negative state of mind will only impact your performance and cause you to resent your job.
Lesson 3: Choose your friends wisely
One of the harshest truths I’ve uncovered. Business is business. When push comes to shove, business can sadly override friendship. Spending a minimum of 38 hours a week with your co-workers, you’re bound to form friendships. And why wouldn’t you? We all crave that social connection, it’s what preserves our sanity and gives us a mental lift when we’re feeling under the pump. However, you need to establish boundaries which can be tricky business. Be careful of what you disclose as revealing the wrong things can sabotage your career if your relationship turns sour.
Lesson 4: Hard work pays off
Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to describe yourself as someone with a strong work ethic, it’s another thing to validate this generic claim. Putting in the hard yards and consistently exceeding expectations is the oldest and most reliable recipe for success. Your blood, sweat and tears will eventually be rewarded.
Lesson 5: Ask questions
The desire to ask questions or seek clarification is often squashed by our pride which pushes us down the rabbit hole of assumptions. However, making incorrect assumptions at work can have serious ramifications on your career. So rather than making an unresolvable error, lose the pride and ask for help.
Lesson 6: Taking work home is a big mistake
You may think that you are doing yourself a favour by reducing tomorrow’s workload. The truth is, you’re not. Most people underestimate the grave consequences associated with this habit, not only on your health but on your happiness and job performance over the long term. Burnout is a serious issue plaguing the workforce, turning bright-eyed eager individuals into rusty auto-pilot machines. You’re bound to experience a bout of exhaustion, particularly in the aftermath of an unusually manic schedule, but if this is occurring over an extended period of time, it is a solid indication of burnout and a sign to reevaluate your lifestyle choices
Lesson 7: You’ll make mistakes and that’s okay
The fear of making mistakes is one that latches on tightly, particularly when we find ourselves in uncharted territory. That’s just our human reflexes kicking in. It’s easier to forgive yourself and recover from your errors when you have accepted the fact that mistakes are inevitable. It’s how you handle and recover from the situation that matters. You’ll earn more respect when you take responsibility for your actions and refrain from casting blame on others.
The first year of your professional career will be an exhilarating and equally eye-opening experience. Your preconceived ideas of the corporate world and what it entails will likely be challenged and the lessons learned will broaden your perspective, influence your choices and subsequently shape the rest of your career.