During the interview for your first corporate gig, you asked the right questions. You inquired about healthcare, secured a signing bonus and discussed office culture with the hiring manager. Before signing the offer letter, you understood the review process and stock options. However, some things you can only learn on the job. Here are 10 things no one actually tells you about corporate America.
1. The Millennial Approach
The millennial approach to the workplace has baby boomers and generation X up in arms. We are confident in our abilities and boldly ask for what we want. The millennial label is accompanied by millennial assumptions. For starters, other generations think we are entitled, praise-hungry and disloyal to companies.
It boils down to perception. Confidence to a millennial is entitlement to a baby boomer. A millennial’s decision to leave the company for advancement is job-hopping to generation X. A tip for the millennial navigating corporate America is to find a middle ground with older generations. For example, before asking to work from home, deliver quantifiable results and demonstrate your work ethic.
2. It’s not for everyone.
We are sold this dream that if we graduate college and get a good corporate job making good money, we will be happy. This dream is a myth.
Money alone will never fulfill you. The aforementioned myth is accompanied by the fable that the only alternative to joining corporate America is minimum wage. False! Entrepreneurship, non-traditional 9-5s, start-ups and other paths offer cultures and experiences different from the traditional corporate cubicle experience.
Happiness is not the amount of zeros on your paycheck. Happiness is a reflection of what you value and how you define success. You may love corporate life but someone in your office is miserable. While some find corporate exciting, others see their 4X4 cubicles as mundane and restricting. If corporate America is for you that’s great and if not, that’s great too.
3. There’s a lot of free stuff.
Facebook’s “baby cash” for new parents, Ben & Jerry’s nap rooms and Netflix’s “make your own work hours” policies are just a couple examples of the awesome perks. Media and ice cream companies aren’t the only corporations with perks for employees. Corporate gigs offer a lot outside of the common 401K, stock options, healthcare and tuition reimbursement. Popular perks include free gym memberships, spa/massage programs, event tickets, concert tickets and countless discounts on anything from phone providers to wine. Seek out the perks your company offers.
4. Trust no one.
Don’t get me wrong, a level of trust should be fostered between you and your team but be cautious. It’s a political game and anything you say can be used against you. Laughing to a coworker about how you’ve been late every day this week could land you in your manager’s office to discuss punctuality. You can’t live life afraid to share but know that while there is the rare chance your coworker will be your maid of honor, most coworker friends are just that – work friends.
5. Be kind always.
Monitoring your behavior and body language is crucial too. Sounds simple but it’s not. When frustration and sleep deprivation are in full swing, an outburst or shutting out the world are attractive options.
A day will come when you feel less inclined to say good morning or ask about Jill’s weekend. You won’t want to flash a smile, but just do it. Being courteous does not make you a brown-noser. It’s amazing how a coworker forgets to email meeting notes but remembers the time you ignored their wave in the break room. Not only will they commit the occurrence to memory, they will broadcast it and just like that you go from being bubbly to venomous.
6. Cover your butt.
Get everything in writing and keep all important emails. It’s easy to blame incompetence or shortcomings on the newbie. Don’t be afraid to reference old emails and cover your butt. Conversely, if you make a mistake, own it. Don’t blame or make excuses. Taking responsibility for your mistakes does not mean being overly apologetic. Take ownership and present a solution.
7. Scope the scene.
Corporate is war. Well, not literally war, but in many corporate environments it’s pretty close. There are alliances and teams. Whether or not you pick a side, be aware.
8. Keep your personal life personal.
Every office has a chatterbox that shares way too much. Whether informing the office of their drunken tales or ranting about their husband’s ex-wife’s latest antics, they ensure everyone within earshot is up to speed each week.
Sharing private information with colleagues influences the perception of you at work. Set boundaries and exercise self-control. You can keep your private life separate without seeming detached or standoffish. If someone asks to add you on Facebook or Snap Chat, it’s ok to say no. You can also lie and say you don’t use the social media site in question. (Note: They will creep on your profiles like my coworkers do from a far). Adjust your privacy settings and carry on! You can still go out to lunch with colleagues without sharing your vacation photos or first-world-problem tweets.
9. It’s not fair.
Corporate America calls for thick skin (note war reference above). Competition and backbiting come with the territory. Things you’ll start to notice: Brad’s mistakes will get overlooked while yours are scrutinized. Jenny will get promoted after only 11 months while you’ve worked hard for years. It’s tough, but don’t settle and find ways to make sure your value is not overlooked.
10. There is no such thing as a private conversation.
If the conversation starts with “between us” or “off the record”, proceed with caution. There’s a 99.9 percent chance the conversation will not stay between you and the other person. Worst-case scenario, what you say will get blabbed to someone else with additions. Best-case scenario, the person genuinely wants to assist you and will still blab. Except some serious situations, there aren’t private conversations in corporate America.
Have we left anything out? Is there anything about Corporate America that caught you off guard? Share with us @HerAgenda, #HerAgenda.