Stepping into a big corporate job feels like diving into a whirlwind—exciting yet nerve-wracking. In your career, it’s not just about what you know but how you handle things. Over the past couple of months, I have gained a wealth of perspective on the corporate world, and through firsthand experience, I have discovered valuable insights that have helped me to navigate this environment better.
Whether it’s learning how to present yourself in a way that will connect with your colleagues, mastering time management techniques, or building a strong professional network, these tips are designed to provide actionable tools you can use to thrive in corporate America as a woman of color.
Trust me, I’ve been slowly trying to implement them as well.
1. Don’t overstress about the first impression.
As we grow older, we realize the importance of being yourself when meeting new people, regardless of the context you’re in. I started my new job trying to mask my character to appear more professional, but in reality, people can see through masks. There’s no better way to connect with others than introducing yourself as who you truly are. According to this LinkedIn article written by Jessica Perez, Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President of Culture at Starkey, “Making human connections with your team makes you feel good about coming to work every day. It builds a community of authenticity where people are allowed to express themselves.”
Your first days at a new job can set the tone for your experience, but they don’t fully reveal your personality to others. Arrive early, dress appropriately, and genuinely express enthusiasm for this opportunity. While it might be tough to shake off anxious thoughts, strive to actively listen during introductions and meetings, and ask thoughtful questions when necessary. One undeniable truth is that building rapport from day one establishes a positive foundation for future interactions.
2. Master time management, especially as a remote worker, for a work-life balance.
Effectively manage your workload by prioritizing tasks. Utilize tools like Notion or a classic agenda to categorize tasks and concentrate on what truly matters each day. Set realistic deadlines and break down larger projects into manageable steps to boost productivity without feeling overwhelmed.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial, especially if you work from home. Set boundaries by scheduling dedicated time for personal activities, hobbies, and relaxation. Disconnect from work during non-work hours to prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being.
3. Don’t be afraid to build a network outside of your organization.
Networking within and beyond the company holds immense value. Engage with colleagues from different departments, participate in company events, and join professional groups or associations. As someone who’s more introverted, initially, socializing can be challenging. However, I’ve found that as time passes and you become more comfortable sharing your thoughts with your co-workers, things tend to flow more smoothly. Cultivating a diverse network not only builds connections but also opens other perspectives.
While many advise approaching new people despite fears, for shy individuals like me, LinkedIn serves as a great ally when taking that first big step in networking feels daunting.
4. Embrace the inner student/learner in you.
Investing time in refining your skills not only fosters personal growth but also enhances your value within the company. As a woman of color, it might be challenging to find peers or supervisors who share your background, but there are still people within the company who can offer guidance and support.
As stated by this article by Front Psychol researchers, “given that a career is inherently a relational phenomenon, employability-enhancing competences should be generated through networking behaviors enabling workers to ask for feedback and advice, and to learn from others, to name just a few.”
Embracing a growth mindset ensures you stay adaptable and continually progress in your career. However, after reflecting on all of this, the main advice I have for your peace of mind is: don’t take it too seriously. Your first corporate job doesn’t define your entire career. Each experience is an opportunity for growth. First jobs aren’t as tricky as they seem. Everyone starts somewhere, and your journey can be unique and still lead to success.