Off topic: things I learned in the corporate world

I recently left a job at a fast-paced tech company in the D.C. area. This post isn’t particularly related to health and wellness, though…it kind of is. I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to learn a lot of different things – not just the below, but actual on-the-job skills and exposure to different areas, and experience dealing with a lot of different personalities and backgrounds. The below are very, very candid lessons I’ve learned in my 3+ years in corporate.

I realize these don’t apply to every corporate job, but these are some of the things I learned/realized:

  • There are two kinds of people: those who complain/boast/etc. about everything (how busy they are, how late they worked, how important their job is, how impressive their background is), and those who don’t but are just as OR even more busy/qualified/important/etc. (The second kind just doesn’t feel the need to let everyone know.) *article from HBR: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/please-stop-complaining-about/
  • There are always going to be difficult people to work with.
  • People will be disrespectful. People will think they are better than you. They’re not. Don’t believe them.
  • “Working with” can really just mean emailed, said two words to, called, left a voicemail for, etc. It doesn’t actually mean working with…
  • Business keywords are so annoying, except now I’m using them ALL the time. I don’t know if it’s just something you get used to (and annoyed by at the same time) or what. Favorites: touch base, offline, ping, out of pocket, reach out, takeaway, and “working with”; for more: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130826001502-64875646-stop-using-these-30-phrases-at-work AND a bonus – play office lingo! (Not saying I ever ever did this, definitely did not create my own office lingo board…)
  • Accept compliments. Give compliments. Write thank yous to people who go out of their way for you. They’ll remember.
  • In support roles, the key is learning who to contact for everything. (Actually, this kind of applies to every role. Everywhere.)
  • Everyone will always think their task is the most important and you should do it ASAP. But you’ll drown if you take on everyone’s emergencies.
  • There are way too many passwords to remember for way too many programs/systems/etc. You will waste so much time resetting passwords with 30 requirements so that they are “secure”…and then you will forget those again.
  • There are always going to be people who will throw you under the bus for even tiny reasons. But there are also a handful of people who you can trust.
  • There are some people out there who are awesome to work with. Don’t lose touch with them.
  • Keep in touch with people. For one, it’s easier to ask for a reference for a new job if you’ve stayed in touch (instead of reaching out last second to ask for a reference). And two, it’s just nice, and you never know when your paths will cross again.
  • If people see that you are willing to take on more and more, even when it’s not actually your responsibility, most will take advantage of that. Learn to say no.
  • The later and later you work, the more you will work later and later. The more you skip lunch breaks, the more and more you will skip lunch breaks. Decide what you’re willing to give up before you’ve made it a bad habit that you won’t be able to break.
  • Stress will take a toll on your health. Learn ways to cope. (Yoga nidra!)
  • Remember your priorities. Sure, work is near the top of the list, BUT remember your own health. (You can’t work if you’re not in good health anyway.) Make it a priority to eat healthy, exercise, etc.
  • People will come into work sick. I will never understand why. Sick days are there for a reason.
  • There will never be enough vacation time – or, if there is, you’ll never be able to take a big enough amount to take an actual relaxing vacation (because you’re so committed to work). Take vacations when you have the chance.
  • Don’t put everything in an email unless you really need to have it documented. Emails can be forwarded, printed, etc. And you don’t know who might have access.
  • Walking over to talk to people in person (rather than email or phone) can yield much better results in some cases…especially when there tend to be miscommunications.
  • You don’t have to be friends to everyone, but it’s easier to work with people if you have a friendly relationship.
  • But, there will just be some people who you will never really get along with. Learn ways to deal.
  • Social work functions are still work functions. Don’t be an idiot. (Open bar isn’t always a good thing.)
  • Some companies have great benefit packages. Some do not.
  • Don’t let work be 100% of your life.  You will have no life.
  • People will always leave. People will be laid off. People will always be afraid of losing vital teammates.
  • If you hate 99% of what you are doing 99% of the time, get out.
  • If you leave work unfulfilled every day, something needs to change. If it doesn’t, you’ll just stay unfulfilled (even if you’re paid a decent amount) and unhappy. It’s ok to be happy with the money but unhappy with the level of fulfillment.
  • If you don’t like what you are doing, find ways to build skills more closely related to what you actually want to be doing in your next role. (Volunteer. Work on extra projects. Take classes. Read a lot. Just find ways to build your skills instead of being stuck/pigeonholed in your current position.)
  • If you’re someone who is motivated and wants to grow, and you’re not being given enough opportunities or there just isn’t anywhere to grow within the company you’re at, take a good look at things and decide your next move.
  • The corporate world can suck the passion/motivation/life out of you if you let it. Always have an escape plan in mind, even if you like it at first. Get out when you need to. If you don’t, you’ll be miserable.
  • CEOs would learn a lot about their companies and employees if they did every exit interview.
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