5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I Started My Career In The Corporate Business World
1. Network, Network, Network
There is nothing more valuable than building personal face to face relationships with other like-minded business executives like yourself especially in your local or regional area. I want to thank Tim McClure (CEO of Tegrit) for pushing me early in my career to network as much as possible and to meet as many people as I possibly can. He always used to tell me that "I do not want to see you in the office, and I want you out there passing out business cards and engaging in conversations." Whether you are a developer, account manager, project manager, accountant, HR Specialist, or CEO of your company, networking will only benefit you. I also suggest asking your manager for business cards, with your name, company, title and logo to ensure your information is being accurately represented. And if they say no, go out and make them yourself. Plus people will take you more seriously when you have something to give to them.
To add, If you are new to the corporate world or networking, I highly suggest researching events in your local chamber of commerce, Crain’s Business (depending on what city you reside in) and checking out the following sites:
Always remember that you never know who will be able to help you now or down the road when it comes to the conversations you are having at these events. It could be a connection you made who works for a company you have always wanted to work for, or even a service or product that this individual may need. Also, make sure that you walk into each engagement with a curiosity mindset and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, try to provide that person with value. In addition, always look the person you are engaging in the eye and give them your 100% attention. I have been to plenty of networking events where people have some type of specific motive or weird intention and if you are not useful to them, they will just brush you off. For example, I was talking to some hot shot sales rep at a small business networking event and the guy kept looking away as I was talking to me, and was clearly not engaged with me at all. In fact, I handed him my business card after our “conversation” and as he walked away, he dropped it on the floor. I then picked the card up and walked up to him, and I told him, “Hey man, you dropped my card and I just wanted to make sure you have it in case he needed to get a hold of me for anything”, he looked at me with this confused look, and then places my card in his jacket and walked away. (These people are out there so do not let them deter you from reaching success)
Lastly, a golden rule that I like to follow is the more expensive and prestigious the event may be, the higher your chances of you meeting a decision maker that can actually help you. A $10 event may get you a $10 guy, but if you are committed to attending a $100 --$500 price per admission event, you will most likely find a higher quality individual that actually has some pull. Also, look at the sponsors of the event and most likely they will have a individual there representing them.
2. There is no straight and perfect career path
One of my manager’s early in my career showed me two graphs (See two images above). If you believe that your career will be perfect as the arrow in the top graph, then you are fooling yourself. There will be setbacks, challenges, you may get fired, you may have to quit, the company may go out of business, you may get acquired by a larger firm and they eliminate your position, or you get passed up on a promotion. There are a ton of events that could happen that you just don’t have control of (see bottom graph). So always keep an open mind to whatever opportunities that are presented to you. For example, if you started your career in the technology space, do not disregard other verticals (such as manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, financial etc.) because you are hard set in staying in that area for your whole career. I also believe its super important to have a live resume document that you are constantly updating and tweaking, just in case you must hit the eject button when the shit hits the fan. I suggest always applying for various companies/ positions, even if you are not looking at that moment to make a change. These companies will keep your file on record and come time, you will already have a foot in the door and have built a relationship with that hiring manager. As you grow in your career your value with increase significantly, and building experience is going to be that driving force and employers will try more aggressively to recruit you.
I would also suggest choosing top 5 companies that you would dream to work for and constantly monitor their career’s page and check in with the hiring manager in case there is an opening. I will leave you with this, if you are not happy where you are now, or feel you are not being paid you are worth, or just don’t like your boss, then LEAVE!! You are not married to this company and they will move one with or without you. So do yourself a favor and explore what’s out there, because it’s a big world! The last thing you want to do is piss away years and years of your life for a dead end job / dead end hoping that things may change for the better.
3. There will be people that you work with that will not like you, and that will do everything in their power to see you fail
Sorry to break the bad news to you, but not everyone in your company or team will want to see you achieve greatness or success. I personally had an experience early in my career with one individual (I won’t mention their name and they know who they are), but this person hated my guts the moment I was introduced to them, and to this day I will never understand why. In fact, they tried almost everything in their power to throw me under the bus any chance they had with my manager, and even the CEO of the company. What made things worse, was this person was assigned to my team and even sat across from me in the same darn office. This person was always questioning all my efforts, and decisions and never provided me any value. With a new owner and new management, I did not want to create a big issue out of this because I had large goals to achieve, so I waited to see if these problems would go away. They did not!
If you are facing a similar situation like this or when you see the first sign of trouble, I highly suggest addressing the individual directly and involving your reporting manager. If that does not work, I would go directly to your HR point of contact and file a complaint ASAP. In my case, I tried to speak to this individual personally, as well as my boss with no resolution. At one point, this situation was causing me so much stress and distractions that it was affecting my performance. I said enough was enough and eventually had to go to our HR Representative and told them everything. Let’s just say the person did not take this action so lightly and lost there cool and was eventually let go due to the behavior the exhibited. Also, always remember that cool heads always prevail, so be patient and logical and make sure you are always communicating these issues to your officers.
4. Try to focus on working with a larger more established company vs a starter up / small business
When you start your career working for a larger company or even a big Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 company, it gives you a significant advantage for several reasons. First, they have more established training programs and established operating processes which will make your life a heck of a lot easier. A larger company also has established career path’s which will provide you with more insight into how your position will evolve and what the true potential there really is at that firm. In my case, I was not so lucky and ended up working for a smaller company who unfortunately did not have any of these. However, it did force me to reach out for the information that I needed (whether it was online or through other channels) and it helped me build tremendous grit and resilience and made me a self-starter vs. having everything given to me.
To add, you can take a lot of the processes, techniques and strategies you learn from these larger companies and eventually apply them to your own starter-up or a smaller company that you may move to later in your career. What I have also learned is that larger corporations also offer opportunities to explore different positions and departments which may help build gauge what really interests you. In addition, if you are in a sales, working for a larger company allows you to create a more trustworthy and reputable perception from your customers, especially if you are an established brand that everyone has heard of before. To add, it is much more difficult to even book a meeting with an executive if they have not heard of your firm or company before.
On the flip side, working for a larger firm from the start or even most of your career can cause issues because you can become paralyzed when you face a situation that doesn’t have a process or procedure. I have witnessed countless times of when our small growing software company tried bringing in a big wig or process focused individual from a large established firm like Ford or GM or Accenture and they were thrown into an environment where there really wasn’t any of those things at all. And long behold, they struggled BIG TIME!! For example, I would hear things like “where are your process documents for a scenario like this?”, or “Can you send me all the files as it relates to the workflows for this project?”, and one of my favorite “How can you not have a plan or process in place for things like this” 😊
5. Always Stay Positive and Be nice
In a world already filled with so much negativity, sadness, and doom & gloom, being the positive light in the office can have a tremendous impact on you and the people that you work with. Also, if you are already working in a stressful and deadline driven environment, being super positive will only help you achieve those goals and success. Positivity and kindness is also contagious, so the more good vibes you send out into the universe, the more impact you will have on your co workers in your office and even the customers you work with. Also, it’s important to always remember that everyone has their own story and come from various different background, so you must be kind to everyone, for they may be fighting a battle you are not aware of. It is amazing how powerful being positive and nice to someone can change their whole day, even if it’s just complimenting your co-worker on there new haircut or outfit.
Caution to the wind, sometimes upper management and even your closest employees will take advantage of your kindness and use it against you. They may perceive you as someone who is too nice and weak, and try to plot and scheme ways that will pull you down. Be very vigilant when it comes to situations like this, but do not let it turn you into a sour puss like everyone else. I have learned that some people just hate to see other people happy or positive and it's just the way the world is.
A great example was when I was at an all hand’s on meeting where the CEO brought in cider and donuts for everyone. It was a Monday, and I was in a great mood and as I was standing in line an employee asked me “Samer, why are you so happy? It’s Monday!, You should not be this happy” I replied back stating, “Well Monday is my favorite day of the week, and I am excited for what the week has to bring, man I love Monday's!”. This is the type of things I encountered almost daily, and its something that should never deter you. Lastly, people always remember who were kind to them, so don’t be a jerk and always put a smile on your face 😊
I hope this information helps you in your journey and feel free to reach out to me if you want to just talk or have question. See you at the top!