Flourishing in corporate America can be a little daunting for a young professional, especially when you don’t have any experience navigating the waters. Prior to landing a job with my current company I had absolutely no experience in a corporate role. I had worked in fast food, a nursing home, and then a retail pharmacy but never an office setting. And let me tell ya, it was a little nerve wracking when I first started out.
Going form retail to a Fortune 100 company left me constantly feeling like I was drowning in how to balance being myself while still being able to be successful. However, over the past 4 years or so (or it’ll be 4 years in the spring) I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to help struggling young professionals like myself.
1. NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK.
I have first hand experience that can vouch for the saying “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know”. There is absolutely no corporate strategy that is more important than networking. A lot of people do not like this side of the business world, and I really think that’s why so many people get turned off by it. However, whenever you are networking it really gives you an opportunity to shine. And, the more you build your network the more opportunity will come your way. My networking afforded me the capability to use some of my photography skills (which are completely outside of my normal scope of business) and led to me being happier, overall, in the workplace. Getting to do something aside from my normal, day-to-day job helps give me a break and the photography portion of it gives me an opportunity to showcase talents that I normally wouldn’t. And this all came about because of networking.
2. BUILD YOUR BRAND.
Networking is useless if you don’t have a good brand to back it up. And, by brand I don’t mean you’re walking around with your own logo on your chest… you aren’t Superman. By brand I mean the type of work and skills that people know they can expect from you. You could be an absolute magician when it comes to Excel (or any other business application) but if a project comes up where Excel is in high demand they may pass you up to work with someone else who may not be as proficient in the application but has a better personal brand. Also, all of the work that you put into networking will be a complete waste if you don’t a have a good brand to back it up. The company that I work for is huge on building your own brand and I can honestly say that focusing on that has helped me a lot. It is something that is very simple to overlook, but can move your career forward leaps and bounds when you focus on it.
3. DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT, NOT THE JOB YOU HAVE.
So, this is an area that I could definitely step it up in. Being in a processing role currently, it’s easy rely on a more relaxed style when it comes to what I wear to work. However, one of my goals for the up and coming year is to follow this rule/tip to a tee. One thing that I’ve learned in my endeavors in corporate America is that every day is an interview. You have absolutely no idea who you’ll run into that day, or who you may have to share an elevator with. And let me tell ya, your first impression can go a long way and it feeds directly into building your brand. You also never know when fate and opportunity are going to come knocking, and those are two things that would be easier to greet if you look your best.
4. YOUR PERSONALITY IS YOUR BIGGEST ASSET.
Whether you have a big personality or you are someone who takes a little time to warm up… OWN IT. There is nothing else that will set you apart from the competition more than being comfortable and confident in who you are, no matter what your personality type. It is what makes you unique and what gives you a different perspective than every one else in a room. Now, that isn’t to say there won’t also be times where you have to adapt and tone it down some. I, for one, have a very big and boisterous personality and I’m (slowly) learning how to fine tune it to fit into the different roles that I have to play while in the office. I can still be myself, but there may be times that cause me to be a little more muted than my typical, vibrant, self. However, it is the diversity and the things that make you, well, YOU that make you the most marketable to your employer. You being yourself will always be their most valuable asset, accept that responsibility and rock it!
5. EVERYONE LOVES A COME BACK KID.
Maybe you’re like me and you’ve stepped on your own toes more than a few times. Whenever you’re navigating new waters it typically tends to be trial and error, so you’re gonna have a few mishaps. But, there’s good news… you can always come back from it! Now, depending on the size of your mishap depends on the amount of effort and mending it will take to help rebuild your brand and come out in a positive light, but it can be done! You’ll just need to assess the situation, figure out the amount of damage, and then go about the reparations like an informed adult. Trust me, I’ve had to do this one too many times myself to not know that it is 100% possible. Just make sure that you take ownership of the mistakes that you made and that the parties involved know that you’ll do whatever needs to be done to make a things right. Taking ownership of your faults will always show that you’re willing to learn in the face of adversity, and that is something that most employers absolutely adore.
Like I said before, it can be difficult to figure all of this out, especially if it’s your first time in a corporate setting. I could probably go on and on for a few thousand more words about all of the things I’ve learned in the past four or so years. But, these 5 things are what I, personally, think are the most important.
Drop a comment below and let me know, what are some tips that you have for fellow young professionals?