You learn a thing or two in the span of a twelve-year career behind the corporate walls of a Fortune 500 company and today, while sunning in my balcony, I started thinking about all of the promising employees in Corporate America and Corporate Europe and Corporate Anywhere.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I started thinking about me first!
For the first time since walking away from my corporate job 2 months ago, I was reflecting on my early days in the corporate world and remembering how unhappy I used to be, how frustrated I would get, and how many days and weeks at a time my motivation would dip and stay so low – oh so horribly low – that no excitement in my fabulous personal life could salvage this aching soul.
If you think that’s too dramatic, then perhaps you have checked your passions, your values and your desires of making a difference in this world at the door. I bet you had them when you first set out to start your dream of a career. I bet you did.
Or perhaps you have just accepted that things are the way they are and there is nothing you can do about them. Denial is another sad road, let me tell you.
Don’t worry! I did not know any better either for the first 5 years – these days, I am so passionate about motivating others that I wrote a book on it in 2 months: The 8 Pillars of Motivation but the first 5 years of my career, I did not know any better. Those were the toughest and most thankless years; I never wish to repeat them.
How to Stay Motivated in a Corporate Job!
But then I learned how to play the game, this sinister game of Corporate America that you must play in order to get ahead. When I realized how things really work, I wondered if there was a seminar I missed along the way because everyone else seemed to know the rules except me. Or do you fall in that category too?
When I learned how to play it smart, everything slowly started to fall into place. I regained my sense of happiness. I renewed my motivation. I was even doubly promoted - I would have killed for that promo in the first few years but anyway - I even got several raises, not to mention raving performance reviews.
You see, I learned to disassociate the problems of the workplace from the rest of my life and this, my darling readers, is the only way I was able to last that long in the corporate world and while quitting was the best thing I ever did, I did learn how to survive and stay motivated during my tenure.
Whether you are in the corporate world indefinitely or for short-term, and whether you are new or a veteran, these 3 secrets of playing it smart will help you. They will enable you to thrive without losing either your sanity or your motivation. Not only that, they might just turn you into a stellar employee, what without the every day worries that nag at you and kill your motivation, who knows what you can accomplish at your job so listen up and take good notes:
Corporate Career Secret #1: Stop Caring Oh So Much
Yes, this is a bold statement so let me explain. Care about the people. Care about the work. Care about your manners and your attitude but for the love of whatever it is your worship in life, stop caring so much about the gossip at the workplace and the news around the company. Stop caring about the decisions made at the top that do not resonate with you. Stop caring so much about the changes to process, policy and perks that are inevitably disagreeable with the employee masses.
Caring about the wrong thing does not serve you well at all, it accomplishes nothing and it will drain your motivation. Examine everything that comes across your desk (or computer, you know what I mean), and first ask if you should even bother with it, much less care about it and if not, toss it in the trashcan and move on to what matters.
Remember, there is the day-to-day work to be tackled and the future to consider. These are not the same. If you want to stay motivated in the present moment, you must turn a complete deaf ear to these inconsequential details. They do not matter and they rob your motivation. Do your job and do it well. Build a network of people you care about and do not concern yourself beyond that.
Corporate Career Secret #2: Do Only the Work That Matters
I will now tell you my greatest and most shocking lesson: It is not how hard you work, it is how smart you work.
Not news? Then are you doing it?
No one cares how “hard” you work. Hard does not translate to numbers. Hard does not move the stock price or increase Isa research investments for the board. Hard does not make the CEO or anyone else look good. Hard is irrelevant.
Do what matters and that means learning to say no to petty work that gets you nowhere and does no good for the company. This is the work that comes to you from a random co-worker, a project manager in another organization, an old colleague asking a favor and so on and on. The answer to all these lovely requests starts with a profuse apology followed by the fact that you are extremely busy with your current projects and have no bandwidth, even though you wish you could help them.
Before you can do this, you need to have some guts. Average guts will do; you don’t even need serious guts for this.
In my early years, I lived in constant fear, which was amplified by all those around me: “Oh my god, what if they fire me?“, I thought. I had better not say what I think and keep my head down and work really hard. So I used to say yes-yes-yes to everything and everyone. That was stupid for a long time but I didn’t know better – remember, no one invited me to the seminar on learning the game.
First you must realize that you need only do the work that matters to the bottom line of not just the company but of your team and your group. Then you must learn how to identify this work from the rest of the noise. When you can do this, and I know you can, you will gain better focus and a healthier balance to your work. As a result, you can stay motivated longer.
Corporate Career Secret #3: Watch Your Attitude Like A Hawk
Attitude is everything. It really is in the corporate world. Even if a poor attitude doesn’t hurt your performance or your career track, it hurts your reputation and I have noticed that in the corporate culture, people tend to easily forget kindness but remember a single incident of a poor attitude and hold it against you forever.
I will never forget how much one single unintended incident early in my career cost me over the years. I will never forget how it was held over my head instead of being used as a lesson to help me embrace the company I used to love. You can argue with the stupidity of it all but where does that get you?
If you want to fix the system, you might want to get off my blog and go find the right site for that mission. I have no interest or desire in “fixing” the corporate world, only a passion to help people find a way to thrive in their careers and in this particular post, I want them to thrive if they choose to do so in a corporate job.
Your attitude should be professional in every occasion. Be professional when you are asking for something, when you are frustrated about something, when you want to complain about something, when you are negotiating and especially when you are sharing disappointing news or change in your plans. Refuse, with all your might, in becoming dark and jaded and cynical. Panic if you see yourself falling into this trap and immediately change it.
Most of all, never lose your conviction about the general goodness of people, no matter what you may have to deal with in your corporate career. And that single approach to your work will ensure that you feel proud about the exemplary character you show others through this attitude.
PS: In September 2011, I started an exclusive newsletter to help you create your Exit Strategy from the Corporate World. Sign up below:
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Your Thoughts on Staying Motivated in Corporate?
Your motivation needs breathing room and if you can hone in on these three secrets, you can weather any corporate storm. And if it just so happens that you can no longer stand it, even despite these secrets, then call me. We’ll talk about a brand new venture for you.