8 Little-known Corporate Career Mistakes You Must Avoid


They didn’t warn you about this at your Corporate 101 Class?

Of course that’s a joke. There’s no Corporate 101. There is no basic training about mistakes you must avoid if you want to succeed at your job.

There is no place to come clean with your corporate career mistakes and start over.

There is learning by experience and learning by being an insider. Or not learning until it’s too late!

In the early years of my 12 year career, I went down a lot of dark alleys; I came up to a lot of dead-ends and I turned to a lot of wrong people; I believed a lot of rubbish and I made a lot of corporate career mistakes and what I learned is this:

You can accept your mistakes; you can learn from them; you can move on from them but you never want to make them in vain.

You must learn from your mistakes once you have made them.

Now what would be even better is to avoid your mistakes in the first place!

Reminder: Did you know we have a step-by-step course here to teach you everything you need for getting recognized, getting promoted and creating your dream career at your job?

Your situation is not that unique.

While no two companies are identical and no two employees are the same, an uncanny similarity runs across a large portion of corporations and cultures.

So these 8 corporate career facts I daresay apply across the board. No matter how unique you think you may be, you will likely find relevance here to your job situation.

Warning: You may find my tone harsh and negative here. My intent is to be clear. Plus reality bites, direct experience speaks volumes and the experiences you will read about here are not singular as I watched many of my colleagues and clients share a similar path in their own journey of corporate career mistakes. So pay attention and don’t be next!

Career Fact #1: Top-notch industry certifications do not necessarily get you a promotion, more money, or even credibility.

The myth goes like this: If you get certified in your industry or your niche, you are suddenly rewarded by your company.

While it does “depend” on company policy, even that is not enforceable and can change.

After earning two electrical engineering degrees, I went for a hard-core certification called the CCIE that only 7000 people in the world held it at the time – yeah, I thought it was special. It virtually guaranteed paths to recognition and compensation adjustment from my grossly-underpaid state at my job.

As soon as I got certified, the powers that be changed the rules and I had to shamefully beg for the promotion and raise for two years.

Years later, I went for another certification called the PMP because, as you see, I never lost faith in the myth. This one hardly brought me any more recognition than the first.

Bottom line is this: Ask yourself why you want to get certified and if it is really imperative to you doing a good job at work and advancing? What do those acronyms mean anyway and whom are you trying to impress, and is it even worthy to spend your time doing something impressive rather than something useful?

Don’t go with the hype on this one. Focus on what really matters.

Career Fact #2: You will have to ask for a raise and a promotion. Loud and clear. More than once.

I was terrified of asking for a raise and promotion but that was before I understood the secret corporate code on how to do it right. And that’s when the raises and promotions started coming – when I asked for them the right way.

I used to subscribe to the false theory that if you work hard enough, you will indeed be rewarded.

This, my dear reader, is naiveté talking, not reality.

It does not matter how hard you work, how many nights and weekends you put in, and how many hours on top of your average peers you contribute to a project, this does not necessarily promise you a higher pay, advancement, or larger bonus.

You need to clearly identify the important tasks to your management and leadership and understand the impact and the visibility of those, and focus your energy there, not everywhere.

You must ask for what you are worth. It does not land on your lap out of the goodness of anyone’s heart.

Career Fact #3: Executive leadership makes decisions to please shareholder interest, not yours.

People forget that the corporation is not there for them; it is there to answer to its shareholders.

Let this one sink in because it bites but it’s true. True leadership is – as it should be – the magnet that holds a mission and a vision together, and without it, things begin to disintegrate from within.

Companies learn this lesson the hard way but you don’t have to. Don’t expect the executive leadership to do right by you. They may consider what is in the best interest of the employees but they have shareholders to answer to first.

If they don’t make decisions that resonate with your core values, think twice before working at this company.

At least, you now know where the motive resides next time you hear a lousy decision from the top.

Career Fact #4: The Human Resources (HR) is not there to protect you, dear one. Their only job is to protect the company.

First of all, if you can, avoid HR – Human Resources – altogether, not because you want to keep the mishaps to yourself but because they are of no help in general. They will not act in your interest and they will not solve your problem because they do not care about you. HR is there to protect the company.

Disagree with this all you want; I know I did it when I first heard it. Seek a mentor or trusted leader instead for advice, and make sure they are outside your direct chain of command.

Alas, it’s true: HR simply protects the corporation’s interests. Not yours.

No matter what your story may be, the decisions made by the HR will likely not be in your favor and you will be left with larger problems to solve as a result.

Your issues may very well be valid, but think twice before running to HR and did I mention: they protect the company first and foremost.

Career Fact #5: You do not need to do everything they ask you in order to be rewarded, recognized and raised high.

I used to do it all; everything they asked me to do, I would do with my head down and my pride high. Then I realized that I was yet again being an idiot about the way things work.

First of all, most of my work was needless busy work, and second of all, very little of it mattered during performance period. Guess when I had my best, most amazing performance ratings? During the periods when I worked the least hours but only on the most effective projects and activities. (Yes, it did not cease to shock me either!)

So however tempted you may be, do not do everything that is asked of you. Do not respond to all that comes across your desk.

Ask yourself if a task or request is really important and if you really need to attend every meeting and listen to every training and answer every email.

You will find that top performers do very little but they do focus on the important work. Learn to distinguish between busy work that average employees do and important work that the company really wants you to do.


Career Fact #6: Putting your career in your manager’s hands is as safe a bet for success as letting your child run wild in a busy street.

Now I admit I had good managers; I liked them. I was sincere in my appreciation of them too. They were gracious people for the most part, the exceptions notwithstanding.

What hurt me was my confusion: I believed that simply because I loved my team and my company, they too loved me in return and I defined that love as being taken care of.

So in the early years, I simply let my managers “manage” my career and what a colossal mistake that was.

Be in charge of your own career and drive it forward. If they give you opportunities, look at your plan and see if it aligns to where you want to be and what you want to do and if it does not, then decline.

You decide where to go next, how long to stay on this team, and even what projects you are going to work on. Have a voice about your career because no one else will.

Career Fact #7: Impact and results are not the same and you need to speak to your impact or become irrelevant.

Do not confuse results with impact. You may be getting a lot of results, small, medium and large in size, but that’s not the same as having a great impact. Impact means you had something to do with the company’s bottom line in one measurable form or another but anything could be a ‘result’ of your hard work.

So ask yourself: Are you having an impact in your company, in your customers, and in your community? Or are you just busy getting random results to various tasks? Are you working on some dead-end corporate initiative that will be on the shelf before the end of the quarter, and one that will suck the living soul out of you in the process?

Then do the right thing and focus on impact instead.

Career Fact #8: No one cares if you quit or leave or even die so don’t kill yourself for your corporation.

Sorry to be so dramatic but I wish someone were that dramatic with me.

The sense of urgency about everything at corporate is a little ridiculous and the sacrifices expected of you are uncalled for.

Some people cruise by, yes. Others are asked to do horrendous amounts of work and for that period of time, you are made to believe that you matter, and that your work is integral to the company success.

The truth suggests otherwise. Even if you are the VP or the CEO, you are not that important. You are in fact entirely – and quickly – replaceable. So what are you doing giving up on your family time and your health and well-being?

What are you doing getting stressed out?

Make smart choices and draw the line where it needs to be. Ironically, that line brings you respect and you may find balance in your personal life again.

What to do if you really want to get ahead, get promoted and get paid your worth.

Did these little-known corporate career truths resonate with you?

As you navigate the corporate landscape, I hope to help you to avoid your corporate career mistake. Or recover from them fast.

If you want to go even further, if you want to get ahead and get promoted and become the next rising corporate employee at your company, then check out Crack the Code to Get Promoted, an online program that examines all of pieces to the “get promoted” puzzle, and shows you how to best position yourself for massive success.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Oct 10, 2011 on Prolific Living. It has now been revamped, revised, and updated with fresh new content. Enjoy and spread the word!

  • John Sherry

    Farnoosh, you’re not harsh, simply aware! The corporate ladder has never interested me because it’s a trap of working for someone else who makes more out of you and your skills than you gain plus you are very, very, sacrificable in the big business world. I’ve always preferred to work as an extension of myself connecting to the world through who and what I am. Sure earns less bucks but gives you deeper meaning and far more self-satisfaction. After all what does, ‘making it’ really mean? Truth is the answer is only what we give it!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear John, good, I am so glad to be the latter even as I am willing to be harsh for a good cause. Oh you smart one, you!! Why could you not be my friend then and pound this to my thick head? 😉
      “Work as an extension of myself” – another great phrase. And it does *NOT* have to earn you less bucks at all. Dan Miller of 48 days says that you quit a corporate job so that you can have no limit to your income by doing what you love. That limit could very well be the sky. “Making it” is personal for all of us. For sure. Thanks for kicking this conversation off so brilliantly, John.

  • http://www.jungleoflife.com Lance

    I’m fortunate that I am work at a place where I’m both an employee and partial owner. It has created a very open culture as far as sharing of information (the good and the bad…we all know what’s going on).

    That said – I’ve also focused more upon my own personal growth over the last couple of years. As part of this – I agree with so much of what you are sharing here (the possible exception is the idea of #3 for me – where I’m both an employee and a shareholder).

    Great reminders – wherever we are in life – about living our life!!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Lance, welcome back, boy have I missed you :)! Ownership is beautiful – and an open culture CAN exist, but hard to make it work in a large corporation.
      And you are exactly where I am as far as personal journey and path go, so I know what you mean. There is nothing wrong with caring about shareholders…. In most instances, the ones that I refer to, that is NOT the case so your experience varies from the general one I talk about here. Thank you for living your life and being such a grand example for all of us, Lance.

  • http://www.wewearkhakis.com shanoboy

    Wow, your post just addressed some stressful feelings I’ve been having at my current job and you’ve really helped put me at ease. Thanks for the great advise. I’ll be sure that I heed it.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Shanoboy, I am SO glad to hear it – it was worth spending 5 hours writing it just for you to say that. So glad and you are very welcome. Don’t forget to heed it though :)! And please do share it with anyone else that might find it useful, thanks Shanoboy!

  • http://foodbabe.com Food Babe

    I just love your site – I am so happy I found it. I totally agree with all your insights and practice many of them daily. Thank you for all you do and the good energy you bring to the world!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Food Babe, I went over to your site and loved it. Glad you found me too. Thank you for the kind words – so you feel my energy then? Sometimes I wonder if writing is enough to convey it …. thanks again and good luck with all of your work ventures. Come back anytime!

  • http://www.instantDane.tv Dane Findley

    Sound advice! It’s interesting to me how quickly our culture is changing — it used to be that you traded your freedom in exchange for security and a “gold watch” … the pension at the end of a lifetime of service and loyalty.

    But now, corporations seem to hardly think twice about laying-off staff in order to protect the bottom line, which means that employees are no longer trading freedom for security (because everyone knows a job could easily disappear tomorrow), which really gives the whole thing a mercenary vibe.

    Gradually, the entire business culture is changing. It will be interesting to see where it all ends up!

    { twitter = @danenow }

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Dane, nice to see a new face here. Things change all the time but when they change for the worse, we have to take control – actually, what am I saying? We should always have control. Lay offs are not even the issue so much as the idea of how the culture, the system, and the whole model works. An average corporate job is NOT for the ambitious ones who want to do something really meaningful. I honestly think getting fired from a job you hate is the best thing that can happen to anyone. Good to read your thoughts, thanks!

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com Grant McWilliams

    My thoughts.

    #1. I don’t totally agree but I do in a way. I DID respect you more after you told me you had a CCIE. I work in that industry and that means that you’re serious about what you do. You’re tackled a very difficult task and you succeeded. I however, have a filter that doesn’t allow CCNA, anything with a plus after it (A+, Net+ etc..) or Microsoft certification in. Think of a firewall, my brain just drops that stuff because anyone can get them. So, don’t throw your certs out just yet, if nothing else it makes a few of us sit up and take notice.

    #2 and #3 A corporations job is to make money. The best way to do that is to increase profit per employee. This might mean higher sales or larger profit margin but in the end it’s more profit PER employee. That means no more money to the employee than necessary.

    #4 HR works for your boss. Don’t forget that. They’re there to manage YOU.

    #5 You’re just breaking rocks. If you wear yourself out someone will take your place.

    #6 The person who cares the most about your career is you.

    #7 Take a trip to the Amazon Jungle and live with indigenous people with no electricity. If when you return to your job you feel soulless you’re doing the wrong job.

    #8 So true. You could be the top performer that’s saved the company multiple times, brought in millions and I’ve found that to last about 6 months and then you’re worthless. The corporate world has a short memory.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Gonna copy from our chat on Google+ :) so no news to you but here goes:
      Hi dear Grant, how nice to see you! And THANK YOU so much for all of your thoughts here…..
      Let me share some of my thoughts back…
      #1: Yes, CCIE brings respect. Our team at the time didn’t even consider CCNA/CCNP where I was and I proudly held the title BUT it did not bring any compensation adjustment. At the time, that mattered to me a great deal. And a lot of jobs you can do well without needing a certification…. I was a certification freak – I went for it all and I guess it had its merits but it did NOT pay off the way I had planned so my warning is to not COUNT on the certification to pay your way to the top …. get it because you really want it :)) And I do play the card with my certs or degrees when need be, I think I told you that one :)
      #2 & #3: ABSOLUTELY! I am a huge capitalist at heart, so I am delighted to see a corporation grow to be a multi-billion dollar company! But people are naive about how a corporation works and then they are miserable and expect stuff that is not coming. That was my main point. That and if people do realize the truth, they might also realize that job and that mindset is not for them … although corporations must go on existing and new fresh blood should fill the stream every now and then and make room for the old to leave and go do something else ….
      #4: Yep. Another way of saying HR protects the company 😉
      #5: Love that!
      #6: Yep.
      #7: Gotta do that but it would’ve served me best 5 years ago when I was lost and drifting Have you done it?
      #8: Memory of a gold fish. :)
      Love your insights, Grant…. thank you!

    • Janine

      I left the big corporate world to go backpacking in South America for four months. And yes, also lived in the Amazon for some time without electricity and it was life changing.
      The corporate world screwed me over big time last year, so I left. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but by far the best. Now I am liberated, free! I’ve gone back to school to do my masters (in the Netherlands) to expand my mind and pursue alternative options. There are always alternatives. Always.

      • http://grantmcwilliams.com Grant McWilliams

        I can’t work for other people. If I do I feel my world shrink around me and in time I too am clinging to my cubicle like a life preserver. Leaving is a hard thing to do.

        How cool is the Amazon though?

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Dear Janine, we have been talking in email so you already know my thoughts bu I am just mainly very proud of you for leaving it all behind you.

          Grant, leaving was the EASIEST part of the process. Staying in that environment was the hard part; being miserable and torn about my options and feeling helpless and hopeless and frustrated was the hard part. Seeing the culture melt into nothing and leadership fall apart, now that was the hard part. Leaving my 6-figure income – much as I LOVED my income – was the easiest thing…. It took guts and courage but the act of leaving, I think, was quite easy, once the decision is made ….. oh well, maybe it’s all semantics.

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas


    Me and the corporate world were a match made in hell, but it’s one I tried to turn into a lifelong romance for far too long. A while back I wrote a post titled the 5 Myths that Help Corporate America Fuel its own existence (linked below). It’s amazing how we have all these misperceptions of the things that will carry us so far in corporate America. You were clearly very successful and for you to still have these insights about it is very eye opening., You should be speaking to college students to prepare them for what they’re getting themselves into :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Srini, you and I both but you had less patience than I did or more guts, one or the other. I will go look that post up. It sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yes, even the massively successful friends and peers of mine felt very unhappy – that’s the irony of it all – of course, very few choose to leave.
      Speaking to college students won’t work – much as I love to share my thoughts – they need to experience it a little first hand, I think…. And to some extent, it can be a good experience. I wanna talk to people who have some experience (or a lot) and are ready for the next level :)!

      • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas

        I had to come back and continue this discussion with you. I got into a fairly huge blowout with my parents yesterday about trying to make it on my own vs getting a job. They told me get a job and build your empire on the side. I suppose there’s some fair points, but more than anything they seem convinced of the supposed stability in a corporate job. Fortunately the companies I’m going to talk to seem to have been interested in me for the work I”ve done on my personal projects, not anything I’ve done the in the corporate world.

        From their perspective it seems far fetched that I can get to a point where I have enough income to make it on my own in the near future. I figure if I do work for somebody else, the key is being selective and chosing work that matters and has an impact.

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Oh Srini! Dearest, your parents are from India and mine from Iran. It is a huge culture gap, no matter how many decades they have lived in the US and no matter what you do – the traditional path to education, higher education and a ‘stable’ job is going to be their definition of success and they see nothing more than rebellion in us with what we are doing now ;)! Actually, mine are coming along more – I think it was around the time that I said I’d rather eat dirt than go work for a corporation again so do me a favor and not bring it up ’cause I got a while to get there and I swear I mean it!
          So as for you, it depends why you are doing it: To please them or to earn some income that you may need right now or another reason altogether? Yes, there can be meaningful work in corporation, certainly, but it is hard to go back after you have been on your own so consider everything …. chasing the dollar is the worst reason I ever had for doing things and I am in a place that it is worth every bit of risk right now – if you feel the calling to go work somewhere for a while, do it but don’t do it to please your parents, with all due respect to them, because it is a sacrifice that has a price down the road. I hope I didn’t make things more difficult for you. Big hugs! Enjoy Blogworld LA!

          • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas

            On a lighter note, we’ve got a very BIG BlogcastFM announcement coming soon. I think I’ve realized that rather than discuss these things with my parents it’s better to just go out and accomplish what I’ve said I’ going to do rather than get in these huge blowouts

            • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

              I can’t wait to hear it.
              It takes a while to realize that telling our parents or asking for their advice in this part of the game is probably going to make it harder on us. Just trust your guts, your inner voice, and do it if you want to do it, dammit! You are old enough to not require permission, right?
              I wanna be first to know the BlogcastFM news ;)!

  • Anshul

    Excellent list. And true. Number 8 is bang on Target.


    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Anshul, thank you so much….. glad you enjoyed it. Share it please with whomever you think might also find it useful. Thanks!

  • http://www.edenjournal.com Eric | Eden Journal

    On the certifications, I found them to be more of a tool to get you in the door, and being more valuable when used to move between companies. If you get a certification and stay within a company, you rarely get a pay raise worth the effort of achieving and then maintaining the certification. Also, have you noticed that most certifications now require continuing education credits? It’s just another means of generating income for the certifiction authorities.

    I would hope that most of the folks that have been through layoffs over the past few years have come to earn the lessons you shared today. I worked for a company that touted sharing and caring, and then proceded to drag out layoffs for over two years, eventually laying off half their work force. The companies we work for ultimately cater to the bottom line, and everthing else is secondary.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Eric, nail on the head. Most of my buddies – the smart ones – would leave the company and nearly double their salary by waving their certification flag in front of another company – sometimes, a competitor. And OH YES to that one. My certifications certainly had that and they should because you do want to stay “fresh” on the topic. I think to some extent, it makes sense from their perspective but it does not interest me at all.
      Sorry about your experience and hope you are doing something you enjoy now?
      Thanks for stopping by. Please share this post with anyone else that might benefit from it. Cheers and talk soon!

      • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

        PS: Did you find testers for your sleep study yet? How is it going?

  • Sandra Ellzey

    For a little while there I wanted to work in HR. Over time, I’ve come to agree with you…”avoid HR – Human Resources – altogether, not because you want to keep the mishaps to yourself but because they are of no help in general.” True story.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Sandra, that’s truly my opinion from my “brush-offs” with the lovely HR department. I am secretly glad that you ended up not working for them and hopefully like what you do now. Hope you enjoyed this post.

  • Ajen

    Numero Cinco! Ha!! Literally this past week I learned of this factoid… yeah, who knew?! Actually, it makes sense when you think about it from the perspective of choosing to do those few things with excellence. It really dose not make sense for one spend useless energy in attempts to please everyone or meet every goal all of the time. Taking the time to think about what is really important for the mission and for the “self” (in terms of learning experience) is a great way to prioritize.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello dear Ajen, better late than never! Glad you discovered it too. Few things with excellence, there you go! You are on an absolutely right path here and it will take you far by focusing on excellence rather than quantity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://www.freelancewritingblog.com Ruth – The Freelance Writing Blog

    I don’t come from a corporate background – I worked in non profit management for about 15 years. Sadly, many of these same hard truths apply in that sector as well. I think that only once you break away from working for others do you realize the extent to which you being manipulated and used. While there are other compromises and challenges, at least as an entrepreneur, you are in control of your professional destiny.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Ruth, by the way, great last post …. !! Well-done and I hope to see you raise those rates yourself over time!
      I am sad to hear that the same runs through in non-profit but not surprised. It is what we make of it, and it’s just great to be aware … and yes, nothing beats being an entrepreneur. It’s wonderful to see that we share in this path. Lovely to get to know you lately, and thanks for your comment.

  • http://www.ducksnarow.com Sinea

    Absolutely great observations and advice. Took me a while to realize that no one is indispensable… no one!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Sinea, I remember you from a long time ago when we chatted, welcome back. So glad you enjoyed this and thank you for that really harsh truth you repeat. Indeed!

  • http://idealistcafe.com/blog/ Russ

    This is a great list. I admit, it is a bit harsh in some cases, but seems pretty accurate. Though I would like to believe there are exceptions to these rules and that there are still some good people left out there who are running corporations!

    #2 is a great one, I was naive my first few years working thinking raises were given for good work. I just assumed I would get paid for the work I did at an appropriate rate, and when I learned otherwise I was pretty upset!

    I also like the one about not needing to do everything they ask in order to be a superstar. I’ve seen great workers not get recognition, and also terrible workers look great. It’s all about image, which is quite sad, and which actually makes it really easy for people to work the system and get superstar treatment for doing virtually nothing. I blame management for that though, I think it’s a manager’s responsibility to know what the employees are doing, so if someone is working the system, not that it’s right, but I think the blame falls to lousy management.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Russ, agree to a T with all of what you added here. Yes, #2 was pretty upsetting to me too but then you learn to adapt or leave …. or stay and be miserable. I went through all of those – not in that order – and lousy management is responsible for a lot, of course, you are very correct. I think not doing everything while still doing the work that matters brings you a sense of balance too – some busy work just doesn’t need to be bothered with and no one benefits from it in the end. Well, as one of my old managers used to say, “we agree violently.” here ;)! Thanks for stopping by. Please send this to at least one of your co-workers – trying to spread the word!

  • http://www.deliberateblog.com Melody | Deliberate Receiving


    I experienced all of these while in my corporate career and you’re so right on the money. I didn’t consider you harsh at all, just honest. I especially like that you included the it about HR. As a former manager, I can attest to the fact that HR is not there for the employees. They made sure that we didn’t screw them too much to make it illegal. I had many fights with HR when I wanted to treat my employees better and the response was always “why?”. (There are some wonderful people working in HR, but they have difficult jobs). When you work for a large conglomerate, loyalty is overrated. Change jobs, change departments, manage your own career. Often, that’s the only way to get the “promotion” or pay you deserve. Life is way too short to be sitting around, powerless, waiting for someone else to deem us worthy.

    Huge hugs,

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dearest Melody, lovely to see your beautiful face here. I think we’ve talked about your corporate life a little too. I am SO glad to have your perspective form the other side – the INSIDE – of HR, so that now I am convinced I am not crazy to believe this to be true. Sure, none of this means there are not wonderful people in corporate, AND in HR, there are but we don’t need wonderful when we are in trouble. We need actionable reasonable steps ;)! And I can’t agree with the advice you give more …. well, my preference is not be at corporate anymore but not everyone is fit to go out on their own so changing until you find something that works is the next best option. Thank you for taking the time to write here… Lovely to see you!!!

  • http://kikolani.com/ Kristi Hines

    Here are my thoughts. :)

    1. Your company doesn’t want you to get certified for you. It’s not because you’re going to get promoted or recognized. Chances are all it will get you is a pat on the back and more projects & assignments. The only reason your company wants you to get certified is so they can sell their products or services based on having X number of certified employees in their company. Your certification = their new sales pitch.

    2. There are a few ethical employers out there that will actually take into account how valuable you are in your company and offer you a raise based on those merits. The rest (and this is the majority) will require you to ask, beg, or threaten to quit before they put more money on the table.

    3. Executive leadership makes the decisions they want to make. They might ask your opinion to placate you, but in the end, they’ll do what they want to do regardless of who it affects in the company.

    4. Again, there are a few awesome HR people out there that will actually care about the employee’s needs balanced with the company’s. The company’s interests will still win in the end if push comes to shove.

    5. The top performer and superstar of most companies will be the person that hobnobs with the boss including having common interests, going to happy hour together, attending all the company functions and parties, etc. will win you the most “votes.” You could be the hardest worker, but if you’re not the top socializer, you probably won’t get the recognition you so desire.

    6. Your manager only cares about your career advancement if that advancement means they can get more work out of you for hopefully a little less cost than hiring someone new.

    7. If you have to stick it out in the corporate environment, you have to find something meaningful in your work. Is there something you can do to help out a colleague that is freaking out about a deadline while missing out spending time with their family? Is there a client you can help with something a little outside your job scope that will help them save their small business? Is there someone you can just commiserate with maybe help them enjoy their job a pinch more?

    8. Probably the most important part of it all. No matter how indispensable or irreplaceable people pretend you are in your company, the minute you tell them you are quitting and there is no way they can convince you otherwise, you are no longer important to them. The only reason they might treat you as such is so you will be nice enough to train someone new to fill in your spot before you leave.

    Overall, I didn’t see anything too harsh in what you said. It’s pretty accurate to what you might find in the corporate world!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Kristi, your reply here could in itself be a blog post! Thank you for seeing every single point in your view and sharing that with us. I do agree: there ARE some companies who may be an exception to the way I have portrayed the behavior, and most of all, there always will be individuals that are amazing despite the system – I know countless number of them and that may be one of the main reasons I stayed around, because I did care about my teams and the community to which I belonged but alas, it is as system in which neither you nor I belong and it is time we made our own “ding” in the world, (thank you Steve Jobs for that quote!). Thank you for being here and I am very excited for you!

  • Mark

    As someone who works for a large corporate institution I find all of these to ring true. The company has been good to me and I enjoy what I do. That said, companies are a “machine”, they have no soul and are not concerned with your well being. We are in the midst of restructuring and I’m watching many talented colleagues get displaced after devoting 30 plus years to the company. It’s a good wake-up call. Corporations have a business to run and we are all expendable, should the winds of change begin to blow. (They are blowing hard these days!)
    As you mentioned, decisions are made for shareholders (bottom line revenue). We need to tend to our own welfare and future. Most corporations won’t do that even though you were a star…last quarter. 😉

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Mark, I am always glad to see a new person here, thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, I suppose my company was good to me too. It just wasn’t the image and vision that I had built up in my mind…. just as you here confirm. I am all for running a business but when layoffs focus on laying off the bottom people who DO the work (not the slackers, they need to go), rather than the fat middle management that cause problems, then I know that companies – or at least mine! – didn’t even KNOW how to run a business. Layoffs are not so much an issue as hiring the wrong people and laying off the wrong people. I do like your poetic phrase “should the wind of changes begin to blow…”
      Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful thoughts and please feel free to share this with anyone else that might benefit from reading it!

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

    Considering how long you were in ‘that world’ Farnoosh, there is no one better to talk about this, especially now that you can look back with a clear understanding and vision of what was and what now is.

    What I like about you Farnoosh is that you say things like they are. You don’t speak in mystic terms. For some folks, this is likely too much to bear.

    But for those that are realists, humble, and recognize a spade for a spade, you sure as heck rock lady. :-)

    Thanks for this incredible post,


    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello dear Marcus, lovely seeing you here again. Yes, I suppose I am rather “qualified” here … lol! Our troubles sometimes qualify us the best, whether we like it or not.
      Thank you for the compliment, Marcus. I know that’s exactly why we get along so well. You do the same. We do it in our own style, but there is little sugar and fluff to go around between our words. Thank you, thank you for the encouragement, especially with the upcoming course.

  • http://www.adapt2change.com Michael

    This nicely sums up the reasons why, during those times in my life where I have worked as an employee, I have always chosen to work for small businesses. I have never in over 20 years since leaving university worked for a company that employs over 15 people. There are huge opportunities at the small end of town to play an integral role in a business that just isn’t possible at a large corporate. It is also relatively easy to move between self-employment and working at a small biz, or even combine the two if you can manage your time well.
    For those people who are sick and tired of the corporate treadmill, but don’t feel quite ready to set out on their own, I would recommend looking for work in small (< 20 staff), growing companies. Not only does it get you away from the negative elements of corporate life described above, it can also give valuable lessons in the running of small business for when you decide to take the leap.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Brilliant suggestions, thank you so much Michael. I agree with the small business mindset. I remember going to work for a hot start up at the time after my graduate school studies. The President would walk into my office and talk about the project, and our HR “department” was one office and one wonderful woman. It had its own problems but I certainly could not imagine the new problems I would have …. I endorse your recommendation wholeheartedly and in fact, talk about this in my upcoming course. Thank you again and bravo for your insight, and please feel free to share this with whomever may benefit from it.

  • http://www.blackcatsgraphics.com Brenda Spiller

    Dearest Farnoosh, you have not been harsh at all. You have simply been honest. If it sounds harsh it is because the truth hurts. The lessons you talk about above were all things I had to learn along the way and they were painful lessons. I was very naive, I believed in the good of people. So as I learned each of those lessons it hurt, and it made me angry and frustrated. I felt used and cheated. I did everything I could to help everyone, I took every course they wanted to send me on, I took on extra responsibilities, I got on well with everyone and in the end it meant nothing. I never got a promotion and when I left I had not had a pay rise in 4 years. Basically I was a sucker, big time. I love your post and I will definitely share it. It may help someone else not make the same mistakes I did. Thank you so much for your honesty and openness :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dearest Brenda, thank you so much. Yes, the truth generally hurts! I am sorry that it turned out that way for you. I was like that for the first few years but then I learned how to turn on the B switch with all the professionalism in the world, because I wanted what I wanted. It didn’t always work in my favor. I was frustrated and angry for a long time. I think that’s probably why I am doing this course – because I am passionate about helping others make the right decision for their career. You are now on a new path, Brenda, and you own your decisions, your time and your future. I am very happy for you and thanks so much for sharing it. My honesty you can always count on. Hugs until I see you very soon! :)

  • http://www.kaizenvision.com Aileen | Kaizen Vision

    What brilliant words of advice! Theses are lessons that some never learn and others learn too late. It reminds me of how wildly off I was with my determination to be a hard-worker and all that did was make me a hard-worker – nothing more. It was often mind blowing to see who was getting promoted, and how little work they did, how much socializing they did etc… and that lessons about HR being there for the company not the employee – huge!

    May your wisdom be found by those who are seeking to enter corporate, those who are in and want to change their experience, and those who seek an exit!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Thank you dear Aileen. You were NOT alone, my dear, not one day! I think this might be a good post to share with your Mom….although maybe things haven’t changed that much since she was in corporate but she still prefers it to entrepreneurship? Thank you so much for the support and do share this with whomever you think might benefit from it. Now off to create that course with the new encouragement you gave me!

  • Dan

    Hi Farnoosh,
    Excellent blog, probably the best of its kind. Succinct and brutally honest. Unfortunately, although most of us already had an inkling that these were the facts, we still live our lives hoping that they are wrong and continuing to make the same mistakes. Dont know why that is, but I really appreciate you codifying this for us.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Dan, thank you so so much. I am touched by your words, and yes, no fluff around here; I take a stance on issues – I am kind but honest about my own raw opinion, and love the same from you in return. I hope that you are no longer in that place and no more making those mistakes.
      By the way, Grant below left you a comment but you won’t see it because he didn’t “reply” to your thread so be sure to check it …. Grant, no worries :)!

      • http://grantmcwilliams.com Grant McWilliams

        I didn’t reply in the right spot? I can try again…

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          No you are fine. The thing is, if you reply to that same thread, the person gets an email notify even if they are not subscribed to rest of the comments – a smart plugin 😉 – but it’s no biggie and you are fine, Mr. McWilliams!

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com Grant McWilliams

    @Dan, it’s always easier just going with the flow isn’t it?

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      I have this saying, Grant, and I used it in this post, Go against the tide: “Going against the tide is no easy task but alas, it is much, MUCH, better than going with the flow the wrong way.” :)

      • http://grantmcwilliams.com Grant McWilliams

        I have an entire philosophy that is life changing (it’s my greatest accomplishment!) but it’s too long for here. It fits in though for sure. It has to do with rivers and currents and such.

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Sounds delicious! Please write it somewhere on a blog or a site or a book …. it deserves to be written and read by many.

  • Kate

    Hello dear Farnoosh,

    I love your writing style: fresh, honest, conversational – just like you! :-)

    Much of what you wrote in this blog post is accurate. I’ve been with two large corporations since I graduated from engineering school 23 years ago. Yikes! I’m old! And I continue to earn my living from your previous employer.

    This very same company has “reorganized” just me (my manager’s polite way of firing me), and another manager demoted me (I received a pay raise for the demoralizing action). I’ve changed my name twice in the directory to “re-brand” myself. 😉

    After much thought, I continue to work hard and am moderately pleased with my impact since I am now a quota-carrying employee.

    My struggle is financial. In my younger days, I purchased a second home near the beach which my family loves. It’s “home” in the summer, and a nice place for my oldest daughters, ages 20 and 18, to enjoy vacations with their friends.

    College tuition obligations come with having my two bright daughters enrolled full-time and requiring room and board for a university that is three hours from home. Bless them, they do work to help contribute to their expenses.

    If I was confident that I could sell my homes at a fair price, I would be in a different place now. The best I can do for now is to earn the advanced degree that I am pursuing, and pray that in a few more years I’ll feel more confident financially to be my own boss.

    As part of my program requirements, I need to complete a “field ministry”. Would love to run some ideas by you, and understand blogging better.

    If it’s ok, I would love to e-mail you in a few weeks and schedule some time with you. I am in need of a consultant who has wonderful perspective, creativity, and enthusiasm.

    My apologies for this “novel” of a comment. It is cathartic to write, and your invite to post some thoughts was irresistible. :-)

    How is my grammar? ;-). I will be sharing that blog with my Penn Staters! Well done tutorial!

    Fondly, K

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Kate, it is so so nice to see you here and to hear from you and no apology for sharing your story and all the details. I am so glad that you feel comfortable enough to do so – thank you – Yes, I would be delighted to work with you, if we can make the right arrangements that work for both of us, depending on what you need and our availability – and I have many ideas especially some brazen ones to break you free of ever again relying on an employer. Glad this post resonated with you and feel free to contact me at your convenience, dear Kate.

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  • http://mylifearchitects.com/blog/ Jimmy

    Hi Farnoosh,

    Have heard quite bit about you before finally popping over. You have a really fiesty and genuine style. I think that is effective for those who intend to learn and build a online relationship with you.

    With regards to this post, I offer a non corporate perspective. I am a civil servant, but one that has definitely lost the faith in all things big and official. The entity is just too cumbersome to face the modern world. I figure that a lot of the initiatives we are implementing now is already outdated by at least 10 years, and we are still conducting field research to verify the needs. BTW, I was referring to education, that’s what I am in. I can safely say that our children and parents have taken learning into their own hands. In this huge government set up, I think we just get the wind sucked out of us. Need a breathe of fresh air.

    Not from certification. I like what Leo Buscaglia once said, “If we depend on getting a PhD to define success, than we are doomed.” At the end of the day, it is the impact we create that counts. People with success just need to figure out how to inspire people and do good for others. Look out the amazingly successful people we have in this world. Many do not have any decent education, and yet they are successful. Shouldn’t we follow their formulas and damn with the certs?

    On the point of the corporate structure not caring about the people, I think it depends on the leader at the helm. And there are good leaders out there that will do all they can to further the careers of their people. Look at Richard Branson. that guy hire the right fit and develops them within the Virgin brand. If we get this kind of leaders, we can do wonders. I believe there are many more of these leaders out there that have a heart to drive people forward.

    Sorry for you the lengthy comment here. You did spark some internal fires within me with this.


    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello from your new feisty (one of my favorite words ;)) friend, Jimmy. You haven’t said anything here that I disagree with. Let me comment first on the last point: YES, there are great leaders. Even my ex-employer had them until they decided politics and rubbish is more important than true leadership with integrity but alas, they are a bad example. Many companies thrive. Heck, I LOVE companies that exist to give us all that we use in our lives because I do love my material life and I am not too naive to deny where my stuff comes from …. but I wanted to shake up the employee attitude and mindset and wake people up from their dreamland … everything you share here is beautiful and brilliant and here’s hoping we get more of that fresh air. Thank you for coming by, Jimmy!!!

  • http://makewebworld.com Sanjeev

    Corporate world is just another name for competition, so you don’t have to be fastest, you just have to be faster than the others. Analyzing your surroundings and understanding the pace of others really help. After all we don’t want to waste out energy in something which we can get by working way less…

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Sanjeev, thanks so much for your comment here. Interesting viewpoint. I guess if you want to be fast at all, and that depends on your goals. If you just want to survive, you don’t even need to be fast. But either way, there are many ways to look at the corporate world no doubt!

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  • andrea

    All your points are so true, I try to teach that to my ‘students’ looking for work. Take care of number 1 and that ain’t the company.

    Resources: coal, water, electricity, money, humans….things to be used by the ‘man’ to create wealth. Just like the more common resources, humans get used up and discarded when something better (more profits or less costs) comes along.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Thanks dear Andrea, so good to hear that you pass on these points of wisdom that took me years to learn. Indeed, humans can be seen that way but I think of it more as the needs of a business, they come and go and we must adapt and have a plan of action for ourselves. Thanks for your comment!

  • Negar

    Excellent post! As a corporate employee – I thank you!!

    Fact #8 made me laugh out loud. So sad, but so true! I’ve said the same thing to others before!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      And you are one young corporate employee and you started early. I am glad i made you laugh of course :)!

  • Khanh

    I’m late to the party, but I’m glad I came across this article. I’ve actually been aware of this because my siblings work in the corporate world and their stories are very much as you described. So bitterly true. I haven’t been in the corporate world for very long, but I already know it’s going to destroy me.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      You don’t have to let the corporate world control your future, Khanh. I am sorry about your siblings but they can also change the course of theirs. Here, watch these free Video Lessons and get inspired about what you can do without the help of a corporation!

  • Kenny


    I just came across this page by accident and I’m sooo happy I did! Everything you listed in your article is everything I’ve been learning and having my eyes opened to in the last six or so months. I’m at a point where I’m realizing the mistakes I’ve made and the lies I let myself believe and I’m trying to plot a course out. What makes your article so wonderful is you went through a lot of the same mistakes I did. I bristle a bit when I read coaching article after coaching article about how someone quit their six-figure corporate VP job to become an entrepreneur and I think, “what about the low paid corporate engineer who lacks respect?” Reading your article, it’s like – wow….she GETS it!

    I have a few rough plans on how to transition out of engineering into a different field entirely, but I don’t have a business plan or market testing or anything else done yet. I’m investing a LOT of time into my ideas to really get them into shape, but I don’t think I realized how deluded I once was and it’s a bit disorienting.

    I’m going to read a lot more of your blog as I continue to figure out what’s next. Thank you.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello Kenny from a electrical engineer turned entrepreneur/writer/blogger (without the VP glamor ;)), hey it’s so nice to hear your story. THANK YOU for stopping by and for taking the time to share your thoughts!
      You know, I have a free career list that you can join if you want more of my corporate thriving thoughts, plus I have a new digital audio product coming up, “Crack the Code to Get Promoted in Corporate America”, that may come in handy so stay tuned. And if you want to talk more just contact me. I’d love to help you in your journey. Anything is possible if you believe it!!!

  • Justine

    Hi again Farnoosh.

    About #4. Very true for me since I worked with an HR. They’re never really there to help you out. Sure they give a chance to explain your side but they screw you up anyway. I’ve seen a lot of memo at my end and felt sorry for those that recieved it (especially the ones that were always late because they have children to take care of). And yes, sometimes they take advantage of their position.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Thanks for verifying what I felt quite certain of already. It’s a sad situation to be in, but alas, companies do what they need to do to protect themselves and employees just don’t understand how the system works. Sometimes, both sides suffer. Thanks again for chiming in!

  • Sudhir Suvarna

    Hello Farnoosh….Hope life is treating you well ?

    this is what I always wanted to write…..and I am going to write a book on similar lines someday…thanks for the inspiration.

    I was bullied, mentally tortured for 6 months …while I worked for a big name in mobile phone retail in the U.K….they eventually got me redundant only for me to find out later they had their buddies knocking their door and I was the scapegoat…being an Indian did not help…. 3 years of clinical depression and I am now fighting back with my own stock photography website….Family feels I should have got back to work…but they do no understand incivility in workplace is on the rise and work is not enjoyable anymore..

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Sudhir, then write your book dear. Write it. Let go just let go of what happened in the past – let it live there, in the past – you are here now, you have a chance to create something special, don’t let the abuse from the past interfere with your present and future chances….. and sign up for my career inspiration: http://www.prolificliving.com/career

      • Sudhir Suvarna

        thanks very much Farnoosh ! I will definitely work on my goal….It’s another of my dream that I will work on after launching my website…I am following you on G+ …Have a great week ahead !

  • http://funnygypsy.blogspot.com Funny Gypsy

    Hi Farnoosh,
    THANK YOU for this website. You have opened my eyes and I am grateful for the brilliant advice. All of this resonates with my 1-year experience in my first job.
    I just had my bonus announced last week and it was terrible. I was at the bottom of the class despite having put in 80 and 90-hour work weeks on a regular basis. I used to do everything that was asked of me – sacrificing sleep and food on a regular basis. There were very few who had done that kind of work – sacrificing everything. Most of the others were working less than 60 hours a week. But since we’re all in different teams, your entire appraisal depends on the bosses in your particular team. Anyways, I am quitting now in a few weeks. If my firm cannot value my contribution – I dare them to put in the lazy bums who got easier teams into my blood-sucking teams and see how ‘marvellously’ they perform. I’m going to apply for a new job soon. And will keep this advice in mind while working there.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Funny Gypsy (I am sure that’s not your real name but we’ll go with that :)), I know exactly how you feel and I am so glad you are wisening up to make a different approach to your next job. Are you sure you want to quit already? Wanna give your bosses a chance first and have a conversation with them before you do? I would advise that …. and I wish you the very best. Be sure to sign up for the career newsletter for more goodies: http://www.prolificliving.com/career

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  • Ravi Kiran

    Many thanks for the advice.. Though I had bad experiences in the past, my weakness is that I still trust the people @office.. Very true that HR and leadership are no damn good for any individual in the corporate world… We are not supposed to stretch working hours if really there is an emergency.

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Ravi, trust is not a weakness @disqus_R7UK7b3ewD:disqus It’s just important to be savvy and aware and learn how the system really works. Hope you are making big strides in your corporate career now.

      • http://nexusofideas.blogspot.com/ Ravi Kiran

        @Farnoosh: Learnt from bad experiences using them to make more beautiful career.. Thanks for those who want to harm me..
        Trust is sometimes can be considered as weakness, because blindly trusting someone is as dangerous as trusting a criminal..

        • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

          True true, @mjj8085:disqus …. as long as you don’t turn into a cynical jaded person – sometimes corporate life can do that to us and there’s still a lot of wonderful great people AND companies out there to trust and to work with/for.

  • http://www.endingthegrind.com Steve Roy

    Love this list. Having spent a decade working for several large corporations, I see your points with all of these. I especially resonate with #8. It’s so true that nobody gives a shit. People are so wrapped up in their own stuff that they don’t take the time to worry about us. When I left my last job in October, I left a number of friends. I’ve heard from one in 8 months.

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi @disqus_pkex5GCvsJ:disqus It shows that for you, you’ve made the right decision to move on from that place and I hope things are going well for you now…

  • http://www.workingmystic.com/ Nneka, Working Mystic

    Juicy, juicy article as usual! From the beginning, I treated my career in corporate as my personal enterprise. By that, I mean that I was my own business. Having that perspective helped me to create the career that I wanted – 6-figure income, the projects that I wanted to work on, the teams that I wanted to work with, and setting my own terms.

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear @nnekaworkingmystic:disqus Lessons you learned that you are now using to better yourself and others, right? I love your smart attitude from the beginning. You Go Girl! I hope you are doing great! Will I see you in Bangkok in October?

      • http://www.workingmystic.com/ Nneka, Working Mystic

        Indeed Farnoosh! Your life belongs to you. You get to run the show, including your career.

        I’m not hitting Bangkok this time around. We’ll meet soon:-)

        • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

          Oh that’s too bad @nnekaworkingmystic:disqus I had hoped to see you. Yes to meeting soon!

  • Frank DiCostanzo

    Having enjoyed our chat this week, it is no surprise to hear you sharing deep truths about corporate culture, and these few pointers have invigorated my sense of purpose in choosing the track that I want inside my company. Let us also remember the importance of documenting your own achievements and assessing yourself as you grow on the job. Come performance reviews, you will already know where you stand, with documentation to prove it. As you’ve reminded us, Farnoosh, proactive assertions of our worth is one of the vital elements of getting ahead. Great piece.

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi @frankdicostanzo:disqus, fantastic to see you here and I’m so happy you feel charged and full of purpose to clear the way for more success. Speaking of performance reviews, I’ve got another video that gives you a great tip if you’re not already doing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioz7Pcok0jI&list=PLAgo4pR5JZ97GkfzsjVuF7nK7GqnXA6q3&index=14

      • Frank DiCostanzo

        Thanks for sharing! Yes, our accomplishments are never too small, and real employee value lies in the qualifiable AS WELL AS the quantifiable…but document, document, document! 😀

        • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

          @frankdicostanzo:disqus You are a winner. Just put all the pieces in the right place and time it well. Yes to documenting all, if only for your own information. Keep me posted if you like.

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