Going from A Scared Worker Bee to A Confident Career Warrior
When I was 26, new and terrified to the corporate landscape, and desperate for guidance and encouragement, I had this boss. We’ll call him Rafaello Mule. Mr. Mule was bald and ugly. He also had a large head, literally and figuratively speaking. He never ever smiled and few were good enough to engage even in a casual greeting with him.
You would see him in the hallway or in the break room and say hello, he would either look at you in a strange way or completely ignore you. You felt invisible. To him, you barely existed.
Except if you belonged to the very selective boy’s club. The boy’s club, the over-paid, over-promoted, under-worked playboys of that era, ironically did not even let in all the boys so us girls weren’t the ONLY ones being discriminated against. The boys’ club played video games all day. On rare occasions, they’d do something to be useful, like walk around the cubes or get on the phone with Asia to talk to a developer but this was the exception, the video games were the norm.
So yes, the boys’ club was alive and kicking where I worked in those days, and in itself, it could fill the pages of a dozen blog posts, but I haven’t the energy to revisit that depressing, disgusting, and despicable corner of that corporate job.
Back to Mr. Mule. He did not like acknowledging your existence on earth or on his own team, and this, he must have believed, made him “appear” far more important than us, the lonely cubicle employees, the bottom of the barrel in the corporate eye, taking angry customer support calls, drowning in impossible missions to save the world’s networks from falling apart, and watching bosses or account teams take credit for our work.
One day, I walked into Mr. Mule’s office for my performance review. Now who I was as a 26-year-old woman is a far cry from the bold, confident and outspoken woman today. Thinking back to my younger self almost brings me to tears. I was afraid – afraid of authority, afraid of getting fired, afraid of not measuring up, afraid that all my efforts, all the accolades from customers and all the gobs of money I was saving the company would still not be good enough to get a nod from that boss.
And I was right to be afraid because it really was not good enough.
I walked on egg shells. Everyday. I hated my job. I hated my life when I was at work. I hated everyone around me. I hated who I was when I felt this way. I hated everyone who told me to be “grateful” for a good job. There was a lot of hate as you can see because I knew no other way to express my anger.
I knew I was intelligent, educated, capable, smart, and over-qualified for the dreadful job I was doing but my confidence was in hibernation, and that, my dear constant reader, does not bode well during a performance review of all things.
Oh if I could go back to those days and be Edna (The Incredibles) to my old self, Helen, and I’d slap her hard and fast until she woke up from her stupid naiveté. I would not be giving my old self a hug exactly!
I would shake her to see the humiliating situation in which she has planted herself oh so willingly, working for a place so full of sham and drudgery and discrimination that it could overspill any minute. And I would urge her to walk out of that building and never, ever, walk back into it. However, Edna or I were not at that meeting.
My old self, the scared little girl, instead went into that performance review. I walked into Mr. Mule’s dark office and sat across his desk. He had written all the engineer levels up on his board. I was at the bottom and knew it – meritocracy was a joke on that team – but he still had to point it out and show how far I was from the “next level up”. And then he said something that I will never forget.
The team had had a slow week for a change, and he said: “You have to give engineers a lot of work, and keep them very busy, very very busy, otherwise, they will have time to think and that’s trouble.” To think! To think that perhaps something is wrong with the system? To think that it’s wrong to be treated this way? To think that perhaps there is something better out there for us capable workers than be humiliated every day by a boss who thinks he is God?
The successful businesswoman in me would so like to have a chat with Mr. Mule today but that would be a waste of my time because he is far from a God. He is an absolute nobody. Instead, I shall focus on YOU and how I can help you skip the misery of your corporate job. Ready?
12 Corporate Job Survival Lessons
Years and years later, I remember that meeting. I remember the disgusting taste in my mouth because I knew I was in a bad place but I felt trapped. Trapped as you would be in real hell. I learned what nobody teaches you, so take my top 12 corporate job survival lessons to heart:
1- Learn to navigate the corporate waters with a mentor or a coach.
2- Demand that you be treated as an equal to your boss.
3- Set boundaries early on and with professional yet firm attitude.
4- Say no. It is okay to turn down an assignment or a task, with diplomacy and with care, if it does not align to your core values.
5- Ask for what you want in a way that will not be ignored but also is professional, thoughtful, and accommodating of others. Remember to ask more than once.
6- Know that you are in charge of your career always, even if you are not in charge of a particular situation.
7- Understand that it won’t kill me to move around in the company if one position doesn’t work out.
8- Don’t hesitate to walk out on a new boss if he (or she) does not come through on a promise.
9- Negotiate for what you are worth, the hardest lesson of all, with the sweetest results.
10- Ask for the raises, promotions, bonuses, stock options, company-paid trips, telecommuting arrangements, ask for it.
11- Do not get sucked into the corporate culture, mindset, gossip, or plain old brain washing.
12- Manage your reputation and perceived value as a top-performing employee without killing yourself for the job. This might work well for a while. Or like me, one day, you may decide that you don’t even belong within these corporate walls.
For me, even when they were draped in silk sheets rather than the bare prison walls of my early days under Mr. Mule, I was still hungry for more.
So I started building my dream one day at a time. I started to believe there IS more out there even for a corporate junkie without an MBA or any idea how to run a business or how to stand on her own without the support of a huge corporation.
I went from a corporate slave to building my own profitable brand and business in less than 2 years. Me!!! The scared little double-degree engineer who was never once encouraged to take even a marketing or business class much less go out on her own. I shocked everyone and I am here to tell you that if I could do this and overcome mountains upon mountains of doubt and fear and challenge, then SO CAN YOU and I will tell you exactly how.
That brings us to what I did with all that hate energy. I learned that it won’t serve me or the world to keep hating so I went on a mission. I built a system, a complete step-by-step course that will not let you make the same career mistakes: I created Crack the Code to Get Promoted program for you, a complete step-by-step program that shows you how to create a happy, successful career that also leads to happy, healthy life.
Your turn now: How do you feel about your job, your manager, your employer and MOST of all, yourself when you are at work?