Having been a member of Corporate America for over 10 years, my passion for growth and advancement in the job market has taught me quite a bit. There are many different ways to look at Corporate America, every position within an organization carries its own perspective and introduces you to an entirely different experience. There is however some key areas you can focus on to ensure you are not kept from moving up into the role you desire. Most of what we’ll cover here can apply to almost any position in Corporate America, but will vary slightly if applied to retail or entry level roles in an organization.
Here are your 7 steps to succeeding in Corporate America:
1. Dress Code: As simple as this may seem, it is not something to dismiss. Most will agree that they follow the dress code at work, but do they really make an effort to look the part? Most common errors made are in the details, not so much the dress code. The colors you choose, the way you knot your tie, the polish on your shoes, your belt, and off course your grooming. Choosing subtle colors will always work in your favor as management usually doesn’t have a sense of humor and doesn’t care about how you felt when you decided to wear a yellow shirt to work. Try to match your colors to your type of work. Being a banker means being socially responsible, professional and trusted so wearing dark colors with design-less ties tends to work well, especially when the colors contrast but don’t clash. Look for the details in your clothing to match the caliber of the person you are. Make sure your shoes are polished and your belt is in new condition without tears, and more importantly please make sure that your tie is not loose. Being dressed appropriately means you care and you understand your role, not only in the organization but also in Corporate America, and you will give off the right vibe to senior management when they meet you.
2. Attitude: No one loves going to work everyday and doing the same thing time after time, dealing with the same customers over and over and arguing with the same co-workers. Most will actually show their discomfort or dislike of their job daily, no matter who their interactions are with. Your attitude is controlled strictly by you and no one else but you, therefore it is a direct representation of how much control you have over your own life. Management usually notices these things, and more often than you think! Through seeing how engaged you are with your work and how well you represent the company daily (no matter what issues you are dealing with in your personal life), management determines if you can lead and therefore considers you for further opportunities. This showcases that you put the company first, before yourself; and therefore holds a lot more weight than you think.
3. What you say: Sometimes keeping your mouth shut is the only option. Often companies will invite people to voice their opinions; this is not your opportunity to complain! Companies don’t care about your complaints nor do they want to hear them, they are not complaints but rather nagging. Make sure that when you do speak, it is not only of relevance but that the things you are addressing are actually items worth mentioning. Many times people will complain of the hours a store must remain open, or their products simply not being sellable. These are issues that will not change by you voicing your opinion and therefore need to be kept to yourself. There are on the other hand many other issues that people discuss that once again should never be done in a group setting but rather only with those of relevance. You can also run into a major issue by discussing an internal corporate process that is flawed, this may expose you to a corporate violation, and now you have to deal with the consequences of the matter even though you may not have any control over it.
4. Do your part: Many will over promise and under deliver when it comes to work. Making sure you are taking the appropriate steps to stay true to your word is key. If you are in a sales role and you make a commitment to bring in a certain amount of sales, then be prepared to meet that commitment, and to be able to demonstrate how you did so. If you are in an office setting and do mostly routine work, ensure all your deadlines are met so that no one can blame you for being a drag on the team. I have always had this theory about Corporate America and employees; most only work about 30% of the day and at 40% of their capacity. If you actually do 100% of what is expected of you and not anything more, you are doing 60% more than everyone else. Many have asked me in my past how it is that I went so far, so fast and that it would be impossible to duplicate…my response to them is simple: Do your job!
5. Who do you know? Some call it sucking up, others call it face time, I call it mandatory. That’s right, getting promoted has more to do with who you know than what you do. This game is simpler than you think, you might do your job but if nobody knows about it, then what difference does it make. When you want to move up, you should know who your next manager and their manager will be as you will need both of them to know of you and your accomplishments before it is time for you to apply for your new promotion. Wouldn’t you want to know who you’re hiring? It is very important to build confidence in those that will have an impact on your career right from the start. How you present yourself, and speak about yourself and your story will tell all about who you are, what they can expect and give them a hint about what you want. So face time is a must if you want to get anywhere in Corporate America.
6. Step up when appropriate: You will be giving many opportunities to take on projects for your boss, some will be relevant to your growth, others will simply be him/her delegating their work on to you. Understanding which projects will get the most exposure and if the person asking for your help is willing to give you credit for your efforts is very important. You can take on over a dozen projects, but if no one is gong to tell senior leaders that you actually worked on it, your efforts will be in vain. Stepping up is necessary and important but must be timed correctly so that it doesn’t become additional work for no reason. Declining certain projects may make sense from time to time (only as you grow more respected for having stepped up before), and it may also showcase that you have leadership and don’t simply agree to take on every task that’s given to you. Knowing how to properly say NO is very important.
7. Leadership: No matter what level of Corporate America you find yourself in, there is always a place for great leadership. Great leaders are sometimes born, and other times made – but it is within all of us to be great everyday. No matter where you work, no matter what you do and no matter who you work for; you have it within you to make the best of it and showcase why you are not stuck where you are.
So remember, keep your attitude up, dress well, do your part, take on more when you can, make the right friends and demonstrate great leadership EVERYDAY and you will get exactly what you want from Corporate America.
Make sure to check out “The Ultimate Leadership Guide” if you are serious about taking the next step in leadership