How to Survive in Corporate America

corporate america

There are many times where I talk of Corporate America and its downfall, but reality is that its’ not that bad and in some cases it might be the right fit.  Being part of a larger firm or working for someone can have it benefits as well as downfalls but more importantly can work much better for you if you know what to expect.

I will take you through some of the main downfalls to look out for so that you are not caught by surprise once they happen and so that you are proactively able to navigate your way through them.

1. Be a change agent: Corporate America often consists of what I call “puppies” which are managers that simply follow orders and don’t talk back or voice their opinion. Expecting those managers to change their minds is very unlikely and therefore expect them to follow whatever they are told. They will often be told to do something and at other times something else and will immediately change direction regardless of what is good for their team or their business unit. Expect change when possible and do not go against it, instead find a way to adapt quickly and efficiently and you will be noticed as others waste their time nagging about something that will not change.

2. Expect others to want to cover themselves: In large companies, mistakes are made from every level up. There are many managers who will keep looking down at their employees for making those mistakes and blaming them for doing something they were never instructed to not do.  In order to protect themselves, executives and senior managers will look for everything they can to blame others for something they could have stopped pro actively. At which point, they find a way to get you to take the blame. Protecting yourself is tricky, so my best advice is if you need to ask your supervisor something regarding” The right thing to do” then email them and await their response via email. If you get it, then keep the email and proceed. Most likely you won’t get a response, but when you do email again, you might get a phone call which will be their way of saying “You can do it, but if you get caught, you have no proof that this phone call occurred and its your small word against mine”

3. Black and White only: I am not referring to your skin tone but rather your thinking. Corporate America usually will have you follow a code of conduct or code of ethics which is very black and white but can be interpreted sometimes with shades of gray. In the case of being an entrepreneur, shades of gray work in your favor but in Corporate America, it’s the exact opposite. Remember that your boss didn’t get to where he is by being creative and redesigning the system, instead he followed it. Rules are rules and stick to them as you will quickly find your way out the door if you are too slick or find ways to beat others by playing with the system in place.

4. Don’t take anything personally: You will meet plenty of people, all characters with their own personalities and backgrounds. Be careful to never mix your personal feelings with those at work. No matter how bad the situation gets, keep your cool and be extremely cautious to not take anything personally and fight back. Allow others who are unprofessional to not harm you but rather harm themselves. They will eventually meet their match and find themselves out the door but you also want to make sure you at no point were ever associated with them, as you might be labeled as the black sheep.

5. It’s not who you know, but who knows you: We often make the mistake of trying to know and meet all the key players of an organization, and often end up looking like we are sucking up to them. Instead I suggest a different approach, allow your work to be the reason your are known and make sure the right people are paying attention to it. Instead of trying to be everyone’s friend, become the guy they depend on and know about, the guy that gets things done and delivers on his word. This might be the one thing that has always differentiated me back in the days from my peers. They were always worried about who they knew and I was worried about being known.

corporate america

Following these 5 steps will help you in making sure that you do not lose quickly but rather find yourself in a favorable role within your organization. Getting promoted is easier than you think, but getting terminated is twice as easy, so please be careful and move with caution as you make your way to the top. As entrepreneurs, dreamers and fast movers, it is imperative that no matter what role you take in Corporate America you never lose sight of what your dreams are and what your real goals outside of your 9-5 job are. More importantly use the opportunities you were given in the organization to fuel your real passion.