My past 30 years in corporate life, I was an executive and then thrown off the corporate ladder 7 years ago. And it’s been a slow climb back up since.
What have I learned?
1. Whatever you do, be competent in your current job. It’s the only true currency you have. That being said, no amount of competence will protect you when the next re-organization comes.
2. Never forget that relationships in business should be business relationships. You may have a friend or lover at work, but the relationship will end the moment the opportunity to advance in the business is placed between you and your friend or lover. By the way, I strongly recommend keeping romance outside of the workplace.
3. Understand that politics is a fact of corporate life, and learn to deal with it. That means you take time to understand the views of the people involved in corporate conflicts, as well as the conflicts themselves. There will be times when you have to choose between being in the right or being employed. It’s your choice.
4. Understand the culture of the organization, especially their expectations of what makes a good employee. They all say they believe in teamwork, dedication, hard work, etc. But look at the employees who are successful, who get the recognition, who rise quickly — they represent what the company is looking for. What do they do that you can do?
5. Everything communicates. How you dress, how you stand, how you speak, etc. If you want to succeed in a corporate environment, you have to communicate that you are the kind of employee that represents the corporate success story.
6. It’s a mistake to confuse your personal identity with your employment. If and when you’re sacked, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out who you are. Have a life outside a corporate life.
7. Document what you do in a public place. We maintain a wiki where I work, and I make a point of adding things I’ve learned. I do it not only to remember how to do things, but also so that everyone can see what I do, and how much I do. Because I’ve made a habit of it, it’s not regarded as a “cover your a**” (CYA) activity, but a cynical person might see it that way.
8. Make your boss look good. Understand what your boss regards as a priority, and help him or her accomplish it. Make sure that you document what you’ve done. Your boss needs the accomplishment, but shouldn’t get the credit for the work you’ve done.
9. Train your replacement. You won’t be able to get a promotion if there’s no one else to take your job.
10. For all of the reputation that corporations are soul-sucking, back-stabbing, political jungles where you can only rise by stepping on the heads of others, they also provide employment, benefits and a bit of security that support millions of people and their families world wide.
They are not democracies, charities or therapy centers. They exist to make money, and they hired you to help them make money. That’s the deal.
Keep that in mind every day, keep your emotions in check, do your job, and if you find you don’t like working there anymore, don’t complain — just keep it professional, and move on.
This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in the corporate world?
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