Today is the day…. the day I say goodbye to my cubicle and the florescent lights (and the toxic dump next door). I’m doin’ this career thing on my own now.
I am so excited to take this step, but in my haste I’ve forgotten that I’ve spent nearly the last decade of my life growing into new and exciting roles. I think often when we’re so focused on what’s ahead of us, we forget how valuable the thing is that we’re leaving behind.
So I’ve put together five life lessons I’ve learned from living in the corporate world. There are many, many more than this, but in the interest of time (hey, I’m self employed now), I’m keeping it to just five.
1. Always Lead With Data- Listen, we all love the warm and fuzzies of ‘listening to our hearts’ or ‘trusting our instincts’ but when it comes to real life decisions that impact not just you personally, but hundreds or even thousands of other people, you have to do the research. And don’t do shotty research. You may get away with it once or twice, but not forever. The data might not be easy to get, but figure it out. You simply cannot impact the bottom line without having the facts to back it up.
2. Don’t Forget to Trust Your Gut- Data is incredibly important, but you cannot rely solely on what the data is telling you. Apply your knowledge or life experience. And if you don’t have that knowledge, find someone who does. Just as making decisions with no data can wreak havoc, making decisions based on data alone can be just as detrimental. The best leaders I’ve had the fortune to work with always make decisions using a combination of facts and their own experience.
3. Never Assume You are the Smartest Person in the Room- Trust me on this one, I’ve learned the hard way. First of all, if you assume you are the smartest person in the room, you are obviously wrong. And second, if you make the mistake of thinking you are the smartest person in the room, you are tempting fate that you will fall flat on your face in front of everyone (literally or figuratively… I’ve done both).
Listen- there is nothing wrong with being a subject matter expert in any field, but the knowledge of one does not stand alone. If you want to be successful and change your world, you will need to learn how to use the power of collaboration.
4. Figure Out How to use Your Resources- As I stated above, you cannot know everything. The good news is that we live in a world where access to infinite knowledge is literally at our finger tips. If you have a question, figure it out using your resources. Do not rely on other people to take time out of their busy days to help you.
Let me explain: at my (now former) job, I was regarded as somewhat of an excel expert. Not because I took classes or have some innate ability to understand rows, columns, and cells. It’s because I learned to harness the power of Google. For awhile, it was fairly common for people to ask me a question that could be easily answered online. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to help. But you can bet if it came down to an interview, I would have some thoughts about that person’s ability to get a job done.
One of the best managers I’ve ever had used to tell me to “Go figure it out” all the time. It was uncomfortable and frustrating. But I learned that the best, most transferable skill that you can ever develop is the ability to use your resources and get things done.
5. Learn to Love Your Co-Workers- ….they are, after all, your family. Or at least sometimes it seems like it. There have been times in the past several years where I saw my team more than I saw my husband.
When I first entered the work force, I thought it was weird to see people hanging out after work or getting together on the weekends. ‘You see these people all day, why would you want to see them when you’re not at work.’ But eventually, it clicked.
These people are not just the people that you race out of the parking lot or compete with for a raise. You are DOING LIFE with them. They will be your walking partner, your interior design consultant, your relationship therapist, your personal comedian, your encouragement for eating well (or poorly), your personal shopper, your lighthouse in the storm…. and your best friend. Like anything in life, you will get out what you put in. Invest in these people and it will pay dividends.
So that’s it… And this is it:
To my corporate friends and mentors…. Thanks for the memories. It’s not farewell, just see you later.