Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

Eight Must Avoid Mistakes in Corporate America

Unlike many people I never had the desire to work in Corporate America.  The idea of being a “number” in a huge organization and being confined to a building all day, going to meetings and living the cubicle life sounded like prison to this country girl.

So after college I began working for a mid-sized family owned company.  The job I thought would be a resume builder to my next big thing turned out to be a 20 year career.  Each time I became a little bored they challenged me with a new position or initiative.  Life was great….until that fateful day I decided I’d outgrown what they could offer.

Since I was approaching the big 40, and thinking more about retirement, I decided it was time for me to find something that offered a true pension instead of the 401K I had contributed to for the last couple of decades.  And so I threw caution to the wind and justified that perhaps in my youth I had sold Corporate America short.  I did some networking with friends and quickly found myself interviewing for a training position with a Fortune 600 firm.

I landed the job.  It came complete with a pension…..and a pay cut, a cubicle, days filled with meetings, the loss of my company car, and tons of growth opportunities.  I was stretched in many fabulous ways and some that weren’t so grand.  Ultimately I made some great friends, some mistakes and was eventually fired.

While I don’t believe I “deserved” to lose my job, with the clarity only time can bring I certainly see red flags I didn’t at the time

  1. No Passion. I fought to be engaged during my entire incarceration in Corporate America.  The topics I found myself discussing on a daily basis were simply uninteresting to me.
  2. No Value. I was a super star in the family-owned company I left.  In the “big building” I struggled to make a difference.  Adding value was as important to my self-confidence (not to mention self-esteem!) as it was to my supervisors.  But there were simply too many people doing the same I thing I did and I found myself in a constant “me too” position.
  3. Worked too hard. My worker bee style had been the pillar of my career before making the move.  So I naturally tried the same approach in Corporate America.  Yet like a hamster on a wheel, the faster I ran, the fuller my plate became.  If I instead would have spent half the time on self-improvement that I do now things may have played out differently.
  4. Chased the money. After just 18 months in my new gig, I decided I needed to get my pay scale back to where it was prior to the switch.  As fate would have it, some management positions were open in my department.  I landed one of the positions WAY too soon in my corporate career and reported to a boss with a tumultuous reputation at best.  No one has the market cornered on bad boss stories (although I might come close!), but I made the move for all the wrong reasons.  The almighty dollar was my only motivation.
  5. Too confident. There were signs (in retrospect many of them!) that I wasn’t a “fit” in Corporate America.  But I was simply too confident in my abilities to admit defeat.  I truly believed that I could and would grow into the employee they wanted.  After all, in my entire career I had never been faced with a boss that didn’t love my contributions…not to mention me personally.
  6. Not confident enough. It may seem odd that an over and under confidence in my abilities could occur at the same time but without a doubt it did.  On multiple occasions I allowed upper management to change my style and approach in an effort to “please” them and supposedly move the corporate goals forward.  In retrospect, I should have stayed true to my management style and treated folks differently.  But at the time, I was fighting for survival myself.  The direction was crystal clear so I followed it in an effort (unsuccessfully!) to keep my job.  My team deserved better.
  7. Didn't Fit. In fairness my entire career in Corporate America occurred in just one department.  Perhaps things would have ended differently if I had taken the initiative to move to a different area of the organization.  And perhaps I would have found all the same ill-fitting qualities.  It’s certainly nothing that keeps me up at night, but in retrospect I should have tried the “fit” elsewhere in the company instead of just putting my head down and thinking tomorrow would be better.
  8. Ignored the heart. Ultimately the biggest mistake I made was ignoring my core values.  I knew as a high school graduate that deep in my heart I had no desire to work in the “big building.”  But I sold out myself and my passions for all the wrong reasons.

I guess all prisoners learn something while serving “their time.” And I’m no different.  My skill levels and knowledge grew exponentially.   I also learned a great deal about myself.  I was reminded of who I am, what I want from my career and what’s important to me personally.

Am I glad I tried Corporate America?  You bet!  And am I happy as hell to be out of there?  Absolutely!

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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