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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!