Finding your way in the corporate world

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In my previous 2 articles, I discussed my experiences working at Infosys and working at Goldman Sachs. I also compared my experience with the Indian work culture and the American work culture. These articles explained what kind of environment you might find there.

There have been some queries I received concerning how to go about in a corporate environment. I will answer those queries in this post.

What should I expect from my first job, which kind of company should I join?

It helps to ask yourself what are your reasons for joining a company. If you join a company to get associated with a big name, to get money, to get a secure job, you cannot complain when they make you work hard for it. You want something from them, they expect something in return. If you look at it objectively, they are not holding you at gun point. You yourself are agreeing to do everything they ask you to.

When you join a company with the reasons mentioned above, you begin with low self confidence, you begin with the premise that you are not good enough or complete enough by yourself, that having a bigger name associated with you, will give you a better identity, more recognition and respect from others. There is a lot of social conditioning involved here too, and a collective mentality of fear and low self esteem.

To experience freedom from this, to experience a better life where you don’t feel the need to be a parasite on some thing else, where you are confident of your own capabilities and value, you need to work at breaking the social conditioning. This will require a force from within you. That force is your desire to live with your head held high, a desire to share value rather than just seek it from others, a desire to live free.

Here is what I suggest – look for a job which is a mutually beneficial deal. These may be the same jobs and the same companies you were looking at earlier, it’s just that you look at them from a different perspective now. And that will make a lot of difference as time goes on. Instead of approaching a company to just get security and money, look also at how you are going to add to the value of the company. As a fresher, you might think there is very little you can add. You are wrong! There are a lot of things to do in a company. There will definitely be something where you can start adding right away. Balance this with your own learning and growth. Don’t compromise on either requirement, respect them equally. In the beginning, it might not be very easy. There will be so much you want to learn and so little you can add. Have patience, and faith in yourself. It will only improve with time and effort.

Two people may approach the same organization with these 2 different mindsets. What experiences they come out with, will depend on how they see their relationship with their company. As time goes on, one might find himself in a constant state of insecurity and fear. The other may find opportunities where he can really help his project and the company. He may actively seek out different roles and see what he likes best. Instead of trying to appease, he may try to learn as much as he can. The first one may decide he has to work ever so hard to keep his place in this insecure environment, he might try to keep everyone happy and avoid discussing conflicts. The second one will focus on learning and adding value. He will discuss any conflicts and seek a solution. He may realize some day that there is no more for him to learn or that he is not compatible here. Uncomfortable as it may seem, he will find another place where there is better value sharing.

If I don’t like it in the company, won’t my time and all my effort there be wasted?

All experiences, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, good or bad, are learning experiences. They are life’s way of teaching you important lessons. It took me a lot of time to realized that my manager had no interest in my growth and learning. But I don’t see it as a wastage. I learnt about certain personality types and know whom to avoid and save my time. It also gave me a burning desire to excel and I progressed at a very fast pace in the following years. When I was working with that manager, there were some experiences that looked very bad and I just loved to blame everything on him or the company. But, in retrospect, they are all cherished learning experiences. And I think it is all for the better. You learn the most and make the most efforts when you are in a bad situation that you have not faced before.

A lot of people are ultra concerned about which company they should join. They are scared that if they don’t like it there, all their effort and time will be wasted, or that they will be stuck in that place with no way out. This is just an imaginary fear. No effort is wasted as long as you learn from it and no situation is ever so bad that you can’t get out of it. This is how you gain experience. And experience is never wasted. It is avoiding experience, because it may be uncomfortable, that you should keep away from. Staying safe and unhurt is the sure fire way of getting stuck in a rut. If you believe that failures are the stepping stones to success , if you take them as learning experiences, you will not be paralyzed by the fear of joining a bad company. In fact, such bad decisions are part of your learning process.

I am not saying you have to make careless decisions and jump off a cliff to see whether you survive. I am asking you to take calcualted risks in life, overcome your imaginary fears and to don’t be afraid of trying and failing. As you take more and more risks, and learn from them, your knowledge imrpoves and you can take even bigger risks and learn even more. It is a continuous, life long process of growth and learning. If you learn a lesson from a mistake, no matter how big it was, that mistake was worth making.

What are the problems I can face?

The corporate world is different from college. It’s usually not a simple transition. In college, you have a fixed syllabus and all you need to do to get by is attend lectures, take notes, see previous papers and pass. You can sleep theough the lectures if you will, provided you don’t get caught. Everything is very well defined. What you have to do is layed out clearly. Countless others have done it the exact same way before you.

It’s totally different to work in the corporate world, especially IT where technologies and things keep changing every few years. There are no classes you have to sleep through. You are being paid here and they will make sure that you don’t sleep(I know that from experience :)). You are requried to do something of value to justify your salary. While some people may allow you some time before you become productive, some will expect you to get going right away, join the project running, as they might say.

The thing I don’t like about our educational system is that it doesn’t teach or prepare us to work in a corporate setup, where you are paid to do your job and are expected to show results. So this comes out as a new experince for a lot of people, and an uncomfortable one. But the good thing is, you are getting a new learning experience, you are being pulled out of a setup where you were not required to be an active participant in your main activity, and being pushed into a setup where you have no choice but to be an active participant. Although it may seem uncomfortable, it will change your life in a big way. Rather than resisting this change, embrace it as an opportunity to break out of your irresponsible, passive mould and expand into a new role filled with dynamism, vigor and activity.

You will finally be on your own. You will be required to learn new skills and things. Don’t get bogged down. Remenber that everyone who comes out of college, faces this scenario, and no one ever dies of it :).

What do you do when you have problems at work? When is the right time to leave?

What do you do when you realize that this is not the best place for you? What if you realise that the differences you have here are on your core principles?

Fist of all, Don’t arrive at a decision under emotional duress. Analyze with a cool head. A problem with immediate management may be remedied by approaching the senior management. But sometimes, the management is all the same. You realize that the general, collective mentality in the management hierachy and in the company in general, is negative. In such a case, it is best to look for someplace else. Take this as an experience about what should NOT be. Your experience here will give you insights into what can go wrong and will give you the courage to face such situations if they arise again. These will also make you more sensitive towards the needs, fears and insecurities of others.

Pick up your armour and get ready to step into the arena of job search(or self-employment, if that is what you decide). This is uncomfortable only if you make it so. To me, this is a necessary part of life. I even find this exciting! To me, breaking out of the old and moving into a better self is always an adventure, just as my current activies are. There is fear, but it only adds more spice to the adventure.

How to deal with people at your workplace and ask for what you deserve.

I would like to analyse the question itself first. Why do you ask this? It seems you hold the idea that people, in general are bad and will not give you what you deserve. I felt the same way when I began. But I have seen since, that there are respectful and considerate people too. If you believe that this world, this Universe is not friendly, you manifest more of that in your life(read Law of Attraction ). Believe that there are good people and seek such people out, believe that there is good in everyone and seek that good out. When you do this, you will find yourself surrounded by good folks.

Also if you feel people are pushing you around, it’s only because you are letting them do it. Analyze your situation, there are probably some reasons, some fears behind why you let this happen. Do you fear social rejection? If so, work on your social skills. Do you fear you will be fired? If so, work on your value. If you have good value, people won’t fire you that easily. Even if they do, you will have no problem finding another job. Seek out the fears that are causing you to accept in life what you don’t want to. Then face these fears . Learn all about them and face them, kill them systematically.

Can you offer me some suggestions how to go about re-starting my life, trying to live?

That’s a vague question.

If you are asking me to provide a formula to a better life, I don’t have any, there is no such formula. I can only give you pointers, but YOU will have to make the effort. YOU will have to test everything you are told. See what you like, see what works for you. There is no substitute to personal effort, and there shouldn’t be. Life is uncertain, but this uncertainty gives it a sense of adventure. If I can give you a formula to a perfect life, if I can say do this and you will get that, where is the glory in living? Where is the thrill, excitement and sense of accomplishment in finding your way to what you want? Would you play a game where you can apply a formula and win everytime? Of course you won’t. There is no fun in it. Why expect any different from your life? Why make it boring?

So accept this uncertainty and insecurity of life. They add wonder and freedom. Take my pointers, and those that you get from other sources, analyze them, test them and create your own answers.

4 Comments

  • GratefulReader
    February 9, 2011 - 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow Rahul…your articles have a knack of making furrows disappear from my forehead! It couldn’t be put into better words than these- “you are getting a new learning experience, you are being pulled out of a setup where you were not required to be an active participant in your main activity, and being pushed into a setup where you have no choice but to be an active participant. Although it may seem uncomfortable, it will change your life in a big way.”
    THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

  • Kunal
    February 20, 2011 - 4:34 am | Permalink

    Immense help, Rahul. I have just resigned from my job. Other than the bank balance, I did not add up anything :-). This site is such a morale boosting find…

    • Rahul
      February 20, 2011 - 7:54 pm | Permalink

      I am glad this site is of help to you Kunal!
      .. And I am glad you found us here :)
      The story behind you leaving your job should be interesting!

  • suni
    October 8, 2012 - 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Wow what a wonderful article .. i liked it very much …
    you have explained really well about corporate environment,the way it is..Also I would like to mention ur approach to things like “job search” is so positive.. a great round of applause for u :)

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