10 Things I Learned in Corporate Settings
Whether it's a skill, tip, or just something to keep in mind, the corporate world taught me a lot of things. These are the 10 things I still carry with me today.
1. Make Emails Concise
I used to think everyone wanted the full context to my emails. Definitely not the case, especially those on the receiving end who just want to knock off your email from their to-do list really quickly. Provide enough context, and get right to the ask.
2. Don't Schedule Unnecessary Meetings
I've spent countless hours in meetings that really didn't move anything forward, while my Slack, Teams, emails, phone notifications were all blowing up. When I became a manager, I decided to remove unnecessary or duplicate meetings so that time could be spent on doing the work, but made sure I was available anytime someone wanted a 1-on-1.
3. Attend Events
Used to dread corporate events because it felt like I was there just because I had to be there. Changed this mentality up and decided to attend events for myself (seeing events as a perk of my employment). I conversed with people not because I had to, but because I wanted to get to know them and I met many interesting people, some of whom I've become friends with or now work with as a sub-contractor on my projects.
Take a step back every now and then and reflect on how you got to where you are now. There may be things you regret or wish would have gone differently, but there are so many more things to be grateful for. For me, whether it was my strict stereotypical asian upbringing, toxic workplaces I've worked at, or ridiculous bosses I've worked for, it's because I've been put into uncomfortable situations that I am now able to do what I do. And it's not only about being thankful for overcoming challenges; there have been so many supportive, loving, caring, nuturing individuals and mentors who have and continue to lift me up. So thank you!
5. Trust and Be an Advocate for Yourself
If you believe in your idea/decision/action, stand your ground. Trust that you're standing up for something that you value, and (professionally and calmly) fight for your reasons to be heard. Sometimes you end up taking the L, but that's OK, you fought as best you can. There's nothing worse than regretting not having taken action (keeps you up at night sometimes).
6. Appreciate the Power of "No"
For me, it was only because I was such a "Yes Man" that I really appreciated the power of being able to say "no". I took every possible assignment, stayed late, came in early just to get all of the extra work done, initially for the sake of performance evaluations, but this quickly turned into managers taking advantage of my willingness to take on more. I began to reflect on what I value and what I want to achieve relevant to my job description and started to (respectfully) say "no". This allowed me to ensure that I could give 200% to the work that I said "yes" to, while respecting my time off work for personal projects and mental/physical care.
7. Great Leadership Stems from Alignment and Empathy
I've worked under, with and above many people in leadership positions, and found that regardless of the level they're at within the organization, great leaders always guide and relate to their people. They don't "push" by commanding or "pull" by doing the work themselves; they work alongside you and act as bumpers so that you stay on track. They also understand and appreciate that you are human and that you have a life outside of work. Life outside of work impacts your performance at work (both positively and negatively), so leaders who accept this as fact and provide the appropriate accommodations to their people have performed better than those who discard this altogether and strictly adhere to "don't bring personal matters to work".
8. Surround Yourself with People You Admire
Something along the lines of "if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room". Simply watching or speaking with people who inspire and motivate you can do wonders for your own development. Steal what's valuable (their routines, habits, the way they to talk to people, etc.) and apply it to your own life.
9. Ask Questions
There's no such thing as a stupid question, or maybe all questions are stupid, but either way don't be scared to ask. If you don't know something, you simply don't know - there's no benefit to lying about it and for it to bite you in the ass later. Always ask and confirm, so there's absolutely no misalignment on whatever task you have at hand.
10. Be Kind and Treat People with Respect
This item goes without saying, but this has been instrumental to my growth. Specific anecdote to restaurants, some kitchen staff that I've worked with see suppliers and delivery drivers as just "people who deliver what I ordered", often times talking down to them, or even not even acknowledging them as a person. I always asked how their day was going, offered them a water or got them a sandwich from our kitchen because I was raised to be kind to others. Not saying you need to go above and beyond, but just treat others as you'd like to be treated. And if you're someone who's looking for tangible benefits from being kind or respectful, by going above and beyond, I ended up securing the lowest pricing for our ingredients, and first dibs on limited-quantity items. But being kind shouldn't even be a means to an end. Be respectful to fellow human beings.