What Working in the Corporate World Has Taught Me

A reflection to commemorate my two-year work anniversary

 

This October will mark two full years since I first started my ‘real’, adult-like corporate life (Adult-like because when I was a kid my perception of being an adult is always about having to go to work every day, lol). As it is coming near, I look back to the last two years and realized how many things that have changed, for better or worse:

  • First and foremost, I now earn and have my own money (Yeay! It is a really fulfilling feeling)
  • I get new friends (people I REALLY can call friends), and not just colleagues (Though on the contrary, maybe also additional people who don’t like the ‘work mode’-me. I know I’m a headstrong, forceful business partner sometimes, I’m sorry.)
  • I become a better driver – or rather, an experienced driver. That’s what Jakarta’s traffic and long commute hours do to people.
  • I become closer to my parents – even though usually as people started working and getting older, what I know is that they will be more independent and rely on their parents less. However, in my case, amidst all the noise and how busy all my friends are on their own quest, I find comfort in sharing my stories and troubles to my parents. Those were pleasant, non-dramatic sessions at late night after work on the dining table or calls on my car speaker as I drive through the night, but I felt heard and understood. It was comforting, and in a way it brought us closer as well.
  • I understand myself better, and can be less hard on myself when things don’t go well – or rather, not working the way I want it to even though people have no problem with it.
  • I become less of a perfectionist – which is definitely a good thing. I had too many warnings from friends and family on this particular trait all my life, and now I know I am more aware of it and can control it better.
  • Being braver in owning my mistakes, no matter how scared I am to say “it was my fault.”

 

And in these two years, sure there are no shortages of life moments and questions where I feel lost in the middle of work and ask myself,

  • Is this really worth it?
  • Is this what I want?

It is a fresh-graduate, just starting to figure out life on my own kind of thoughts. It is normal. Over the course of my almost-two-year corporate life adventure though, I realized that these thinking, besides coming from myself to figure out my own life, sometimes also comes from (unconsciously) comparing myself to other people. That is one of my bad traits that I still try to tame until now, to stop comparing myself to other people.

 

I know I have gotten really valuable (or invaluable, rather?) experience which has shaped me as (I hope) a better person. Sure, as we grow older and try crafting our own path – be it working at an office or being an entrepreneur, we will learn the way of life to adulthood, or what I like to call as the learnings of growing up. I have (in a way) learned being an entrepreneur when I was in uni as  I embarked on a year-long project worth 12 credits of my classes to create my own business with my uni friends. It was a hell of a ride, and I know I learn a lot about making my own business at that time. However, after working at a company which more or less operate in a similar business model (though of course on a different industry and scale) with so many more people involved and more advanced system, I have gotten new skills and life-lesson as well. Some  highlights of what I feel like I  learn the most in the corporate world, would be that I:

 

  • Learned the tough way on ‘resilience’

Truth be told, I was pretty confident in school from elementary to getting my bachelor’s degree because, more or less I already understand and practice the ‘formula’ to be successful in the environment. To get good grades, you do all your assignments, study, and take the tests. I did not say the formula was easy, but it was pretty straightforward. However, that was not the case when I started working. So many factors – people, system, time, your boss – all will affect the job you do greatly and it is beyond your control. I remember getting frustrated a lot of times on my  first year because I feel like anything I did not work and I feel like I wasn’t adding value. But then, that’s when I learn about not giving up when things did not work my way – even more so than when I was in university. It taught me that some things will not go well no matter how hard I try, and sometimes the only thing left to do is just: stick to it and not stopping.

 

 

  • Have more acceptance on my mistakes and moving on from them

A friend at work once said “At school, you learn so you won’t make mistakes, but at work you learn when you make them” and I don’t think it could be truer. I have made mistakes at university, and yes I felt bad from it, but mistakes I made in university were (mostly) only affecting me. At work though, the mistake you  made could affect everyone and every part of  the business, everything is intertwined one way or another. I used to stress out a lot, but then it quickly become exhausting and I know it was not good for my mental health to freak out on every single mistake I made. I learned to accept, and practiced doing “OK, I made a mistake. Let’s fix it if I can, if not, let’s apologize and move on to something else I can do.” Not that my mistakes don’t affect me now, but I’m getting better at dealing with them.

 

 

  • Differentiate relationship at work and relationship off-work with colleagues

Everyone has something that they do and want to protect at work, but that should only be at work only. It will be different when I meet these people outside of the meeting room or outside of a work-related context, as it should not bring all the disagreements (if any) that we have related to work. It took some time for me to adjust to that mindset, and not many people practiced it as well, making it harder to act differently outside of work context, but essentially I think it’s a good example of professionality that I should always try to practice. Do not be too emotional at work, and do not bring any bad feelings from work to your off-work environment. It’s not worth it.

 

 

  • Integrity and being just, is not black and white 

Everything has several sides. What we thought of as wrong, might not be the same for other people. Transparency won’t always be readily available, and sometimes you have to make hard choices which may or may not defy your principles. This is a broad topic that I’m also still threading lightly. However, my take on anything remotely in a gray area would be: Do what I think is best for the work I’m doing (not just for my personal gains), and discuss with my manager on anything that I found  to be strange.

 

For you all who are going to start working in the corporate world (wherever that is, whatever your interpretation on what corporate world is,) Congratulation! You are in for a ride for something big. Which might makes you feel lost, which might makes you feel frustrated as well sometimes, well I think that might applies to every kind of job or career you’re crafting for yourself, but the least I could say is, “be strong.” Take your time, be patient with yourself who’s adapting, be considerate to others even though it’s hard when you’re caught up with yourself, keep a high sense of self-awareness, and check back on yourself every once in a while so you don’t feel lost. It is ok to not know if you will really like what you’re doing or not, the important thing is to keep going while crafting your own purpose and discovering the core of what you really like and want to do. Things won’t be 100% perfect, but you can control at least half of that portion yourself.

 

At least that’s what I’m trying to do whenever I stumble in this long road, hehe. Good luck to all of us then!

 

À bientôt,

Sarah A.

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