10 Hard Earned Lessons From My First Corporate Job

Author: Matt Morava

Corporations aren’t perfect, but they’re wonderful places to learn important life lessons.

1. Time Management — Being to work on time, to meetings on time, and managing timelines on projects with tight deadlines. Specifically, the unique consequences of not doing this successfully — this isn’t just about getting a B+ instead of an A-, it’s about your reputation as a professional and can have real financial consequences. Time is money.

2. Listening and Communicating with Others — Understanding the demands of others, their cadence, giving and receiving instructions, giving and receiving direction and support, and developing the ability to focus on the needs of others for long periods of time. Again, it’s also about learning the consequences of not doing so. It’s not just a letter grade. It impacts your team, as much as yourself. You not listening can produce an “F” for the entire team.

3. Teamwork — The ability to work with others and contribute to team success. Learning how to navigate “credit” and “accountability” in group and team projects. Learning how to share resources, coordinate effort, and balance individual and group goals.

4. Getting Comfortable with Accountability — Being held accountable for both behavior and results and how to hold others accountable appropriately. College is a series of hoops and hurdles with little focus put on how you got to any one particular outcome, albeit cheating is frowned upon, but in corporate life how you get there is just as important as the outcome.

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5. Belonging to a Smaller Community — When you are in college you belong not just to the community on campus but the larger, worldwide, community of university student. The corporate world is much, much smaller. There’s your team, your division, and your company. Navigating a sense of belonging and identity in this smaller pond can be difficult. Trying on different strategies like “Drinking the Kool-Aid” to “Rebelling” and learning the consequences of either extreme. Corporate life teaches this amazing gift of both knowing you belong and knowing that tattooing a “tramp stamp” of the corporate logo is probably not a good idea.

6. Fiscal Responsibility — Managing a budget, making financial decisions, understanding cost/benefit ratios, and putting a monetary value on time and effort. Time is money and there’s nothing like a first corporate experience, good or bad, to teach you that. Corporations also teach you that money isn’t everything. Most people learn pretty quickly that they aren’t going to strike it rich working in a corporation and so are forced to learn about what motivates them intrinsically.

7. Nips Narcissism in the Bud — You’re not the center of the world and you’re not the smartest person in the room. In university, it’s easy to stand out and become somewhat indulgent with self focus. That first corporate experience can be a shock to the system in that you are new andunproductive and have to move fast to become useful to the team. It’s also a harsh reality that there are tons of talented people that know more than you do. On average, there are 100 people able and willing to do your job at any point in your career.

8. Ethics — Every corporate job will challenge your relationship and orientation with truth and truth telling. That first work experience will put to the test what you think you believe and what you’re willing to say yes and no to.

9. Relationship to Boredom — Most first corporate jobs are incredibly dull. This is great for two reasons: First, it introduces you to the reality that life isn’t always intense and dramatic. That there is something to be gained from being bored and doing mundane tasks. This is part of adulthood. An, “After Ecstasy, The Laundry” kinda of thing. Second, it challenges you to identify and hold onto what you’re most passionate about in life. Nothing like a really boring corporate job to help you get clear on what you want to be doing with your life. The reality is that even the best lived lives will have moments of boredom and long periods of wasted time.

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10. Life is a Series of Steps — That life isn’t about hitting a home run. That it takes time and effort to build things of value be they relationships or nest eggs. Building a solid professional career takes more than individual talent. It takes a vision for the future and a commitment to the present. Twenty- somethings are inundated with the message that if they haven’t “arrived” by the time they’re of 25 years of age then their life is over. That’s just not the case. The reality is that success for most people comes from taking consistent steps, working hard, and staying committed to a goal for year after year.

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