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5 Things I Learned as a Corporate Rookie


By: Ellie Chan

1) Run the Treadmill

Develop a ridiculous, sickening work ethic and work really, really hard. In a few months, after starting my first job at a Fortune 500-listed corporation, I started to understand office talk. Everyone will obtain a label from their colleagues: the ones who never go the extra mile, the ones who brag, the ones who do real good work. The quality we choose to amplify will define our work ethic, and others will use it to define us.

No one understands the importance of work ethic as well as Will Smith. He said, “The only thing that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. […] The majority of people who aren’t getting the places they want, or aren’t achieving the things that they want, is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being outworked, on missing crucial opportunities. If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”

2) Practice like you play

More college programs, especially business-focused education, design their curriculum to encourage team work. My advice is to practice like you play. The most important lesson I learned at university was people skills, and it’s a skill that needs practice. Whether you are doing a group project,  volunteering, or in team sports, be aware of the unique qualities that make you a desired team player. Extroverts are not the only ones who have the upper hand- I know many introverts who are the center of attention.

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Photography by Shelbi Noble

In a fast paced world, nobody has time to sit through presentations or dissect analytical reports. To get the job done, I needed to persuade peers from different teams to jump on my projects. The key is to learn how to make people want to talk and work with you.

3) There is no right answer, there is only a better answer

At school we are taught there can only be one true answer. Our exam-based education trained us to think that way. At work, there are no right answers, because oftentimes, the right answer simply does not exist. Our world is not black or white, rather, it is a complicated, chaotic place where people with the loudest voice do not always have the best answers.

Stop searching for an ultimate, finite end goal to a question. Instead, continuously search for a better, more efficient way of doing something. Only when there is no answer exists the opportunity for innovation.

[pullquote]At work, there are no right answers, because oftentimes, the right answer simply does not exist.[/pullquote]

4) It’s a marathon race

There will be moments when you feel like an utter failure, when you are disappointed in yourself, when you feel so overwhelmed you become paralyzed. Your first job will do this to you, because it’s your first job! No one can avoid making mistakes. This is said so often it has become a proverb, but that doesn’t make it easier. When you feel the heavy burden of self-doubt, remember this: “Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.” (-Napoleon Hill)

Just know that, although you lost this battle, there are more opportunities coming to redeem yourself. The goal is to win the war. Building a career is like running a marathon race, as long as you stay in the game, you will  go places.

5) Work-life Balance

This was harder than I thought. As young grads are asking more from our careers, employers are asking more from their employees. Entry-level fresh grads should always be focused on running the treadmill (Remember, it’s a marathon race!).But more often than not, you will be given 12 hours worth of work in an 8 hour workday.

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