No lie, when I started working in corporate America, it was kind of like an initiation into an organization that constantly tested my patience and humility in so many ways. If you’re considering a job in a large company and wondering how to succeed in corporate America, this post is for you. While many people dream about a six-figure career in corporate America and all of its glory, the reality is often far different. 

I learned that you have to have the right temperament for success and to survive not being eaten alive by the tenured folks who trained their whole lives for corporate. 

I’m spilling the tea on some of the best tips to create a professional corporate career that will excite you to get up and go to work each day.

Common Challenges People Face in Corporate Careers

Black Woman Working

Now, sis, I feel like I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t let you in on some challenges that many employees working for large companies face. That way, you’ll know what to expect in the corporate world and recognize the clues before you fall victim to these common workplace pitfalls.

Fitting In

I’m going to be honest; fitting in can be tough. Just figuring out how to be part of a new work culture is half the battle. Be sure to get to know other team members so you can build trust and gain allies.

Mom and dad taught you manners for a reason, so to see success in the career world, be respectful and friendly.

Corporate Jobs are Sedentary

This challenge is a tough one, as you can’t really change this part of corporate America. A sedentary lifestyle can make you lazy and inactive, which can leave you with no inspiration or energy.

Choose a company with some wellness benefits like a gym membership, or even better, a gym you can use at work, and this can help fight inactivity at work.

Gossip and Interoffice Politics

I’ll touch more on this challenge in a little bit, but even the most professional organization has gossipers and office politics. Many company employees choose to focus on creating more drama rather than productivity.

Even though your boss or manager may try to reduce gossip in the business, they can’t be everywhere at once. And no one wants to tattle or be a snitch.

Office Hierarchy and Bureaucracy

We’ve all experienced this at some point in our careers, whether it’s a corporate job or some other type of business. I know I’ve struggled with a system that has so much red tape that it’s hard to work or complete any task at all.

Or you have a boss that’s a micromanager that tells you exactly how and when to do things. And then there is the disgruntled coworker you work beside that drags down team morale which can do a lot of damage.

There’s a fine line between clearly defined procedures and autonomy where you can take ownership of your role. Autonomy allows for some flexibility in the ways things are done and can greatly improve everyone’s attitude and overall effectiveness.

How to Survive and Thrive Working in Corporate America

corporate jobs

Now that you know some of the challenges you may face when working for a large business. Here are some of my top tips to help you succeed in your corporate job.

1. You Must Dress for Success

I can not overemphasize the importance of dressing for success in corporate America. If you get nothing else from this article, let it be this!

I tend to overdress instead of underdressing in the beginning, as in even if a suit wasn’t required, I would wear one. First impressions are so important, and as a woman, it’s even more important.

Investing in a good wardrobe is a must, especially a power outfit that makes you look and feel like a million bucks. Not to focus too much on appearance, but don’t you have the one outfit that boosts your confidence through the roof? Being confident at work will help you succeed.

2. Trust Your Gut

This tip is huge, especially with AI technology taking over more and more human tasks. Two things that AI doesn’t have are critical thinking and intuition. These two things will always be valuable skills that corporate companies need.

One of the best benefits of working for a larger company is that you have access to resources that smaller businesses and individuals often can’t afford. That may be a large team at the office or tools and apps.

Also, trust your gut instinct. Your intuition often won’t steer you wrong and can be a valuable asset. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up, as intuition is an elusive human trait not everyone has.

3. Learn How to Thrive in the Corporate Environment

Another challenge of working for a large corporation is learning how to thrive in the corporate environment. You may face hostile environments, especially as a female, so remaining emotionally stable in uncomfortable situations is very important.

It’s difficult because there are only so many things you can control in the office, so if your job is boring and demoralizing, it can be hard to thrive.  Not every office job will be fun and exciting as you climb the corporate ladder.

Try to maintain focus and hone in on what you can control, like your actions and responses. Unfortunately, you can’t control your boss or coworkers. You will deal with backstabbers and entitled people, so just learn how to work your way around them.

While you want to be friendly, you can’t be naive, or they will trample all over you. Just learn how to stay calm when you feel like you’re in shark-infested waters.

4. Keep a Positive Attitude

This tip piggybacks off the last one. Keeping a positive attitude not only makes you resilient, but you’ll rise above all the other complainers and backstabbers. Others may complain about doing the same thing over and over, and some have a downright aversion to work.

Being supportive and positive will help you remain a constant during stressful times and a role model for your co-workers. You can be the anchor in a storm. 

Also, if you remain positive, it will make your home life and job easier because many of us take work home with us at the end of the day.

5. Learn the Company Values and Follow Them to a T

I can’t overstress the importance of learning the company culture in values when you work in corporate America. Staying consistent with company values will definitely make your life easier, and you can prove yourself an asset.

So, you may be wondering how to learn about your company’s values and mirror them. First, researching the business can be very helpful. And you’ll likely get a copy of company manuals and SOPs with these values clearly defined.

If your corporation wants you to do things a certain way, you should do them that way. That is, of course, unless what your boss or manager is asking you to do is criminal or pushing moral boundaries.

Also, attend after-events that help you get to know your boss and other colleagues better outside work and make yourself available and present.

6. If You Dread Going to Work, This Job Isn’t for You

If you go to sleep and wake absolutely hating your job, it’s likely not the right one for you. Too many people live their lives waiting for Friday, and this often means they are checked out from work.

Not only can it be demoralizing for you, but it can also bring your colleagues down, and you don’t want to be that person. Create a plan to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to change positions in the company or find a new job that you’re passionate and excited about.

7. Be Confident

black woman in corporate

Confidence is one of the best personality traits to have, as it helps you stand out and makes other people confident in you and your work. Keep current on trends in your industry and always strive to find ways to do your job better.

If you’re feeling less confident, this is one of those times when you can fake it until you make it. No one has to know how you really feel inside, and you may get to the point where you have to ask questions that can help boost your confidence,

There’s no shame in asking questions.

8. Innovate

Innovation is a skill many businesses in the corporate world look for in employees. If you can think outside the box while still following company procedures, you’re golden.

Being able to recognize opportunities within a scope of work and provide solutions is one way to be innovative. It can be as simple as identifying where your department may be spending too much time on certain tasks and finding more efficient ways to complete things.

And don’t overcomplicate things. Sometimes the simplest solution is best. Being an innovator can help you move up quickly. But keep in mind that the more advanced your solutions are, the better the chance is of getting a more advanced position.

9. Stay True to Yourself

This concept is self-explanatory, but I’m keeping it real here.

Just be yourself 100 percent of the time. There is nothing more depressing than having to go to work and change who you are just to do your job.

Being someone you aren’t, takes a lot of effort and is very taxing on your mental health. If you need to change who you are to work anywhere, especially to succeed in corporate America, it’s probably not the right job for you.

10. Don’t Overstep Boundaries

In my experience, going above and beyond your job description is a good thing. It shows initiative and forward-thinking, but it can be very risky when you’re not sure of the outcome of your actions.  When the outcome of the risk is good, you will probably be praised. But if it’s negative, oh boy… just get ready for a possible termination depending on how bad the damage is.

If you’re allowed to make your own decisions, it’s a bad idea to make decisions on things that aren’t within your area of expertise. It’s only okay when you have consulted management or other team members, depending on your position in your organization, to make sure you’re acting within company guidelines and ethics.

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11. Never Stop Learning

Don’t ever be afraid to ask your boss or supervisor for new courses you can take outside work to level up your skills and knowledge.

Even if it’s just once or twice a year, a good course can help you up-level skills and learn new ones that can help you advance to other positions. You can use it as a selling point when asking for a raise.

Gaining new skills also makes you very marketable if you decide to change careers. It really doesn’t take a lot of work, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.

12. Don’t Settle for Average – Go the Extra Mile

Many people in corporate jobs fall into a routine of just doing the bare minimum when it comes to their work. If you put in the extra work and strive to do your best, you’ll always make a good impression.

Even staying late or getting to work a little early can make a huge difference, especially if your boss sees you there after everyone else. It shows commitment and distinguishes you from everyone one else.

Final Thoughts on How to Succeed in Corporate America

Working in corporate America often summons images of people working in boring cubicle farms. But, in reality, a career at a large organization can be the ultimate dream job for many people.

No matter what company or leadership you work for, you don’t have to be stuck where you are. If you:

  • Stay positive
  • Invest in gaining new skills and knowledge
  • Be the best you can be
  • Find allies at work
  • Remain professional

You’ll succeed in corporate America and enjoy the journey as you improve your personal and professional development along the way. Plus, you learn a lot about yourself and your ability to adapt to any situation.

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