Meet James – the not so ‘corporate type’. He studied computer engineering and joined a big corporation immediately after graduation. He later did an MBA at a top business school in order to move to managerial positions and further advance his career.
After 10 years working in a large corporation, James was approached by a start-up and joined them for a short while. He didn’t share the same views with the founder and James ended up going back to his old company. A few months later, he realized that corporate life is not for him. He is now a VP at another start-up. He loves it despite the long working hours and the non-stop travelling.
James is one of the many people who found out late in their career that they are not the “corporate type”.
So, the question is: what makes somebody a ‘corporate type’?
In general, the common characteristics of those who have successful corporate careers are the following:
- What you say is more important than what you do. Don’t get me wrong: results are important. However, being able to communicate them with a positive spin (even when they are not) is crucial.
- You play the game. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you enjoy the internal politics. You know though how to navigate the system successfully. Also, having robust local and global networks helps.
- You listen to your boss. You are happy to conform to the reporting structure. What the contract you signed says is that you will do what you are asked and they will pay you for it.
- Patience is a virtue. It takes time for decisions to be made. Then, it takes more time to bring people along. If this doesn’t upset you, you are in the right place.
- You don’t plan to rock the boat. You are ambitious, you want to achieve things but you also know that you are just a small part (although important) of a big machine. You fully understand that the higher you go, the more you have to abide with the corporate strategy and culture (even when you don’t always agree with it).
As a friend says, “a corporation needs to be run like the army with a clear chain of command to ensure discipline and consistency.”
If you have the characteristics above, you will fit well in a corporate environment. If you don’t, then you may want to consider more entrepreneurial options.
Irrespective of whether you are the “corporate type” or not, having worked at a big corporation for a few years especially at the beginning of your career can be quite beneficial.
Big companies provide you with training, structure and resources that can be invaluable when you decide to work at a start-up later on. If you are the entrepreneurial type though, jump ships before you become too comfortable.
The bottom line: Even if you work in corporate for many years, it doesn’t mean that you are the ‘corporate type’. If you don’t fit in, then consider opportunities in entrepreneurial settings.
Have you gone through this type of experience yourself? If yes, it will be great to share your learnings.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.