Before we start, I have to share that this journal entry is somewhat misleadingly titled. It’s misleading because I promise these five strategies for thriving in the corporate world apply for working women everywhere. Please don’t feel like you shouldn’t read this if you don’t work in corporate – I’m positive there’ll be something here for you too xx
Depending on the circles you move in, working in corporate can get pretty bad press. The language used is often dire, with words like burnout, rat race and soul-sucking being thrown around. If you’re looking for proof, simply Google ‘escape the 9 to 5’. When I did exactly that, I was rewarded with a response of ‘About 9,520,000,000 results (0.55 seconds)’.
That’s a big number of results. And it tells you that many of us reach a point where we can get frustrated with our corporate or professional roles and wish we were doing something – anything – else.
I get it – February 2022 saw me reach my 31st anniversary in the corporate world. When you’re having a bad day or a bad trot in your 9 to 5 role, fantasising about leaving makes perfect sense. And I know many women who, after a particularly disempowering time in the workplace, have completely transitioned into new industries and they are loving their lives.
But what if you like your job? What if you love the people you work with? Perhaps you’ve worked hard to get where you are. And maybe the stability or the flexibility you’ve created in your corporate role is important to you. What if you actually really like your regular salary deposit? There’s no shame in saying you love the consistent salary that comes with corporate – so long as you love the rest of the gig. Why on earth would you want to escape the 9 to 5 if you actually enjoy the work and the world?
And let’s face it. Not all of us want to be an entrepreneur or are cut out for running a small business.
As part of my own self-styled life, I consciously choose to work in both worlds. I spend 4 days a week in my director role in corporate transformation and the remaining work time in my coaching practice. I did a whole podcast episode on the topic – listen in to episode 6 if you’re keen to learn more about why I choose to stay in corporate and coach. And I have to tell you, I’ve seen women burnout in both worlds. And I’ve seen women thrive in both worlds.
Thriving in the corporate world is possible
Yes, you read that right. I’ve seen women thriving in the corporate world. I still see women thriving in that environment every day – me, any number of my team and so many of the women I coach.
When we choose to self-style our lives, we can also choose to ignore all of the noise that comes with what we ‘should’ be doing. We also get to choose what we believe. For example, you can choose to believe you’re in an energising environment as easily as you choose to believe you’re running in the rat-race.
With all of that as positioning, here are my top five strategies for thriving rather than surviving in the corporate world. You can learn more by reading below, or you can listen in on the Self.Styled.Life podcast right here:
Five strategies for thriving in the corporate world
Strategy number one: Be yourself
Some of the best career advice I’ve ever received came from one of the wisest and most strategic humans I’ve ever met. Luckily for me, she’s also one of my dearest friends. Anyhow, soon after I’d secured my first big promotion into a leadership role, I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t fit the profile of my new peers. I was way younger and way more female than any of the men who already occupied similar roles. I didn’t sound like them. Nor did I look like them. And I knew for sure that I wouldn’t lead like them.
Rather than suggest I change my style, my friend reminded me that it is more than ok to be me. In fact it was entirely necessary to be me. It was definitely one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. In under a year, me and my very different style were leading that whole team. And I learned another very valuable lesson in asking the right question. Instead of asking ‘What if I can’t do it like them?’, I should have been asking ’How can I do it my way and make it better than it’s being done today?’
Does this strategy require self-belief and self-trust? Yes it does. But you can build both when you get clear on where you’re going, catch the stories you tell yourself and take action, which as I always say is best taken in baby-steps or in the form of an experiment. And if you couple this strategy with strategy number five, you’ll seriously be in an awesome space.
Strategy number two: Be ready to shake things up
Don’t think you can’t shake things up in the corporate environment. You absolutely can. In my experience it’s the key to longevity in an organisation. But it does require curiosity. And the ability to keep putting yourself in that uncomfortable spot where you feel like you don’t have a clue. You have to trust that you’ve got the transferable skills to succeed each time you you’re in a new situation.
It also requires the ability to shift your thinking regularly. An idea taught in Neuro-Linguistic Programming is that successful people have behavioural flexibility. Even before I studied NLP, I realised that being able to shift my thinking to take on new ideas, strategic directions and restructures was important for thriving in the corporate world. Especially if I didn’t want to feel frustrated all the time. Not being able to change your thinking as changes occur in an organisation leads to a whole lot of pain.
Strategy number three: You need to ask for what you want so you can create an environment where you will thrive
I can guarantee you one thing. Humans are shocking mind readers. And if you really want something, the best way to get it is to ask. You need to be prepared to ask for what you want and need in a role.
Let me use my own experience as an example. Over the course of 31 years, I’ve worked full-time, permanent part-time and as a casual employee. I even did a compressed working week for a while and I’m currently working a four day week again so I can also work in my coaching practice. I’ve had roles where I’ve travelled for weeks on end. And roles where I’ve been able to do everything from home. I’ve had customer facing roles and I’ve led massive teams and tiny teams. Most of those shifts have occurred because I asked for them so I could balance my family needs and my career goals, or fill gaps in my resume so that I’d be ready for the next role.
Strategy number four: Set your own success criteria
Like everything in life, if you don’t understand where you’re headed, how will you know when you get there?
Nobody is going to be surprised when I say that clarity is fundamental. Being clear on my role goals was one thing. But while my leaders always set the scene for what I needed to deliver, I’ve always had my own success criteria for my job. For me, understanding how I judge whether I’m making a difference or not is core to self-styling my own life. My personal criteria considers things like my energy levels, how I want to feel in a role, whether a role uses my strengths and if I’m supporting my team to grow and develop.
Knowing how you measure success helps keep you grounded and can protect you from taking on too much external pressure, which is essential if thriving in the corporate world is your goal. Your success criteria can include anything you want it to. Your energy or even your anxiety levels at the end of the day, your salary, your progress, your team, your working relationships. If you’re not currently measuring your success by metrics you’ve intentionally set yourself, then I cannot encourage you more to dive into what success in your job – and all areas of your life – looks like for you.
And trust me when I say you can trust yourself to measure your success. At the end of the day, you live with you….not any of the other random humans who think they can tell you what winning or losing looks like. Success is what you make it.
Strategy number five: Invest in a coach
Another one that nobody is going to feel surprised to hear me mention. I’ve become increasingly aware of a key difference between female business owners and women in corporate. Women who run their own businesses completely understand the value of coaching. Women who work in corporate? Well, it feels like maybe we have a way to go when it comes to investing in our success.
Please don’t expect your organisation to provide for all your growth. One of the best decisions I ever made was to invest in my own coach. A coach who was completely independent. Someone I felt safe to share everything with. And who could tailor the coaching to my individual needs. (Something that only happens in corporate coaching if you’re incredibly lucky.) Obviously I’m biased, but one-on-one coaching changed my life and career and I recommend it every chance I get. Clearly, I’d absolutely love to support you with either free or paid coaching – click here to learn more – but if I’m not the coach for you, that’s ok. Seek out a coach who is a great fit for you and watch the way you think about things in your corporate life completely shift.
Do you have any strategies for thriving in the corporate world? I’d love for you to share your thoughts with all of us in the comments section below.
II’ll be back soon with more tips and tools for you to live your Self.Styled.Life. But in the meantime, stay fabulous xx
Image credit: Haute Stock