Hindsight is great isn’t it? How many times have you told yourself, “I wish I knew that”? Well, the joy of living is the process of learning. That is what our experiences are for. The good, the bad and the ugly.

When it comes to career, it is no different. University doesn’t really teach you the human dynamics of the work place. There is only one way to learn: by doing it.

Below are 5 things I wish I knew before I ventured into my corporate career.

1) Delivering results is not enough to guarantee career progression. I learned that getting results alone will not get you that promotion. It is also about looking the part. That means the way you carry yourself, how you present at meetings and how well you fit into the company culture. How many times have I come across senior managers that did not have the best track record for results, but nailed presentations and knew the company speak.

2) Communicating well is crucial to advancement. Closely related to the first point, I noticed that most ascending managers had one things in common; they were great communicators. Being a good communicator is a combination of being assertive, yet diplomatic. They are articulate, yet charismatic. Most importantly, they are very persuasive.

3) You need a mentor in upper management. If you want to advance, it is really important you warm up to someone highly regarded in the company who will take you under their wing. This person will teach you the ropes, protect you, promote your work and look at you as their protege. That is the downside of moving jobs, sometimes you lose that protection. My own career has immensely benefitted from being in with the right people.

4) It is OK to say “No”, but not too often. Your quality of life inside a company will depend on how well you manage telling people, “No”. That includes your peers and bosses. We all want to be helpful and nice, but at what cost? By pushing back and saying “no” at appropriate times, you are actually gaining the respect of your peers and superiors and setting some important boundaries. Next time they want to ask you to do something, they will think twice. However, say “no” too often and you can be labelled uncooperative.

5) Always be yourself. Don’t fake it just because you want to get ahead; you will regret it. It is tempting for us to put on facade in order to fit in and look the part. I have seen so many people do that. I had a boss that made it a daily ritual to tell me how “eccentric” I was. Looking back, I am very proud of the moments when I was myself and not proud of when I put on an act just to fit in. If you are working in the right place, being yourself will be your strongest asset.

Keep It Simple
Ivan