10 Lessons I Should Have Learned Before Starting My First High-Profile Job.

To my 22-year-old self.

Walking into the great publishers’ headquarters was like a dream. Everywhere was perfect. Not up to how I fantasized it to be. But not too far below, either. The compound was quiet. The plants were green and in blossom. Outside had the tranquility of seclusion. Inside had the careful knit of intentionality. I was happy to be there. Just grateful to have been invited for an interview. That was the beginning. Here are the lessons.


1. Your hero doesn’t have to be powerful, rich, or famous. They can be a little known writer whose work you stumbled across in a pile of old books you found in an old study. But when you are asked to write about them, whether known or unknown, tell the story truthfully and happily. Paint your hero beautifully for others to fall in love with them also, because in spite of your talent, you get the job by acknowledging those who were there before you, and highlighting lessons you learned from them.

2. When your hands are shaking, and your heart, along with other organs in your body begin to vibrate unrhythmically, dab some water on your face and declare, “I deserve to be here. I deserve this role and organization. My social background does not make me unworthy of attention. I have a voice and a message to communicate to the world. I deserve to stand on this platform. I’ve earned this. I should enjoy this.”


3. Pay is the amount you earn for contributing your skills and talents to help an organization achieve its vision and mission. And it comes in the form of a set amount of money, retirement plan contribution, medical care, et cetera. It shouldn’t come as a seat at the table, a staff I.D card, an invitation to social events or an opportunity to speak. So, get a grip on your gratefulness for the opportunity, and negotiate for what your contribution is worth.

4. In a matter of days, the office gossips, social climbers, credit thieves, office bully, and lobbyists, will circle around you to introduce themselves one by one. Pay attention to who they say they are, and what the true organizational culture is. Then, navigate that political environment by practicing these strategies by Forbes.


5. If you are ever at the point where pasting a smile on your face, over makeup, no longer works, what you will do is take days off to deal with your domestic issues, or other personal situations. But what you will not do is vent to HR, or colleague you think you are friends with. Or in a matter of days, your personal life will be dissected, analyzed, contorted and disseminated, and you will be judged and treated poorly for a very long time.

6. After resuming a job, two months is the maximum amount of time you should walk in to the office screaming, “I am poor!”, because your personal brand matters a lot, and will determine the kind of opportunities that you are given. For that reason, start laundering your image as soon as possible, and make efforts to show people where you are and where you want to be, through what you wear and how you groom yourself.


7. It may be hard to acknowledge, but your colleagues are your competition. They may be working with you as teammates, some may actually be people you play with outside work, but they are also people who are actively seeking out, sometimes harmful, ways to clinch for themselves limited growth opportunities in the organization. Be aware of this dynamic in your relationships and look out for yourself.

8. Route your ideas to the right decision makers, no matter how much the idea of approaching them terrifies you, or the size of barrier that’s been erected to stop you from gaining access to them. Your growth and promotion depends on this. And it doesn’t matter if your voice shakes a lot when you’re sharing your thoughts, or your inner critic thinks your ideas aren’t worth much. Share them anyway during meetings and one-on-one meets. Remember, credit and idea thieves are always plotting out ways they can take ownership of other people’ ideas.


9. Respect your bosses, but not in ways that erases your value as a person. Set boundaries. Assert your sine qua non. Show your force of personality. Express your giftedness and capacity for bigger contributions.

10. Your home life, innately, spills into your work life, and follows you everywhere you go, including good work environments. And where it is hostile and toxic, your work life is negatively impacted. However, the degree of impact depends on the amount of support you receive from other places. Therefore, set up your home life to be nurturing to you. Cleanse, leave, shut the door, do whatever is needed to make your life outside work peaceful and enjoyable, so that your life at work is easier and thriving.

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