Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lessons on Employment

I figured that since many of us will be at some point entering the working world this post would be appropriate:

For the last four months I've been working at my co-op position at a fairly large corporation. The latter half of those two months was filled with many attempts to outperform others and beat standards set by myself. For once in my life, I can see how it is possible that one's work can consume one's personal time. I haven't been able to post lately because I've been prioritizing my work responsibilities ahead of just about everything else. I can tell you it is hard to actually do well in a job, especially in a place where there are hundreds of people who are older, more experienced, and have a better sense of the "bigger picture".

For example, if I were to not sound stupid in a conversation with my boss, it would involve a dizzying amount of knowledge just to keep up. I have to keep on top of current market movements, social-economical trends in the US and Canada, monetary and fiscal policies, competitor actions/reactions, and all the good ol' textbook knowledge you learn in school. It's tough. The hardest part is even with all that knowledge, if you can't synthesize it, and derive some sort of meaningful conclusion that you can present in a sharp and succinct way, all that effort is wasted.

It's impossible to keep up with that kind of demand within your daily 9-5, I guess that's why managers tend to be at work for around 10-12 hours a day just so they can be on top of everything, that is to say, the good managers at least. For me on the other hand, I just wanted to imprint my image on the minds of the people I worked with, because I know, 1 or 2 years from now when I graduate, I'm going to need a little help from somebody I worked for in the past to get me in the door.

Lesson 1: Networking - knowing the right people in the right places will get you farther than knowing a lot.

With working at this establishment, I've grown to meet a lot of people. Upon meeting them, you can tell right away whether that person or not will "move up the ladder". The reason why I put quotes around that phrase is that on occasion, people are "moved up" not based on merit, but based on other non-value-added criteria. I'm not saying those people won't do a good job, but what I am saying is that much like colleges and universities, corporations in themselves promote "diversity" and "equality" and hence there are quotas to meet. People that are moved up because of random chromosome pairings usually don't get very far, because the people that go to the top are committed to getting there and are willing to sacrifice a lot of things to get there. Take for example: those who move up work harder and longer than their bosses.

Lesson 2: Determination - Show up earlier than your boss and leave later, nothing says you're a trooper than making your boss feel bad.

Throughout the last four months, I've sat through a lot of meetings. Some of which were exciting, others of which were not so much. You know when you watch The Office and see some of those frivolous meetings about diversity and what not and laugh about them - that's because they really do happen. :p

At any rate, what I've noticed is that it doesn't matter how well you know your information, if you can't communicate it then you're a pretty useless asset to the company. You may be the smartest person in the world, but if you can't convince a group of your co-workers that the idea is viable than it will not be implemented.

So: Lesson 3: Flash - If you can sell useless knickknacks on the street, then you can sell the best ideas to your boss.

Many people were told a variant of this story by their peers, their parents and even society in general:

Go to school.
Do well.
Go to college.
Do well.
Get a good job because the last 20 years of your life have been spent on doing well.

The word "good" is italicized because it's meant to be said with a pejorative tone. I'm not being cynical in anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of career paths that the above story is partially true. Take for example, a doctor, I can foresee that the above story is quite applicable to them, but at some point when you're in a large organized body, such as a hospital, research firm or government, those very same above principles should apply. I guess my final thought to summarize this up is this:

Don't focus all your efforts on being brilliant and ignore your environment, because it is your environment that dictates what's brilliant.

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)


At 7:01 PM, Blogger Joshua Hwang said...

Hey Danny,

Good to see you around again, I was getting a little worried about you.

Nice post! I agree that we need some perspective on our skills and life in general, but I'm a bit confused about lesson #3 and how it does or does not relate to doctors, etc. If you could elaborate, that would be peaches.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Joshua Hwang said...

Oh, and I thought of you when I read a post from IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, maybe you can get a free book out of your adventures

Book Review: The Brazen Careerist

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Danny Dang said...

#3 would be instead of your ability to convince people to do things, it would be your ability to teach things.

Think about it, if you're a fancy neurosurgeon and come up with some fancy head trauma technique that reduces the risk of brain damage, but you can't teach it, than it's only a viable technique while you're alive.

Further, #3 also goes onto your ability to persuade people to take on risks that could save their lives. In business, you need to be able to convince others your ideas are good, in medicine, not everyone is receptive to advice.

Plus there's also bedside manner.

I guess, you could be a very successful doctor by being very gifted at your specialization. However, if other doctors don't like you, than you'll find that people's agendas will always be against you.

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