10 Strategies To Succeed In Corporate America Without Really Trying

I’ve spent the past 3 years working for a Fortune 500 Consulting firm. During this time I’ve observed not only my company’s corporate culture, but also that of three other fortune 500 corporations and one US Government agency each of which I consulted for. I was rated in the top 30% at my level the first year, and the top 5% my second year. (I left before third year ratings were announced due to grad school.)

These are the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and while you can probably apply this to other aspects of your life, it’s especially true in Corporate America.

1. Get your shit done (but avoid busy work)

  • The rest of these tips are useless if you don’t accomplish what’s asked of you.

2.  They’ll take as much as you’re willing to give them. Know when to say “no”. (Especially if it’s busy work)

  • If you always say yes to every request (work late every night, weekends, etc.) your boss will appreciate it, but they won’t respect you. Think about that girl/guy you dated who you could walk all over. You lost respect for them eventually and dumped em, same logic applies here.
  • At least 60% of your daily tasks should add value. Running an occasional photocopy is one thing, becoming someone’s personal photocopier is another. If it’ something stupid that you have to consistently do, figure out how to automate it or get out of doing it.

3. Under promise, over deliver

  • The more complex something is, the easier it is to overestimate it and then impress everyone. If you say something should take you 20 hours and you finish in 12, that’ll be more impressive then if you say something should take you 11 hours and you finish in 12. Make sure you’re not just slow. Don’t make it less then 50% of your estimate, or else you lose credibility.

4. Manage Expectations

  • Example: If you start answering emails within 5 minutes, you’ll never be able to take a lunch hour. If you answer within 30 or 45 minutes (which is usually reasonable), you’ll have more leeway

5. Don’t confuse responding to emails with getting work done

  • There will always be a fire, but don’t confuse the fires for the long term goals.

6. Take your hour lunch

  • It doesn’t matter how much work you do if nobody knows about it. And chances are, even if you’re done with everything, at most places you can’t leave until a set hour. You might as well take a break, enjoy lunch and build relationships with people who may be able to help you in a pinch.

7. Know when your personality is an asset, and when it’s a liability

  • When you’re working with people, talk about things other than work some of the time.Just don’t do it at the wrong time.

8.  Don’t be so busy doing work you forget to socialize

  • But don’t try to be super friendly with everyone, that’s fake and everyone will resent you for it. A realistic breakdown of work friends to acquaintances to people you should avoid is somewhere around 20% : 60% : 20%. If you haven’t figured out who to avoid, chances are it’s you.

9. Go out for drinks with your boss once a month

  • You don’t wanna be too buddy-buddy (there may be some exceptions) but you want your boss to know you’re an actual person and not some automaton that sits in front of a computer all day

10. Have an “in” with people at other departments, so you can learn things before they’re announced to the masses

  • You’re in a knowledge worker job, information is key, make sure you have unofficial sources to get a heads up when you need it

3 Bonus Strategies:

1.  Use power laws to your advantage

  • The 80/20 rule really applies to the workplace. 80% of your success comes from 20% of your effort. Identify that 20% and focus there.


2. Promote yourself without being obnoxious about it

  • This takes some time to figure out but you don’t wanna be “that guy” who always talks about how much work you have and how hard you work. At the same time, you want to make sure people notice your work. If you’re aware of this tendency, you’ll already be on the right track.

3. Be able to present like a normal human being and not a robot reading powerpoint slides

  • This only applies to certain jobs, but if you have to present to people, don’t read the slides. We’ll all hate you and will finish reading the slide before you’ve gotten to the second sentence

Have additional questions on this or other topics? Click here to learn about my mentoring services.

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