I know that you’re smart, and that you’ll figure these things out eventually. However, I want you to grab opportunities that will save you years of grinding at the office. So here’s my advice for you.
1. Exposure matters. It’s not about how hard you work. Sit in your little cubicle from 5am till 10pm all you want. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Instead, look for the high visibility projects, schedule meetings with higher-ups and talk to them about the work you’re doing, chat with people so they can get to know your charming self, and attend happy hours and drink your Sprite away. These are the things that count in corporate America.
2. Be confident. Keep your chin up. Trust me, people won’t swallow you. I’ve been at the company long enough to see that Tyler who is now a Director in a corner office was just a glorified Analyst the other day. So why are you intimidated by them? Granted, they have experience that you don’t have, but remember, like our African parents always say, they don’t have two heads.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even “dumb” questions. Just say something like, “my understanding is that seafood okra is heaven in a bowl, but what I’m hearing is that it’s a bowl of sumptuous goodness only if jumbo shrimps are in it. Am I missing something? Is my understanding correct?” You see how intellectual that ridiculous question sounded? Believe me when I say, people won’t bite you.
Our African parents taught us not to talk directly to our elders. It worked then within our culture, but it’s time to unlearn that behavior if we want to advance in corporate America. So you have my permission – go talk to Mr. Luke! Like today! Set up a meeting on his calendar. Subject? “Brief chat”. Meeting description? “I haven’t had the chance to chat with you in a while. I’d like to bring you up-to-speed on the projects I’ve been working on”. Watch him accept that meeting invite within two seconds. You’re welcome.
3. Jump at opportunities bigger than you. Fake it till you make it, if you need to. I’ve been in meetings with many directors and VPs to realize that sometimes, they too B.S. their way through things.
Recently, I had a photo session shot by my brother. As a pro photographer, he often has people training under him. So on this day, Ugonna (not the actual name) was the trainee. She was so sweet and would help hold up the lights, carry our bags, and do any type of busy work. Then it came time for her to shoot, and I was excited on her behalf until I saw her nervousness… “I can’t do this,” “the pictures won’t come out right,” “I don’t trust what I’m doing”…
Dear Ugonna, just fake it, girl! Fake it till you make it! Click away on that camera. Move back, jump up, scoot down, lay on the floor…just keep faking it until the pictures eventually turn out right. Girl, this is your opportunity! Run with it. Ask questions. Watch tutorials. Make assumptions. Then ask some more questions. You don’t get to learn directly from a pro everyday, and handle a camera more expensive than a house.
Do you get the correlation? Jump at the opportunity to lead that task or write that memo or present at the next client meeting. You will do just fine!