My University has a great career center and the year I graduated, 8,246 years ago, tons of companies had significant on-campus recruiting efforts; I was lucky enough to get hired as a change management consultant.
However, this is not a story about the job market or how to get hired off campus, it’s the story of what happens after that… when you not only take your first corporate job, but also lose yourself, bit by bit, as you climb the corporate ladder.
Days before I started my job, I cut off all of my long hair, bought “appropriate” shoes, and invested big bucks in the dress code of coordinated suits and stockings. I put on my costume each day to go to work and one morning I woke up and realized it was no longer a costume, but a part of who I am. I judged people as pulled together (or not) by their appearance and of course the closer they mirrored my own, the bigger the thumbs up.
I bought into the organization culture hook, line and sinker and enjoyed time with “my people” doing work that mattered. One summer, I went on vacation with my family, was telling them about my work and they didn’t get it. It was as if we were living in different solar systems and not different cities.
That’s when it hit me… I no longer saw the world the same way. The radical, innovative, risk-taking me had settled into corporate life. I changed, but not on purpose.
Seven Signs You’ve Lost (Parts of) Yourself as You Climb the Corporate Ladder:
Sign #1: You tell your spouse you’re working on the deck (on your computer, not outside)
Sign #2: Your smartphone gets more cuddle time than your significant other.
Sign #3: You’re pretty sure that values are something that go on the break room wall.
Sign #4: You think bringing your whole self to work means tolerating personal pictures in people’s cubicles and offices.
Sign #5: You only think in “big picture” and need “your people” to take care of the details.
Sign #6: You see challenging the status quo as the equivalent of tendering your resignation
Sign #7: When you meet someone at a party and are asked what you do, you immediately share your title because that tells them everything they need to know.
Now that you’ve seen some of the signs, and are saying, “Holy crackers! (Or maybe something a little less polite) That’s me!” What’s happens now?
For most people, they can’t pinpoint the moment they decided that the job is their life and life is the job. If it happened to you, you’re not alone. It happens to people making the corporate climb and to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to keep up with the competition.
It’s as if we’re all in one big office together, running on our hamster wheels. Look left and look right, we’re all running. It’s logical that it’s what we’re supposed to do to survive. But think back to when you started – didn’t you want more than that? To survive? I’ll bet you wanted to make your mark and to thrive.
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