If someone had asked me when I was a student intern about how I was being perceived at work, I would have shrugged it off and told them it was irrelevant. I was a student, and my coworkers knew that, so I didn’t care one way or another. Not surprisingly, I used to dress for work in mainly neon leggings and ugg boots, and had a different coloured hoodie for every day of the week–I actually cringe while admitting that. All I can say now is: thank god I went to business school.
Two of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned at school, I took away from my masters program, and they are as follows:
- it’s not what you know, it’s who you know (but more on that another time).
- dress (and work) for the job you want, not the job you have.
Despite the fact that I knew that I had no concrete future with my previous employers (I was working on 4-month terms–more on that here), I made no effort to get to know my coworkers. In fact, I practically dodged them in the hallways. I thought it pointless to get to know people that I’d likely never see or speak to again, and I felt that I had nothing in common with the ‘corporate monkeys’ who dressed in suits every day. Oh Erica, you were so, so wrong. But my, how wise I’ve grown in these past few years!
I came into my current job determined to change my philosophy on being employed. No longer was work just a necessity for making rent and pleasing my mentors. If success in my career was something I really wanted, I was going to have to live it more than 9-5, Monday to Friday. I was going to have to talk to my superiors, befriend my coworkers, and participate in my office’s culture. I also came to realize that my motivation is not something that can be turned on during the work day, and off at night–it doesn’t just go away like that. Since I wanted to see tangible results from my hard work, and break out of mediocrity, I did what any crazy, overly-educated ex-student who’s faced with reality does–I threw out my ugg boots, I banished my tights to the closet, and I discovered that office attire is kind of awesome.
And then, something else happened. I got promoted. After less than three months at my first post-grad job, I am now being moved to another department with about a bazillion new opportunities and possibilities. I might be tooting my own horn here a bit, but I’m just so excited that this has happened, and it feels unbelievable to see my dedication pay off. I always knew that it would, but I envisioned a timeline more along the lines of 3-5 years to be able to make the interdepartmental transition. As luck would have it, a niche position came up, and my name popped onto my boss’ desk for a reference.
So what can I take away from this, other than the fact that I need to celebrate with a pair of new dress pants from Banana Republic? (2008 Erica is gagging at that statement). Well, although my determination paid off quickly this time around, I can’t exactly change my expectations for the future. If I remind myself that this sort of quick-action is the exception, not the rule, I’ll definitely save myself a lot of frustration and desperation down the line. But what I do want to keep in mind for next time is that it’s important to always be on your A-game. It’s hard to predict when chance opportunities might arise, but when they do, I want my name to be the one that comes up. I know this is true for my industry, and I’m sure it’s true for so many others as well.
So for everyone out there who has big dreams, please do me a favour the next time you feel like you’ve reached a goal-plateau, or you’re not getting what you want. Get up from your couch/office chair/wherever, go to your closet, pick up the ugg boots of yester-year, and get rid of ‘em! I know it’s tough to let go of what’s comfortable, but I promise it’ll pay off. In the meantime all you can do is work hard, be proud of what you do, and go shoe shopping, because suddenly you’ve got a whole lot of empty space in your closet!