4 lessons corporate america taught me that have benefited me as an entrepreneur

Although I haven't discussed my "past life" very often on the blog, what I used to do before I became a photographer is a huge part of who I am not only as a person but also as an entrepreneur. 

I described in bit more detail what I used to do in my post a few weeks ago about how it's OK to have a 9-5 job, but to sum it up, I received a Master's Degree in Human Resources and I worked at a small company and also a very large company in that field for almost ten years. For the most part, I highly enjoyed my work. 

Obviously, working in corporate america and running your own business are two VERY different experiences, but throughout these past few years, I've discovered that my previous work experience has benefitted me immensely in my venture into entrepreneurship. 

For those of you still working in corporate america while also having your side hustle...don't underestimate how beneficial that job can be for you. In addition to providing financial stability, you are learning many lessons that can greatly benefit you as a small business owner. 

And if you have never worked in corporate america and have no idea what it's like, well, hopefully through this post you can learn a little bit about it from this post in a way that will ALSO benefit you as a small business owner! 

Sense of urgency

Urgency is a big "buzz word" in corporate america. When you are attempting to create initiatives, move projects forward or implement change in a large corporate environment, you simply don't have time to approach situations without a sense of urgency. 

Time management, productivity, quick follow up, efficient workflow, networking, clear communication and strategic thinking are all aspects that make up this sense of urgency and if you begin to slack on any of them YOU might be the roadblock to making a deadline or completing a task. 

Anyone who has been in business for themselves for any length of time understands that all of those things listed above also fall into the realm of your everyday life as an entrepreneur. And to make matters even more "urgent", YOU are the one responsible for all of it and keeping the business alive. In a corporate setting, you can be out of the office for weeks on end and everything will continue moving forward without you. In your own business that is certainly not always the case.

Learning these skills in a corporate setting has contributed greatly in preparing me for the daily stresses of keeping things afloat. 

You need other people to get stuff done

  • The proposal is almost done but the Sr. VP is out of town for the next two days and you need his sign off to complete.
  • Joe from accounting won't respond to your email and you need his answer before you talk to your boss about the project you are working on.
  • You get the blue screen of death on your computer and can't do any work until IT can get it fixed. 

Working in corporate america is ALL ABOUT working with other people and being able to navigate the tricky waters of balancing objectives and priorities in order to get things done. 

Learning how to talk to people, learning efficient ways to communicate and learning how to compromise are all skills that you hone and perfect while working in corporate america. 

Any wedding photographer who has worked with other wedding vendors or has put on a styled shoot understands how important these skills are. 

No one is an island. We need to work with other people in order to get things accomplished. The number of experiences I have had throughout my "working life" have taught me SO much about how to work with other people in order to achieve my entrepreneurship goals. 

IT'S not all about you

Well if that isn't the anti-21st century statement then I don't know what is. We live in a society where we have elevated the self to the point of lunacy. Have you ever worked with someone who thought the whole business would fall apart if they were to up and quit? *raising hand* I have! And it's always ridiculous. Things might be rough for a couple of days and some deadlines might get missed, but at the end of the day (<---corporate slang) everything will go on. 

Self-employment is not innocent in this. Sometimes when we are working so hard to "build our brand" and support our dreams we forget that being in business is not alllll about us and how smart we are or how much money we want to make. An entrepreneur that is totally self-serving will likely not be an entrepreneur for long. Recognizing that there is a bigger purpose to business is essential. 

In a corporate setting, the company is the focus. It's what employees rally around. Its what employees become proud of. What the company stands for and how it gets the job done are priority number one (or, they should be...but that is a  conversation for another day.) Employees enjoy being aligned with a mission or vision they agree with. In a lot of cases it's what keeps them coming to work day after day. 

You may be self-employed but you should still stand for something that is bigger than you. Sure, it may be based on your own personal morals/beliefs or passions but if your business is only about you then you will likely struggle to grow or move forward with your business. 

Those days when everything thing seems so hard and nothing is working and it feels like the world is against you, if all you have to lean on is yourself, you'll crumble. 

lessons learned from corporate america

Comparison is not unique to any one industry or job

If you take anything away from this post, this is the most important. It doesn't matter what industry you are in, what sort of job you do, if you work for someone else, if you work for yourself, if you don't work at all....comparison exists where people exist. Let me say that again.

Comparison exists where people exist. 

In the creative industry there is a LOT of focus on this and a lot of talk about not comparing yourself to others and her success is not your failure and lighting someone else's flame doesn't extinguish your own (is that how it goes?) and I think we tend to forget that these feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt happen in all walks of life. My co-worker getting a promotion that I also desperately want doesn't diminish the fact that my promotion might be happening in a few other months. 

Comparison is not necessarily a bad thing either. We need comparison to get a relative sense of where we are in relation to what we want to or what is POSSIBLE to accomplish. Its only when you start to elevate the comparison and give it priority over other things that are going on in your life that things start to head downhill. 

Be alert. Be conscious of those feelings and if and when they come, ground yourself in what it is YOU are personally trying to accomplish and then go from there. You can't avoid these feelings by working a corporate job (or working no job) so it's best to confront them head on and then get back to work.