I’ve been gainfully employed for nearly four months, and I’m finally starting to understand a few truths about life inside a conglomerate. When you’re the new guy at a big company, the flowchart of power feels a little like one of those multi-piece Russian matryoshka dolls: you’d like to think you’re important, but if you were to peel away the layers, you’d find that you’re actually one of the tiny dolls hidden deep inside.
In my time at the office, I’ve learned a few things about the corporate life that seem pretty universal. So here are three pieces of advice for anyone about to start their first job in a new town:
1. Ask for a comfortable chair: Sure, it seems like an odd thing to do. And yes, it’s also a line out of “Jerry Maguire.” But if you’re starting life as a cubicle jockey, chances are you’ll be sitting more than you ever have in your life. Your chair might be the most important piece of furniture in your life.
2. Find a good mechanic: At some point, your car is going to break down. For me, the headlights on my car just stopped working a few weeks ago. And you do not want to go to a dealer to get the problem fixed. So if you’re moving to a new town, take a few minutes and find someone who won’t rip you off when your car breaks down. I’d recommend using the ‘Mechanic Files’ over at NPR’s “Car Talk” page. As an added benefit, this might just keep you sane when things go completely wrong.
3. When in doubt, ask: I’d worked at big companies before, but I’d never actually had to navigate a massive corporate bureaucracy before this job. So I’m learning that such places aren’t very good at keeping track of personnel. There’s a sign above the copier at work that speaks to this. “You may be essential,” it reads, “but that doesn’t mean you’re important.” It’s up to you to ask and to make sure that you don’t get lost in the bureaucracy.