10 Ways to Excel in a Large Corporation

positionignitionlogoSo many of us start our working life in large corporations. They need individuals straight out of full time education to “fill the hopper” and to grow their talent, with the expectation that many of these people will stay with them and contribute a huge amount over many years.

That is what is on offer for many people and if it attracts you, what are the ways in which you can excel in this environment?

  1. Know the business. If your organization is large, how large? What are the variables that you’ve established that make it so? Your chosen variables might include turnover, which countries the company operates in, the range of products and services it offers and so on. Why is the organization large? Is it large through organic growth and acquisition of companies like it, meaning it does the same thing over and over again? Is it experiencing similar growth but by growing in different markets, with growth and acquisition of different types of organization? You need to gather this baseline information before you can know and understand the large corporation you’ve joined.
  2. Potential opportunities. Gaining a good understanding of the business will help you to understand why it is structured the way that it is. This will give you a better chance of understanding also where it is likely to be going in the future. This is a future that you may want to share with your organization.  The more you appreciate this, the better it may be for you.
  3. Stay curious. It’s a common belief that we lose our curiosity about 6 weeks into a new job or new organization. The evidence is based on how quickly we get seduced into believing that the way things are OK just because that’s the way they are. When you stay curious for longer you continue asking the questions: “Why is something like that?” “Why is this process like that?” “Why do things this way?” And although somebody asking “Why?” can become a bit of a pain sometimes, it is such an important question when trying to change things and excel. That is a fundamental characteristic of successful people in large organizations.
  4. Keep your radar on. If you keep your eyes and ears open, if you follow on the web what is happening, if you spot potential new project or job opportunities, if you listen or overhear something interesting about a change within your team, you are answering this question to yourself: “what can this organization do for me?” It is much more satisfying staying in a large corporation where you are proactive in pursuit of what you want to do rather than being passive and ending up only doing what you are told to.
  5. Building relationships. Nurture your relationship with your boss. At any time in your career, your boss is the most important person in your life. “Oh no they’re not,” I hear you think, “That is my spouse or partner.” Not so. Persistently it is your boss who can make your world a great place or a lousy place. If you form a good relationship with your boss in the moment, it’ll make a huge difference to how you feel and how you contribute. It’s not just about this boss though; there are other key people in the world of work. You will want to find out about them and to nurture those relationships too. It could be a senior colleague in your team, it could be a peer colleague of your boss, it could be a HR manager or director.
  6. Learn what works. In any large corporation there is a way of going about things, and they’re likely to be quite simple things too. Turn up on time for meetings. Be prepared for those meetings by sending out regular weekly reports bang on time. Whatever it may be, learn what works and learn what gets you noticed. What are the things that you will do just so you make progress within the organization? Also recognize that there are things that the best performers within a business do in order to get them noticed. If you can pick up on these people’s behaviours, you can also replicate them.
  7. Put yourself forward. In large corporations, opportunities present themselves on quite a regular basis. If nothing you like comes towards you, check that there is enough white space on the organizational chart for you to move into, things that could be done if only someone had the bandwidth to do them. Be brave. Speak to people around you to get them to understand how you could help, how you could undertake specific tasks or projects; in other words, go the extra distance. In doing so, show commitment, your keenness and that you have the capacity to do more than you’re doing in your current job. That’s why candidates for promotion get into the position where they’re candidates.
  8. Identify a mentor. Sponsorship is so important in large corporations. Large corporations tend to move slower than small ones. That’s not a criticism; it’s just a way of life. In order to manoeuvre your way through a large corporation, part of how you excel is what support you have from the right type of sponsors and mentors. If you haven’t got one, get one; if you have got one, get more. These people are important to you—don’t underestimate the influence they can have for you.
  9. Are you going deeper or going wider? At some point in your career, you are going to reach this point where you will need to decide whether you choose to become more of an expert in your field, and therefore go deeper in that probably technical area, or whether you choose to stay wider and become more of a manager executive generalist. When you know what you want to do, you can adopt a plan to excel on whichever of the two tracks is your chosen one. What can quite often happen in large corporations is that you’re going down the technical track when suddenly you appear in a managerial job, with high technical knowhow and low experience of running teams. This is not always a happy place and it’s not a place where one can easily excel. You will have choice and you need to think it through.
  10. Learning. If you’re not fully committed to your ongoing learning you will not excel, neither in your career generally nor in your corporation in particular. Thorough learning has two elements to it. The first is that which will be sponsored by your boss, allowing you to attend conferences, go on training programmes and so on. You want to address these things because this is important investment in you. In some ways this is insignificant to the second element, and that is the learning that you do off your own bat, with nobody telling you what to read, what to explore, what to think. This is learning that you do for yourself because you know it is part of your own growth and your own development for your career. If you want to excel in a large corporation, all of these factors are going to come into play. No single one of them is a single bullet; all of them will make a difference to you.

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