As a former art student, joining the herd of mainstream corporate North America is generally treated with a healthy dose of disdain. The idea that blending in with the “greys” and the “navy blues” of Bay street (or looking down at it from the fourteenth floor) will put us in this horrible hole of…well…”everyone else-ness.” I used to imagine the color from my vibrant retro, semi-indie, underground clothes slowly washing off my body, being replaced with this horribly well-tailored woman-suit with low-cut black heels. Ditching my natural twist-out for an expensive bob-cut. Actually clutching my pearls from cyclists at busy intersections. But after working in the “professional” world for some time I’ve come to realize that it’s possible to retain your sense of self. Here are some lessons I’ve learned about how to make the corporate world work for you while still maintaining your individualistic flare.
1. Find ways to assimilate your spunk into your work.
They hired you for a reason. You’re most likely young, vibrant, wildly opinionated, and are not weighed down by responsibilities and routines like most of your other “well seasoned” colleagues. Milk it.
2. Remember that although it’s “mainstream,” work is work no matter what.
A friend of mine brought up a valid point: whether you work at a coffee shop, in data analytics, or on a production set, work is work and EVERYONE wants to go home and veg out at some point. You might love it, but you’ll also love not having to do it — no matter how satisfying or fulfilling it may be. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need to decompress after a long day’s work.
3. Embrace it.
This generally applies across the board when it comes to anyone working a job totally outside of their interests. Use this opportunity as a springboard for growth. Sure, you’re answering phones in an HR benefits call centre and not selling your graphic art design for a living like you’d imagined, but when life gives you lemons…you know the rest. At least now you’ll know how to organize your finances, how major corporate companies are run, and how to gather some employable skills that might save your ass in the long run when your art fund runs a little dry.
I must have watched the first episode of Orange Is the New Black a zillion times, but what always gets me is Yoga Jones’ beautiful monologue to Piper about the “mandala.” Just remember that it’s all temporary. Make the most out of this experience. Learn all you can learn. Network as much as you can. Be courteous and professional, no matter who you speak to. You NEVER know who knows who and where a simple conversation can lead. And when it’s all over — that’s it. It’s all over. Wipe it away.
Rest assured there is someone else in your office just as anxious to leave as you are — we’ve all been there. Just go in to work with the saving knowledge that one day, your work will be recognized and that it DOES get better.