6 things I’ve learned in 6 months of corporate life

To pick up where I left off on my last post, I’ll quote Maya Angelou yet again: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Unfortunately, busyness has been acting like a morphine martini garnished with a Vicodin-stuffed olive when it comes to that pain. As much as I’ve had a story to tell, I’ve been sloughing off my blogtorial duties for the last six weeks without much shame. A bit of internal nagging, perhaps, but I’m sure I haven’t become a monster a la the Snickers commercials that claim “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Charlize Theron in Monster holding a gun
“Write a blog post. You’ll feel better.”

Between getting settled into a job and moving into the heart of the Windy City, there’s been little to no downtime in the last few weeks. But as I sit here and look out the window of my 20th-floor high rise just east of the Magnificent Mile, I’ve concluded that sacrificing Blog Time for Moving Time was acceptable, if not necessary. And as Working Time was necessary to afford Moving Time, I’ve written myself a pass for that, too.

After months of mentioning how I moved on to a different job — and essentially lifestyle — I’m finally ready to start writing about it. I don’t want to mention what company I work for, even though my next blog post (wink wink) will make it rather clear, and anyone worth their Twitter or LinkedIn stalking ability could figure out where I’ve ended up. Figuring out how corporate communications works, from the approvals processes to the lexicon of acronyms and jargon I have to decipher on a daily basis, has been a job in itself, and I’ve learned a lot from it. After all, what’s a Mizzou grad who doesn’t learn hands-on?

Here’s a list of things I’ve gleaned from living la vida corporate for the last six months:

1. Age diversity matters, especially as Gen Y with a Netflix account. One of my colleagues is about to retire and has served in the military’s press during Vietnam, covered crime in Seattle (he gets invited to be on 48 Hours once in a while) and written two bestselling biographies on Bill Gates. Gay Talese’s daughter was his handler while on book tour, and he won an award presented to him by Sally Kellerman, the actress who played Hotlips Houlihan in M*A*S*H*. My manager was a professional skydiver and has done more than 400 jumps and survived landing in the middle of a French minefield. Twice.

After working for a company where my coworkers were all my age or close  which, to be fair, resulted in a few great friendships that I wouldn’t trade for the world  it’s refreshing to work with people who have more to say than “Did you finish Orange is the New Black‘s new season yet?” Now I’m the one who does that, and to avoid sounding like the Netflix-miopic millennial subject I wrote about ad nauseum for Chief Learning Officer, I’m forcing myself to have more meaningful experiences and hobbies than consuming 13 episodes of House of Cards in a single weekend.*

*Which I did shamelessly, regardless.

2. Newsrooms exist outside of the journalism world. I’m one of the fortunate souls who sits in a “fishbowl” environment an open setting with low cubicle walls and TVs displaying CNN all day so I can keep up with the presidential race, breaking gun violence news and whichever musical genius 2016 decides to kill off next (Prince? Really? How are Ozzy Osbourne and all the Rolling Stones still alive, but we lose Prince and Bowie in the same year?). It’s more like a newsroom than the magazine offices I worked in, and our team balances camaraderie with productivity in a way that keeps us entertained as well as engaged. You know, a newsroom.

I’ve seen the Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel offices, and while ours is roomier and includes cubes with enough floor space for me to lie down and take a nap in (not saying I have or haven’t), there isn’t much of a difference when it comes down to desktop monitors, dogeared AP Style handbooks and grammar reminders tacked onto what little cubicle panel space exists.

3. Print-dreams aren’t pipe-dreams in a corporate setting.  I actually get to write for a magazine that’s printed and read on paper, and how many journalists can really say that? Granted, every word has to be approved by the powers that be, but I can live with that in return for writing articles accompanied by formatting and photography reminiscent of National Geographic. I’ve gotten to write about space, and that’s just scratching the surface of my first story for the magazine. Again, more on that at a later date. Like next week.

4. You can get a better Breaking News High from within the story. My favorite part of working at a newspaper was the ego-boost euphoria of Breaking News Highs (BNHs). As a corporate communicator, I get to do that a lot more often than I used to at a niche trade magazine, and there’s a lot more stress put on getting it out as soon as it’s confirmed. My audience is a corporation, and they expect leadership to communicate news first, so there’s still a sense of competition with the “other guy” in that the “other guy” is the media I used to work for. That said, being in internal corporate communications does give me a bit of an advantage.

5. Being a communicator doesn’t mean you can write. And thank god that’s true, because that’s why I have a job as an editor for four company publications. I’ll probably get tired of reminding people that “leverage” is a noun, not a verb, and that there should never be two quotes right next to each other in an article, but for now each little tweak reminds me (and the communications team) why they hired me.

6. Tall women can — and should — wear heels. Seems superficial, but there’s a deeper meaning here. Since middle school I’ve been 5-foot-7, which means I grew up towering over most of the boys in my class until puberty caught up to them. Thanks to the world’s insistence that women be shorter than their male partners, I subsequently strayed away from wearing high heels, even through college when most guys were taller than me. Flash to almost three (really? three already?) years after college graduation, and I’ve finally decided that heels aren’t a matter of fashion but a matter of confidence. I work with a number of tall, gorgeous women who kick the ass out of their job while wearing 4- or 5-inch heels. No petty middle or high school feelings allowed — when anyone hears us click-clacking down the halls in sleek black stilettos, they know we mean business and will go to any heights to accomplish it.

I’m only six months in, but I work with people who have been with the company five times that long. Who knows if I’ll join their long-term ranks, but wherever the journey takes me, I’m definitely off to a flying start.

There. Got that off my brain’s hard drive. Better?

Rita (Charlize Theron) in Arrested Development gets her prize chocolate
“Better!”
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