Almost ten years ago I found myself fresh out of university and eager to cut my teeth in the business world, but I wasn’t so sure as to what I wanted to do. It wasn’t soon after graduating that I started to wish I had studied a course that would lead me down a specific path (such as medicine or architecture) instead of studying something as broad as business. Regardless, I knew I had to get my foot in the door of a corporate firm and get some experience as soon as possible. To be honest, I didn’t so much care where I was going to work, nor what position I would go for; I just knew I had to start and figure it out from there.
I eventually was hired as an administrative assistant for a large multinational company, and while it wasn’t a dream job, it did give me the opportunity to familiarise myself with the company’s culture. This would eventually open doors for my promotion and transfer to another department, as thankfully this company was fond of recruiting internally. My time as an admin assistant allowed me to gain a holistic view of the company. It was I who suggested that in order to streamline (reduce) my workload, we implemented a conference room display, making it easier for meeting attendees to navigate the sprawling offices as well as for the employees to view and book vacant rooms directly, rather than requesting the receptionist to. “Work smart, not hard”, was a motto I was once told, and I try to implement this into my working life.
Within a year I proceeded to apply to for a position within the R&D department. It too was entry level but would also give me the opportunity to see the workings of another department at the micro-level, and it turned out to be a motivating move. Everyday I was enthralled with the discussions that took place and the creativity involved to design new products and improve upon the current lineup. I was able to take my work ethic to another level because I felt passionately about what I was working towards. It was stimulating and rewarding in many ways. A shuffle in the hierarchy above me meant that I was eligible for promotion just over a year later, which I grabbed with open arms.
After spending six years in the R&D department and a few promotions later, I had hit a wall. I needed a change in environment and applied to work as an expat abroad, albeit still with the same company. This was the shock I needed, and spending three years abroad allowed me to realign myself. It allowed me to refocus and do a bit of soul-searching – so much so that when I got back I was on the verge of quitting. But as luck would have it, another opportunity presented itself, and I was able to become senior management within my territory; a position I still hold today.
For those who are looking to start, or are working their way up the “corporate ladder”, my advice is not to look too hard. Sometimes the best opportunities are presented when you take a step back. If you are unsure of what you want to do, try anything, because you never know you may grow to have an interest in or find a hidden talent within yourself. Work smart and dedicate time to learning – this will give you a different perspective compared to others who don’t have this mentality, and can surely open doors for you.