Landing your first position at a major company with thousands of employees can be a daunting experience, even if it’s not your first job in general. Coming from a smaller company with a more familiar atmosphere and family-like relationships between the employees can be a huge shock, especially if the position is more demanding and you expect that there will be a lot of focus on your performance in the beginning.
Pay Attention to Office Politics
The most important point you’ll want to cover is to become familiar with the way office politics usually work. Despite the fact that the company will probably give you tons of guidelines on appropriate relationships and other similar details, you’ll quickly come to learn that there is an invisible structure behind the social interactions in your office. Certain people will be considered significantly more important than others, even if their position within the organization does not indicate that, and you’ll want to patiently observe the way people communicate and go about their daily tasks to figure out those relationships.
This is not something you should openly discuss with your colleagues either, at least not at first. While you’ll want to gather as much information as possible, you shouldn’t come off as a gossipy stalker while doing it, as this will ruin your prospects in the company.
Avoid Taking Sides Early On
Expanding on that, you should also try to avoid putting yourself in potentially compromising positions, such as ones that may require you to take a side in a conflict between two high-ranking individuals. Even if you feel like you are on the “right” side, you should not make any risky moves like that until you know exactly whose toes you’re stepping on. Sometimes, people will surprise you with their pull within the company, and you don’t want to jeopardize your future chances in the organization in this manner.
Many people who’ve spent long years working for major corporations like to compare the environment to a high school for grownups, and that’s actually not too far off. There are many intricate details to the way you’ll be interacting with your colleagues that will make more sense if you look at them through this perspective.
Know How to Present Yourself Professionally
Another difference between a large corporation and a smaller company is the expectations people will have towards your behavior. There are various rules regarding how you should carry yourself in an environment like this, especially if you’re in a position that will have you frequently interacting with your colleagues. Understanding the various elements of professionalism – both the subtle ones as well as the more obvious points – can take some time if you’re new to this kind of environment. Unfortunately, lacking the appropriate knowledge in this regard can cost you a lot in certain situations, sometimes without even you realizing it.
Combine this with what we described above about the typical situation within a large company, and you’ll probably start to get the general idea. Always maintain a low profile until you’re sure what the implications of your actions are, and when in doubt, simply say/do nothing.
You’ll Need to Push Harder to Move Up
In a small company, it’s easier to be in the spotlight when you’re doing well. The tighter relationships with your colleagues and superiors mean that your achievements are recognized immediately and directly, and you can often even see the impact of your work on the company’s overall success.
Compared to that, a large company can be completely different and can feel alien and cold to those used to the family-like setting at smaller organizations. You may frequently do work that seems meaningless and redundant in the grand scheme of things, and even when you’re doing your best, you shouldn’t expect to be showered with praise and recognition. In fact, nobody may even notice you’re doing anything special at all unless you make it a point to demonstrate your value.
This means that you need to be much more active and engaged when it comes to seeking out promotions and recognition for your success, and this in turn relies heavily on having a good relationship with the right people, like we described above.
Don’t Be Afraid to Move – Externally or Internally
A common mistake that beginners make in this kind of environment is to get too attached to their colleagues and immediate team. Keep in mind that organizations like these are flexible, so losing you as an employee in a specific position will often not be critical in the long run, as long as you’ve given enough advance warning. On the other hand, you’ll occasionally spot an opportunity to transition into a different role within the organization, one that matches your skillset and aspirations much more closely.
You should take advantage of those opportunities instead of sticking to the people you’re used to working with simply because that’s where you started in the company. Don’t worry about your manager or colleagues being disappointed in your decision – the reality is that every single one of them would do the same given the chance. Or at least those who understand their market value.
The same goes for positions outside of the company, in a completely different organization. Hopping from one job to another every few years can actually be a very smart strategy for a number of different careers, including those in tech, and it’s the common approach for many people nowadays. Nobody with any experience in the industry is going to bat an eye at what you’re doing.
Your first few months will likely be the hardest. After that, you’ll hopefully have figured out who’s important and who isn’t, and will have at least a few strong relationships with people in the right positions. Moving forward after you’ve covered those basics can be a piece of cake if you’re good enough at your job, and in fact, this kind of environment tends to work better for people with certain attitudes and work ethics.