When I was in school, I excelled at my work. I graduated at the top of my engineering class in college. When I was offered a great job with a generous starting salary, everyone assumed that I would shine in the corporate environment as well.
They were wrong.
This is what I quickly learned—in college, the more you put in, the more you got out. If you studied harder, you got better grades. If you wrote your paper a week ahead of time, you had free time to hang out with friends. If you took notes in class, it made the homework easier. In other words, the more work you put in, the better results you got out.
Then I made it to the corporate world. After being buttered up for 20 years in a school system full of grades and achievement awards, the corporate world put all that to a stark halt. Now all of a sudden, the harder you worked, the more work they gave you. If you got your project done ahead of time, you were assigned another project. If you stayed later one night, they’d ask you to stay the next night. If you gave a great presentation, you’d be put in charge of other presentations. It was never ending. There was no motivation to ever do more than the minimum amount. You never received any rewards—grades, money, vacation, etc—to work harder, so I didn’t.
In addition, when I looked up the corporate ladder and didn’t see anyone living the life that I wanted to have, I knew I didn’t have anything at all to strive for. I didn’t want to be a project director or district manager. I definitely didn’t want to be a company executive and have my headshot hung on the “Wall of Old White Guys” (as I liked to call the photo gallery of company CEOs in the company’s main building). Truthfully, some people might be highly motivated by their bi-weekly paycheck, but that wasn’t me for some reason. I felt like I was making all this money so I could buy all this nice stuff that I could never appreciate because I was always at work.
As you can tell, the corporate environment didn’t work at all for me. For a while, I felt bad about this. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t know why my office mate was voluntarily staying late and working weekends when I was desperately praying that the 5 o’clock hour would come sooner that day than the last. I couldn’t figure out why the people around me seemed…dare I say…happy. They seemed happy! Or at the very least, content. While all along, I’m in a pit of despair frantically plotting my way out of this white-walled hell I somehow got myself into.
If you feel similar to this (maybe you’re not as dramatic), you might be wondering the same thing: “What’s wrong with me??” Let me tell you something: NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with you. The corporate environment was not designed for people, it was designed for profit. If you don’t feel at home there, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, there’s just something wrong with the system. Many times, creative and self-motivated people don’t do well in this system. That’s nothing to be ashamed about. Yes, you are different than the people around you, but it’s time to embrace it. Accept that a 9-to-5 is not for you and start making plans to move onto greener pastures.
Photo credit: Photo by HORT https://www.flickr.com/photos/hort/ License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/