My time with Nokia and Accenture is now over. I recently moved to a much smaller company called Contribyte. I've never been a career driven person as such, but I've still had the luxury to get in to some really interesting projects in my time with Nokia. What I mean, is that I've never made big plans about my career and I don't work to have career, but I actually work to enjoy work and have a decent income for my family. Still I've always got to better positions and bigger projects all the time. Based on what has worked for me, I wanted to share couple of thoughts and tips on how to survive in big companies.
First tip: You can't win all the fights
In big companies there's always bureacracy and processes, that you don't like or see the sense. Many of those will cause you some extra work and also are annoying. Don't waste your time trying to fix all of those. It's easier to agree with some of the processes which are not important for you and go with flow. Then on the other hand, fight the fights that are important for you. When you notice something that is really causing more harm than benefit, make noise about it. Try to understand for what purpose the process is there for the first place, and then try to invent better ways to fulfill the original need.
Second tip: Be consistent
In big companies, there are lots of busy people. Some of them are really busy, some of them are just busy being important. What's common for these people is that they don't truely listen. You can introduce important information or issue to them, but they ignore it, due to they are not really listening in the reception mode. They are just listening, because that's what people are supposed to do. So be consistent and even stubborn. Be sure that information or issue that is important in your opinion, gets truely understood by the ones, that need to understand it. If they then ignore the issue, that might be fine, but then at least they are aware and understand the issue.
And for some issues, you might want to raise noise with many channels. If you feel that issue is understood by those in responsible of it and still they don't act on it, you should raise the issue in other channels. One way is to go to their bosses, but that's a longer and harder way. Easier way is to use social channels of your company. Most of companies seem to have intra with blogs, discussion areas or some other social channels. Test your thinking there to see if others agree on the importance or not. If they do, then you have tools to raise it again or let others to do it.
If your issue or information don't make a change in the company, be a good loser. You are not in charge of the company, and you will not get all of your thoughts trough. Lift your head up and continue with next subjects.
Third tip: Learn the tools
This might be one of the most important things to loosen your stress at the office. Also this is the thing that is most complained at the office. The fact is, that some of the tools always suck. They just don't seem feasible for some tasks or are inconvienable to work with. The best thing you do, is to learn to use those. All the tools are easy to learn and those will actually have some features that make sense.
Learning to use company tools will make your days easier. It will also make you the person, who knows how to use tools and can help others on those. It's a win in the long run. So don't whine and fight against the tools, but just learn those.
Tip four: Be transparent
In big companies it's better to communicate to too many, than to too few. This will increase the email waste, but it will keep people happy. Those guys who complain that they are getting too much email, often love to get the email. They want to be aware and kept in loop. It's better to include even the guys who you know that might not be supporting your ideas quite early. That way they don't have the luxury at the end to start arguying that they wasn't aware of this. All the information will get to them at some point, so it's better to include them early than trying to hide information from them.
Tip five: Understanding is the key
This is not really related to big companies only, but it's more generic working guideline. Never work for items you don't understand. If you don't understand why you are doing something, seek for understanding as long as you do. That's the only way to get job properly done.
Be also willing to share understanding to all whom might ask and all you think would benefit from the information. This will help you to understand even more and it will make sure that they will share important information with you on the next time.
Tip six: Make friends
I have to say I hate networking on it's worse. Random people are gathering names and cards of random people. That's not real networking. What I mean is really making friends. Using few extra minutes with people will make a difference in the long run. Really listening and discussing with people will pay off. But you must be real. Everyone can detect a fake person, just networking with you, but you must really care about who the other is and what is her interests. That doesn't require lot's of time, but it requires you to care. Friends will help in big companies a lot, if you are planning to stay any longer.
Tip seven: Concentrate
In big companies you can get asked to do lots of work which are really not that important. Learn to detect what really makes a difference, which really are the tasks that needs to be done properly. Then the rest you can leave undone. I know, that in reality there are tasks you don't think are important, but you must for some political reason do. So learn to do those in ease, a bit lighter way than the really important tasks.
In big companies there are people who look like really busy all the time. They complain about the lack of time all the time. Quite often they just lack the skill to concentrate to the important. Hours won't increase in the day and long working hours are not really increasing productivity. Best thing is to really learn to concentrate on the essentials.
Tip eight: Learn to live with noise
What ever companies do with their communication solutions, one thing won't change; there will be more and more information flying around available for every person to catch. There will always be multiple communication channels in use. Even some companies are thinking on solutions to the noise, the only real way is to learn to live with it. There will be always more information available and pushed for you than what you can handle. You need to learn to pick the right pieces of information from the huge flow of information. It's not easy, but tools and practices will help you there. Try different things out to find what is the most suitable for you.
Tip nine: Be yourself
This again it's not only for big companies, but it's still a valuable lesson. You can't change yourself due to work mates or processes. You need to learn your way to be yourself with your own priorities and working habits in your working environment. That's the only way to be truely happy at work. And you must be truely happy at work, because that's such a big part of your life.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen