Like many of you, I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But like a lot of you, I had to work in the corporate world before I could make that dream a reality. It’s often difficult to enjoy your 9-to-5 when you’re hoping to go out on your own. You go to work everyday thinking, “If only I were going to a job I was passionate about.”
Luckily, I didn’t hate my 9-to-5, however, I was constantly dreaming of “one day” when I would own my own business. While I was able to design every day, I wasn’t passionate about the work I was designing or the clients I was working with. I knew what I wanted and that wasn’t it.
I found it difficult to see past the annoyance of not having what I wanted immediately. And once I had set a timeline for myself of when I planned to quit, everyday at my current job seemed like a waste of time. I’m willing to bet several of you reading this feel the exact same way. You know it’s not your forever job and you’re just trying to get by until that glorious day of sunshine when you hand in your resignation and head out into the world of entrepreneurship.
Friends, I’m here to tell you take heart. Your time is coming. For now, even though it may seem like a waste of your time, it absolutely is not. You are being molded and shaped into a better you. The BEST you who is going to accomplish amazing things when your time comes. But for now...
1 | You’re developing Communication skills
When you work in a corporate office, you are forced to communicate with all sorts of people. I was a designer on an in-house creative team, and we created products for every department in the building (A company of 300+ employees). I was constantly learning new email and phone etiquette, especially when I was upset or annoyed with someone and had to write a kind email.
Interacting with different types of people teaches you how to read different personalities, facial expressions, email sarcasms, etc. You learn what you can say to certain people and how to effectively and efficiently work through projects with coworkers and clients.
I am an introvert, so I would rather email someone than talk on the phone or have an in-person sit down with them. However, I learned the hard way things often get lost in translation when you use email as a main source of communication.
I could solve a problem or miscommunication 10 times quicker by having an in-person meeting or making a quick phone call.
2 | You’re learning to accept critique and feedback.
In my case, I was a designer and reported directly to the creative director. I put so much of my heart into my designs that I sometimes struggled with taking critique too personal. However, when you have a creative director whose job is to make sure your work is top-notch, you have no choice but to learn how to receive feedback.
Luckily, I loved my boss and truly valued her opinions. But there were still moments when I felt completed deflated by her feedback to my work.
You have to develop the mindset that every critique is making you better.
You only grow by learning new things and I can honestly say I grew the most by receiving feedback I didn’t particularly love. And this also applies to feedback you receive from clients, co-workers, human resources, your boss, etc. Try not to let it sting every time, and view each situation as a learning experience.
3 | You’re learning how to deal with difficult clients or coworkers
At my last job I sat in a room with 6-7 other people. If you sit in a shared space, you know what it’s like to hear everyone’s sneezes, snuffles, pencil taps, conversations, and other annoyances you could probably live without.
Through that experience, I learned the world is made up of many different personalities. (God intended it this way!)
When dealing with difficult coworkers, I’ll be honest and say this took a lot of prayer for me. I spent daily time in prayer and reflection of the way I treated others. I prayed for patience and new perspective toward them.
I also learned that sometimes my annoyances with them was not directly related to their personality. Sometimes they were just the innocent bi-standard of me being overworked, exhausted and stressed out. It’s not fair for us to take out our frustrations on the innocent people around us.
Try and remember no one is perfect. If they have their issues, you certainly have yours too. (Don’t we all!)
Difficult clients are another story. We’ve all had that client who tells you they want one thing and when you deliver, they hate it. They say things like, “I’ll know it when I see it,” or “I’m not sure what I want, but this isn’t it.” (Which I’m sorry, is not helpful feedback!)
The biggest thing I learned through working with clients was that my communication skills were lacking. If they seemed confused or were not giving me the answers I needed, then I wasn’t asking the right questions.
It is my job to educate them on my design process and to tell them exactly what I need from them. If I can’t do that well, how do I expect them to deliver what I need?
4 | You’re getting familiar with having a schedule and deadlines.
If you work a regular 9-to-5, then you likely have somewhere to be and a certain time you must be there. I will say this has been one of my greatest struggles as a business owner—and it’s not something I thought I would struggle with.
You no longer have a physical office with a specific time schedule. There’s no one holding you accountable to a time clock. There is no longer a boss to tell you you’re behind schedule on a deadline or go to bat for you with a client when you miss your deadline.
Learning how to stick to deadlines, while you still have someone to hold you accountable, is so valuable. That way, once you have to hold yourself accountable, you will know your system, your process and how long a project should take you.
Learn how to get up early and get out of the house on time. This will forever be my kryptonite, but the work days when I get up early and stick to my ideal schedule are by far my more productive days.
5 | There’s someone to back you up in tough spots.
I was fortunate to have a boss who always had my back. Anytime a client was unhappy, she was there to stick up for me and my designs. Or in a meeting when I wasn’t sure what to say, she was there to step in and take the reins. That taught me a lot about how to handle myself in meetings and how to defend my designs.
I learned a ton from her bulldog-type personality and I now feel way more confident when I need to lead a client meeting or explain my designs to someone.
Sometimes what clients want to hear is that you actually put thought into your work. I’m now much better about thinking through my process so that when I do need to defend my work, I know exactly what to say.
6 | You have the opportunity to be mentored by your peers and predecessors.
I worked as an intern, junior designer and graphic designer. For 90% of those 3 years we had a senior designer on staff who knew a heck of a lot more than me. I was constantly asking them questions and picking their brain for helpful tips.
When I was interning, one of my colleagues gave me the best advice. He told me to find designs I liked and try to figure out how the designer created it. I did just that and would go up to him and ask how he would have created it. Luckily, he was very patient with me and loved to teach, so I owe a lot of my design skills to him.
There’s always someone who has been exactly where you are now. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most people love to share their knowledge.
7 | You have opportunity to learn other skills you may not have learned otherwise.
There are often tasks you are asked to perform at a corporate job that you probably think are pointless. You’ve probably thought, “I don’t get paid enough for this” more times than once. But there are many benefits to learning some of those skills.
I owe my file organization skills to my corporate career. When you have 400 projects a year, you better have a good system for keeping up with them. I learned efficient ways of storing my projects and files.
For a while, I also handled quite a few administrative tasks for the creative team. I hired professional photographers, managed the photo archive, was the liaison for our print vendors, handled invoicing, and scheduled events. While I didn’t necessarily enjoy those tasks, I learned so much about the printing process, photography, and the paperwork side of hiring freelancers. Those skills have been so valuable since becoming my own boss.
Try and recognize the advantage in acquiring those skills, because I’d almost guarantee you they’ll come in handy one day.
Maybe your company has a subscription to websites like Lynda.com or will send you to trainings and conferences. Take advantage of those opportunities while they’re not on your dime.
8 | You are learning what not to do.
Last but certainly not least, if nothing else you are constantly learning what not to do. You learn ways you shouldn’t communicate with others, ways you don’t want to manage your team members, and ways you don’t want to be managed. You learn if you like or dislike a strict schedule and wearing dress clothes everyday. You learn how not to manage your accounting, filing system, hiring process, and so many other things.
If you’re paying attention, you can take important lessons away from every good or every terrible situation. My dad used to say every bad situation is a “character-building opportunity” and I truly believe that. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (As I burst into song and dance)
Use every resource given to you to learn as much as possible. Take mental (or physical) notes every time you think something will come in handy later. One day, you’ll be living the dream doing what you love and you’ll look back on your corporate job and think, “Man. I’m sure glad I did that.”