My Professor Said I’d Never Make It In The Corporate World- He Was Right
I was 20 when my professor told me that if I didn’t change ‘the way I acted’, I was never going to make it in the corporate world. I was in the third year of my public relations degree. He then proceeded to tell me that my dreams of working in professional sports too would be affected if I didn’t tone myself down. He told me I was going to find it hard to progress in my career in a professional environment. From that second, my confidence was shaken.
What I heard was he thought I had to change some of my major personality traits such as being extremely outgoing and talkative in order to be successful. The things that made me, well me, were apparently going to affect the rest of my life in a negative way.
All I wanted in my life at that point was to work for a professional sports team. Out of all of my professors, I had respected his opinion more than the others because he had that experience in sports that I desperately wanted for my own career path. His opinion mattered to me and instead of encouraging and guiding, he squandered the hope that a career in sports was in my future.
Being a woman and wanting a career in sports comes with a whole lot of other complications but none of those were ever something I worried about. I knew that if I could prove I could do my job and do it well, that my gender wouldn’t matter. So, from a lot of encouragement from my inner circle, I applied to sports teams. I was hired by one and my dream started to come true. Then after I finished that job, I was hired by another one.
My professionalism was no longer something that I was worried about. The things my professor told me to ‘tone down’ became my biggest strengths. One of my jobs saw me working with ex-major league baseball players when they made an appearance at the stadium I was working at. I was praised for my ability to talk to them and my engaging nature. I was likable because I was talkative, smart and can hold a conversation about baseball. Not only that, my organizational skills weren’t something to overlook and often times I was one step ahead of a problem. I also was adaptable to an ever-changing working environment due to my laid back personality.
After sports, I looked for a position with a bit more stability in the town I went to college in. What this meant for my career was oil and gas or bust. So I got into the oil and gas industry and worked my ass off to progress in my career as fast as possible. Maybe that’s why at age 26, I was a marketing manager for a global company.
The reason I am where I am, in addition to all of the hard work, was the fact that I’m likable. I get to know people. I know their strengths and I know how to use them to the best of their ability. I know that connecting with people and understanding who they are as a person makes it easier to ensure they feel satisfaction in their work life.
But I write this on my last day of working in the corporate world. My professor was right, I am not built for the professional world BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not professional. To be completely honest, my life’s purpose never felt truly fulfilled working a 9–5 at a desk. My life began the second I left my office and that was something I wasn’t willing to compromise anymore.
Real life and professional life shouldn’t be so disconnected. Work-life balance is still something that people are trying to achieve every day. My professor was right that my lack of type A personality was going to hinder my success in my professional world. But it didn’t hinder it quite in the way he expected I’m sure.
I am not someone who’s willing to work 80 hours a week anymore. I did that. I had a breakdown. I had to find true happiness again. It’s nothing against my old positions or managers and everything to do with the fact that my life’s path is different than the corporate world.
So I’m leaving it and I don’t think I’ll look back any time soon.
The point is that the corporate world isn’t just cookie cutter to one type of person. I know there’s probably college kids out there worried that they’ll never get a good job if they don’t excel at school or have academic references from their professors. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Hard work and the ability to try and fail at things will get you on the right path.
Failure is key. I have failed a lot in multiple ways in my professional life. Nothing is perfect and when you realize that, you’ll be able to find what you’re good at and what you’re not.
The nice thing for me was that in the final half of my third year of college I met a professor who really did inspire me. One who never told me to change myself for any job. He’s one I often times meet with still to this day to discuss where my path has led me and he’s been encouraging every step of the way. I am forever grateful to him for restoring my faith in college professors and how they really can be positive influences on college students who are just like me.
To that other professor who told me I wouldn’t make it in the professional world, if he’s reading this, thank you. You may have shattered my confidence as a young student but that quickly turned into sheer determination to prove you wrong. Then after all of that, I should have just listened to you in the first place and not worked in the professional world. If I had followed my own path the entire time, I probably would have found my own version of career happiness a lot sooner.