One of the biggest hang ups newbies have when thinking about approaching corporate is: what if I’m not good enough?
Now, the Not Good Enough syndrome is something I’m tackling in another training.
But for today, the Not Good Enough for bigger businesses often disguises itself like this:
“I’ve never had a corporate job, so what do I know about working with corporate?”
“I don’t wear a suit! They won’t hire me if I don’t wear a suit!”
“They speak a language I don’t understand.”
“Offices, job titles, etc intimidate me.”
All of these blurts are just excuses disguising Not Good Enough.
And all of them are easy to dismantle.
Ready? Let’s go!
First, corporations are full of people. And you help people solve problems all day long. Just think of corporations as large, extended, dysfunctional families.
You don’t need to understand the inner workings of each client’s company (believe me you never will) in order to leave them in a better state than when you arrived.
Second, if you want a J.O.B. with corporate then yes, you will need to put on your grey suit and pearl earrings and put your hair back.
It pays to look like them when you’re trying to get hired as an employee.
But if you’re wanting to get hired as an expert, it really doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. (I’m going to contradict myself later on this so hang tight.)
One of the top paid coaches in the nation is Marshall Goldsmith. He wears khaki pants, running shoes and a green polo shirt every damn day to work with some of the biggest CEOs in the world.
He can wear what he wants because he is that good.
For those of us on an earlier curve, we have a tad less latitude, but we do still have latitude!
Here are my guidelines for going into meetings:
- Always be yourself. If you don’t like what you’re wearing and don’t think it fits who you are, then you won’t be comfy and you won’t be able to shine. So take that horrible grey suit out of your online shopping cart. Unless of course you like wearing grey suits. Then by all means…
- Be impeccably groomed. Smell delicious (but not overpowering). Make sure your hair is on point. Have your nails done. Put on some makeup. In general women wearing makeup in corporate environments are more-well received. (No need to spark a debate here about that…it’s just about gilding the lily, ladies.)
- Research the client and find out the office dress code. Then dress with slightly more formality (this advice for those of you who are in professional services). I tend towards jackets (with flair, mind you) or tailored sheath dresses. Someone once told me not to wear heels because I’m already so tall and don’t want to intimidate the men.
“There can only be one alpha in the room, Lauren, and you want him to be your new client.”
Pish posh! Wear heels!
If you’re more of the yoga/wellness type I do think it’s important to dress up the stretchy pants with boots or wedge sneakers and top it off with a cool drapey shirt/sweatshirt material blazer.
Ultimately how you carry yourself is MUCH more important than what you’re actually wearing so…
- Be a boss. Be kind and gracious with all staff and know that you belong in the corner office chilling with the executive team (they are the people who make the decisions and authorize checks). To do that, you need to carry yourself as one of them. Shoulders back, deep breathing. No fidgeting! Eye contact. Firm handshakes. (I’m a hugger and do the Euro kiss/kiss thing too but I always initiate and gauge each situation separately.)
- Make sure that your entire presentation is up to snuff. If you bring print materials, print them on the best quality paper you can find. (Yes, that means cotton or other premium paper.) Open up a briefcase or bag that is obviously well made. I personally use an ink pen with nib and it never fails to elicit a comment from people. I don’t wear a watch but if I did I’d go on Portero.com or ebay and get a designer watch for less. (No, not a Michael Kors.) You want everything about you to say, “I am good at what I do.”
Some of you may be getting antsy with me about this section because it can feel a bit disingenuous…as if you’re putting on an external show. And I know that you are not superficial in the least.
And yet. Our world is both visual and energetic. You’re going to nail the energetic piece of this (how you make them feel). And I want to equip you with every possible tool for success so that your potential clients can recognize you as the solution to their problems.
Caring about appearances does not make you superficial. It makes you savvy and shows that you’re using everything available to you in order to achieve your goals.
Plus, once you’ve landed the contract, it’s ok to bring more flair into your appearance. Still I think it’s helpful to shake things up every so often by showing up in something that makes people say, “Wow.”
I think of this entire part as my Fancy Business Lady persona.
Most days I’m in some stretchy denim and leopard print Vans. But it’s FUN to get gussied up and be another version of myself for awhile.
Ok enough on THAT.
Third, corporate jargon. Ah yes. Every single industry has its own lexicon. You just have to learn it!
I still cringe inside when I hear myself say the word synergy. (Hahahaha.) But I want to challenge you to approach this whole corporate thing as an anthropologist/sociologist.
What can you discover about these people? What can you deduce from their word choices and use of technology?
Similarly, if the whole water cooler and cubicle scene with org charts and direct reports intimidates you, put on that sociologist hat again.
This big old dysfunctional family that we call a company is really a complex web of personal desires and professional goals, resentments and alliances. (Sounds like Survivor!)
And you don’t have to “get it” in order to work with them.
If anything one of the main reasons that companies hire outsiders is because they value a fresh perspective.
Your ignorance of their system or history or culture can actually be a good thing. Don’t let that hold you back.
You are more than ready! Now go get 'em (looking your finest, of course).