Today Adrian of Adrian's Crazy Life shares her career story while providing valuable insight into working for a corporation in today’s savvy career interview:
How did you get started working in corporate America?
Working in an office was the last thing I wanted. I wanted a career in the performing arts, but one of my music teachers so squashed my dreams that I made a complete right turn, dropped all my music classes, and started taking computer classes instead. I started at Kodak’s Corporate offices as a photocopy clerk and a receptionist when I was about 18. I’m 53 now and I’ve worked pretty much continuously since then.
What is your career history?
Even though I’ve worked for my current financial services company for 23 years, before that, I worked at a ton of different places. I always had some kind of clerical or finance job, but I worked at Rockwell, Allergan, Rite-Aid, DeLorean, Coca-Cola, a real estate firm, a pharmaceutical company, all sorts of places. Some were very small and some were the largest companies in the world. Some of them I’ve quit, some I’ve been laid off, and some I’ve been fired from. It’s been an interesting career.
DeLorean was funny because all the executives had company cars and they were all these identical silver chrome cars, so they had to number the parking spaces, so each of them could find the correct car every night!
What kind of experience and preparation helped you the most?
Nothing special, really. My mother insisted I take a typing course in High School. I disagreed bitterly with her at the time, but I can type 75 WPM, so I guess it came in handy. I took a couple of very early programming courses, but the rest is pretty much self-taught. I think it’s important to just have the idea that there is always a way to get what you want. Even if you don’t think so in the beginning, if you are determined and stick with something long enough, you’ll find a way through, under, or over that obstacle to get what you really want.
I do think that a college degree is over-hyped. I hear so many people saying that they want to go back to school to do this thing or that thing. I say, just find an entry-level spot doing it and work your way up from there. School is such a tremendous expenditure of time and money and it doesn’t always pay off. I know so many people who have a degree in something and work in a completely different field. Almost no one in my family has a degree and we are all doing just fine.
Would you recommend this same path to someone starting out today? Why or why not?
I don’t know. It was kind of hit and miss, really. I didn’t have any particular plan in mind, but things worked out pretty well – each job would be slightly better and pay more than the one before. It was pretty tough sometimes. I’ve had some really bad bosses and some really good ones. I think I’ve stayed where I am for so long because I have good bosses and I’d be worried about getting with a bad boss again. A 40 hour week is a long time when someone is making you miserable.
I think the tough part was that I never felt like I could take a break, even when I had my children. I had a brief maternity leave and then I needed to get right back to work because we had bills to pay that weren’t just going to disappear because I had a baby to take care of. But it worked out just fine. I found great babysitters and family members to watch my 3 sons and my bosses were always very good about allowing me flexibility to spend some time home with them. And I would make the most of what time we did have. I did a lot of homeschooling with my youngest, even while working a full time job. I had him reading by age 4 and doing math and all sorts of stuff. I would carry flash cards in my purse and we would listen to Spanish tapes in the car. I even had special placemats at mealtimes and educational posters all over the walls. It was really fun and rewarding for both of us. And all 3 of my boys have turned out awesomely, so I guess it worked out very well.
What do you like best about your work?
I am a button-pushing fool. I love to do stuff with computers, particularly spreadsheets and huge databases. A lot of my job is finding errors on phone bills and trying to find better ways to save money on our telecom services. Being able to dig deep into the data and really understand it has helped me to do a good job with that. Over the years, I have probably saved the company around five MILLION dollars, all by myself. I definitely earn my keep!
What is your biggest headache?
Office politics can be kind of tricky. I can be outspoken sometimes and I’ve stepped on a few toes. I have to learn to kind of keep to myself and focus on the work sometimes and not offer my opinion as much. Friendships at work can be kind of interesting and sometimes it has a very “High School” feel with cliques, and teacher’s pets. I try to stay positive and not get a lot of energy to negative stuff or negative people.
What are the important personal qualities or abilities necessary for a person to be successful working in a large corporation?
Wow, good question! Technical skills are important, but not nearly as much as interpersonal skills. You have to be able to get along with people and be able to articulate your ideas well. Being reliable is huge. I am a complete stickler for meeting deadlines and keeping commitments, and many people aren’t. If you get a reputation for being flaky and undependable, you aren’t going to do well. Deliver what you promise – every time!
How many hours do you work each week?
It depends. I’m salaried, so I have a bit of flexibility and we also get one or two telecommute days per week, which are like gold! But I average at least 40 hours in most weeks and up to 50 or so when I’m working on a big project. I also do a lot of volunteer work and have been named one of my company’s top volunteers for the last two years, so I work probably another 20-30 hours a month as a Scout leader and helping with my son’s youth group.
How has your work or company changed over the years?
It’s shocking to realize how much the technology has changed over the years. Desktop computers simply didn’t exist when I started and when they came out, we would have like ONE that the whole department would share. I literally found a switchboard that I’ve actually USED in a museum. That’s just freaky. Typewriters have gone completely extinct in my lifetime. I can’t remember the last time I saw one. I don’t know if someone starting out in an office today would know how to use one, yet they used to be in every home and every office. You wonder what technology will be like 20 years from now?
I see you have a passion for organization. I have written before about my messy desk at work. Do you have any suggestions to help me become more organized?
Part of it is understanding WHY your desk is messy. Here’s a big secret – my desk is messy too, but it’s an organized messy. I’m a very visual person and if I put work out of sight, I am likely to forget about it. So I have different zones on my desk for different steps in my process. If it needs to be logged in, it goes here, if it needs to be input, it goes there, if it needs research, it goes into this pile. You have to respect the style that works best for you, but if you can set a time for even 5 minutes a day to organize yourself and maybe even make a quick to-do list, you’ll get a lot more done in a lot less time, and you’ll be able to lay your hands on any paper on your desk in 2 seconds. I’m not there to have a pretty desk, I’m there to get stuff done!
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about yourself or your career?
I guess I would say don’t believe everything people tell you. People say you can’t get a good job without a college degree – bull! You can’t do a good job of raising your children if you work – bull! Women can’t get ahead in the workplace – bull! I know a lot of smart and determined women who do just fine. Look at the real situation and decide for yourself, and if you really want something, don’t let anything stand in your way. And life is too short to put up with bad bosses – if you’re unhappy somewhere, there is a better place for you. Put all your energy into finding it – rather than wasting your time putting up with some jerk who doesn’t believe in you. I will work my heart out for someone who appreciates me, but someone who is critical and too controlling, they aren’t going to get my best effort. Remember that if you are the boss.
Where can we find you?
I’m always hanging out over at Adrian'sCrazyLife.com. I’ve been blogging and posting several times a week since 2007. Mostly organizing and financial tips with some parenting ideas and a hint of crafty stuff thrown into the mix.*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and brokeGIRLrich*