How to survive as an employee of a global player

K. had finally arrived in the castle. However, there were thousands of stairs, offices, and even more people running around. Everyone appeared busy, ruthlessly running around. K. made countless attempts to bring forward his request to the suitable person in command. After numerous futile inquiries, K. took a seat in a secluded alcove of the castle, being totally ignored by any passer-bys.
„I feel totally lost and without orientation. I don‘t know anybody and nobody seems to help me. What could I do?”.
K. fell into a deep state of depression, unable to further master his fate.
(In adaption of „The castle” by Franz Kafka)

If you are a desperate employee in a big-sized company and feel a little like the main character in Kafka‘s famous book, you may have a lot of questions, looking for useful answers.
Find in the following my 3 tips on how to successfully survive as „a small bee in a bee hive“.

Internal employability
Just like anybody dealing in the business world one has to make sure that one‘s employability stays up-to-date. An employee of a corporation has to ensure that she/he provides a specific benefit that supports the company‘s mission and goals. The question is: How do you make sure that your attractiveness for others in your company to reach out to you (and your services) stays on a high level? You could, of course, strive to become a leader (with a natural implication for requests for your contribution by your subordinated employees). However, in times of flattening hierarchies this might be a dangerous path to follow. To assume that others will depend on you just because you once were promoted to become a leader doesn‘t necessarily count anymore in the modern working environment. A safer path to pursue is to obtain knowledge and experiences (e.g. on processes, technology or methods) that others will probably require. May you evolve into an IT expert with a deep Java knowledge, become a nurse that specializes in treating cancer patients or perfecting your expertise of extinguishing fires as a fireman, you continuously need to reflect on identifying very good answers to the following two questions: 1. What will others in your company (aka community aka department) need as services to support them? and 2. Do your current service offerings provide good answers to question #1 and how could they be rearranged or optimized to support your colleagues in the future?

And though hierarchies maybe flattening and impact of classic leadership maybe shrinking, it is still a good idea to ask yourself: What could I do to actively support my own boss (to improve her/his standing within the organization)? If you are the courageous type, you might also want to ask your boss directly: „In which way could I support you to further improve your standing in the company?”. The answers will give you valuable information on how to move on and develop.

Diverse networking
Once you enter a very large company (of let‘s say more than 100,000 employees) the sheer size of this organization can be overwhelming and quite intimidating. It might help you to rationalize your discomfort with a few questions:

  1. Assuming that you want to pass a certain period of time in this company, who are probably the people that you should start a connection with because they are involved in decisions that might affect you and your work?
    Expand your way of thinking from your direct boss to e.g. her/his boss to departments like HR and IT/Infrastructure. It is their job to make sure that you can do your job. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a few valuable contacts in HR and IT.
  2. Assuming that in particular those who maintain a diverse network in a company, are the most successful: How could you make sure to meet and get into contact with people from different departments and hierarchy levels?
    For example, are there regular events in the company taking place, where you might get the chance to meet colleagues from different areas?

In particular, if you are a young professional (less than 3 years of work experience) it might be helpful to get a mentor in your company. Ideally, somebody who has a great network established (that you can benefit from) and who has certain coaching competencies that will support you as part of your mentoring relationship. Who in your current company could be such a person? Don’t be shy to ask and involve Human Resources if necessary. It is one of their prime goals to establish a well-working mentoring network in the corporation.

Similar to mentoring: Look for role models in your company. Which are the behaviour patterns that you admire (and envy) the most in fellow colleagues or leaders in your organization? Try to get closer to these people to copy and learn from them so that you can adapt the desired behaviour into your own working routines.

Dealing with changes in big-size companies
It is an open secret that processes in global companies are usually quite complex. Compliance is paramount and lead times for even the most simple workflows (e.g. permission for traveling or purchasing of new equipment) can be painfully long. As a member of a big corporation you need a high level of persistence and patience if you want to be successful. Keep the three main strategies for engagement always in the back of your head: „Change it” – „Love it” – „Leave it”. Before you start a project with a certain transformational character in your company, you need to think over if the expected benefits are worth the effort you have to put into it.

Normally, people establish a solid comfort zone soon after they have entered a big corporation, feeling like only „a small wheel in a great machinery“. Sluggishness sets in very fast.
If you want to change things in your big-sized organization you will need to prepare for handling resistance. You can easily detect any „opponents” of change by their usage of killer phrases like: „We never did that before!”, „This is what we usually do!“ or „You won‘t succeed trying to change this!“. Do not let this discourage you.

If you want to transform anything you will need three qualities in particular: focus (on your main goals, not getting distracted by unimportant aspects), empathy (to obtain the perspective of different impacted employee groups) and perseverance (not losing your faith if temporary setbacks occur and to keep track on your path to long-term success).

If you follow a few of the above mentioned tips, it will be much easier to successfully develop a good career in your global company, entering a path to a meaningful work life.

Good luck and best of success!

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