During a speech she gave to my MBA class in 2012, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said: “Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
Upon graduating from business school, unlike most of my peers who received detailed job descriptions outlining their roles at the different corporations they were about to join, I had no job description. The position I was offered was a newly created one, which was both exciting and daunting.
Before attending business school, I worked as a financial analyst in the mergers and acquisitions division at a bank for three years; you can only imagine my frustration once I realized that there was no instruction manual for my position. My boss told me: “If I write you a job description, I will limit your scope and creativity. What I like to do is throw people in the ocean to see if they will learn how to swim or if they will drown.” As much as I was excited about joining the company, I could not help but question my boss’s line of thinking. Nevertheless, I took it as a challenge.
Little did I know that this ambiguity and lack of structure would give me the opportunity to work with multiple departments and gain exposure across different regions; I was able to work on a plethora of projects that enabled me to hone my skills in areas that I was familiar with, such as finance, and develop new ones in areas that were foreign to me, like operations. Most importantly, by working on different projects with different scopes, I was able to build an invaluable network across the company that would not have been possible had my boss defined my role.
Find good navigators
From my experience, it is OK not to have a pre-allocated seat and not to be given an instruction manual. However, what is necessary is finding people on that rocket ship who will teach you and guide you along the way; mentors who will invest in your development.
Those mentors will teach you the ropes by sharing their own experiences, including their successes and failures. Most importantly, they will help give you confidence and push you forward. In addition, they will be able to provide you with continuous feedback.
My mentors are my go-to people, my support system, at work; I vent to them and bounce ideas off them. Having a person or a group of people at work who believe in you and cheer for your success will boost your confidence and serve as an impetus to achieve great results.
Meet the other passengers
People are the major component of corporate culture. More often than not, we tend to prioritize things like brand names and financial packages when deciding on a job offer. From my experience, what matters most are the people you will end up working with, because if you are comfortable and happy in the environment you work in, everything else will fall into place.
Before joining the workforce, I had read many articles and case studies about the importance of corporate culture. To be honest, I used to think that it was a touchy-feely topic and not that important. That was until I actually started working and realized how underestimated it is.
By talking to the people who work in a company, you will get a feel of the culture and its values. Ask them what they like and what they dislike. Prior to accepting a permanent seat on that rocket ship, if you have the option to try it out, such as via an internship, then do. This will allow you to test the engine and to see if you fit in with your co-workers.
Get on that rocket ship
Happiness at work boils down to two things: believing in the organization’s purpose and feeling appreciated by your boss and colleagues. At the end of the day, you will only enjoy the ride if you are in good company.
The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2015 takes place at the Dead Sea, Jordan, from 21-23 May.
Author: Lana Ghanem, Corporate Strategy and Development Director, Hikma Pharmaceuticals
Image: Investors share a laugh as they monitor stocks at the Dubai Financial Market, June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh