Corporate Keys to Success: An Orientation

For anyone arriving at a corporation for the first time, overweight briefcase or purse in hand, it can be quite a shocking experience. Society simply does not do its part to prepare you for this, and most corporate orientations take place several weeks into your actual employment. The hopeful anticipation of the interview process evolves into a sense of wonder.

You’re part of something big now.

Of course, you don’t really have any idea how true this is until you cross the threshold, and when you do, there is nothing there to guide you. Until now.

After over fifteen years in a corporate environment, I have finally found an opportunity to give back—to provide the orientation that I always wanted but never received. You will hold in your hand the most treasured secrets to corporate success. And when you ride those secrets to fame and fortune, you can thank me later with a heartfelt e-mail and generous tax-deductible donation.

Success, however, rarely comes wrapped in a tidy package. Sometimes the steps are messy, littered with the corpses of broken dreams and stagnant careers. I must ask you, then, to keep your eyes forward as we climb the ladder, and not to pause to stare at the lost souls we will pass in the night. They will only distract us.

Keys to Success #1: Parking Deck Navigation

Surprisingly, one of the most tragic mistakes that you can make happens before you even walk in the door. Crisply dressed and ready for action, you roll your Nissan Sentra into the corporate parking deck at 8:25 and prepare to hop out and stroll to your new job.

Only you can’t.

Every space on the first floor is full, and there is a 70-year old driver in front of you that looks like parking might be scariest thing he’s ever done. Now, you’d think that like the ridiculously bloated amount of “experience” you stuffed into your résumé, this man’s 55 years of parking experience would alleviate a certain amount of anxiety. But after a series of almost-turns, two random signals in the wrong direction, and one very long pause for mental processing, a feeling overwhelms you that is equal parts empathy and exasperation. You grab your door handle, half-ready to get out and push his car into a spot yourself—the only thing stopping you, of course, being that your car might be stolen in the twenty seconds you leave it.

And so you inch along, loosening your shirt collar and glancing anxiously at the cars stacking up behind you.

Thirteen right turns later, you’re still going. Sweat is trickling down your forehead, and you can’t help but think you’re starting to look disheveled. A moment ago the guy actually tried to get into a space, but seemed to forget that when he made his car selection, he had in fact clung to what has always proven true: size matters. So he has to abandon his attempt and continue onward. Your horn button now seems to grow in size under your hand, its warmth calling to you like an old friend.

But what if it’s a vice president? You recoil in panic and resolve to keep going.

As you round the next turn, you almost run straight into an enormous pick-up truck parked in a compact space—its tailgate open and hanging into the aisle like the beer gut of its likely owner. A small scream actually escapes you as you land hard on your brakes. At this point it’s a matter of pure survival.

Finally, at the top of the next ramp, the old guy turns left—clearly the wrong way—headed in the other direction out of sheer desperation. You can’t help but cheer his choice, even though it may mean his doom, but you feel comfortable assuming that nothing could penetrate the armored tank he is driving.

You speed up, elated with your newfound freedom, and almost run over the AVP of HR.

At this point, you’re emotionally broken, ten minutes late, and you can barely remember what you came here for in the first place. You’re googling “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” with one hand while parking with the other. And you’re still a seven-flight elevator ride from the street, where you’ll make the expected stroll into the office for the first time. If only the image in your rear view mirror didn’t look a little too much like a crazed sheepdog at the moment.

Have I scared you? Well, I hope so. But the good news is that all of this can be avoided with the right amount of awareness. So for my Keys to Success #1, be sure to do the following:

  • If you see an old man entering the parking deck, cut in front of him if at all possible. The best method of defense is offense.
  • Before you enter the main gate, silence your engine, roll down your window, and listen for the sounds of agonized screaming. If you hear anything amiss, treat the parking deck as an honest-to-God haunted house, and do not go in there. It’s far better to park on the street illegally and move your car in an hour.
  • Understand that “compact spaces” are nothing but a polite suggestion. If you have an oversized vehicle, it’s critical to understand you live in America and can parked the damned thing wherever you want to. Especially just around corners.
  • Allocate $400 a year to wheel realignment. No matter what the car dealers say, the only cars made to endure 5,500 turns a year in the same direction all have a NASCAR driver.

If you do these things, you’ll arrive at the office in reasonably good mental health, and we can finally begin the business of being a corporate employee.

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