After a five-year hiatus, I have returned to the corporate world. I have returned with hopes to work for a thriving company that offers compatibility and growth, obtain benefits and build my 401K; you know, achieve the American dream via climbing the corporate ladder. Three months in and I have learned a few things about myself and this new realm of employment. Working for a corporation is a whole other entity as opposed to a smaller, as some would say, ‘mom and pop shop.’ In fact, when employed in Corporate America, all companies developed cultures in which the company operates. Relationships there are based on business.

What is “Corporate Culture”? According to www.auxillium.com, “the moral, social, and behavioral norms of an organization based on the beliefs, attitudes, and priorities of its members.” It is the culture an organization embodies within its structure based on the organization’s leadership. In layman’s terms, it’s how the owners of the company want their business to be ran. Auxilluim uses Hewlett Packard and Southwest airlines as examples of successful companies, which maintain prominent culture, and has found success because of it. The ‘Culture’ encapsulates company policies, including dress codes, sick and vacation time, the hierarchy of the business, protocol.

Do these cultures affect minorities? There is a huge possibility; with respect of corporate advancement, look at the owners of a few top American companies and ask yourself do these business owners represent me, my environment and my beliefs. Bill Gates (Microsoft), William Clay Ford Jr. (Ford), Rick Wagoner (General Motors), Gerard Arpey (AMR Corp; parent company of American Airlines), Vikram Pandit (Citibank), Sumner Redstone (Viacom) and Robert Iger (Walt Disney Company), just to name a few are owners and operators of top companies in the United States who has either created or maintained their company’s rules and regulations, i.e. culture of their companies.

Two key factors of a company’s culture are representation and relationship. To excel in Fortune 500 companies or Fortune 1000 companies, it is important to be educated and presentable. Knowledge is power! Academic knowledge coupled with street knowledge is a recipe for success. However if you don’t present yourself as a Fortune member, this includes appearance, demeanor and speech, it’s less likely you’ll be remembered or requested.

Representation is defined as appearance and presentation. There are no second chances on a first impression – so do and do it big.

The impression you make could determine if you should be in the corner office or remain in the corner cubicle. Give a strong handshake and luminous smile. Confidence is not only attractive but intriguing, however too much can be a turn off. When you exude a genuine assurance in the workplace people want to know more about you and that can open doors for you move up the corporate ladder.

Relationships determine what moves you can make in a company. Building relationships is extremely strategic and most important beneficial. Upper management is usually comprised of old friends, business acquaintances or even family members. Executives refer and recruit people with similar visions on the business of making money, prior relationships in other fields, or loyal co-workers and family members. It is important to find common activities and interest with company leaders especially if work is done in a common area. For example, GOLF!!! If you don’t know how to play, start taking lessons. Donald Trump said it best, “most business deals are done on the greens.”

Communication is key and TEAM-work goes along way. Pay close attention to the people you are working with and how the company is ran. Why are they still in the positions they are in? How are emails written? Is there management hierarchy? In some companies upper management is not concerned with entry level and the only time middle management is contacted is usually when reports are due.

Appearance is everything and when you enter those doors, you will have a hawk eyes from clock in to clock out. Attire is number one on the list of representation. Just ask an NBA player. In 2005, NBA owners comprised a dress code for players to follow when representing the team or league. Does hair matter? Google Manny Ramirez. You would be surprised how many people are not familiar with the levels of business attire.

There are four types of business attire used in Corporate America: executive professional, business professional, business casual, and casual. Fashion for Real Women says for executive professional and business professional settings, i.e. finance, law, government, requires the traditional business suit, dark colors, and collard shirts. “Simple styles and dark colors work best to establish a competent, authoritative look.” Pants are sleek and clean. Skirt length is no higher than an inch above the knee. Think about sitting in a chair without a desk, too much thigh is too much for the office. Slits should be in the back of the skirt and only an inch to two inches high. No see through underwear. Nude undergarments are a must. Panty lines tell you if your pants or skirts are too tight. Try a slip or stockings for a smoother look.

Accessories are bare minimal and petite. Earrings are simple; substitute big hoops and chandeliers for studs and short dangling. Clunky bracelets are out, tattoos are hidden and necklaces are simple. Shoes are tricky. Most women love heels and stilettos however closed toe, two to two and half inch heels are most preferred. Shoes should be comfortable and clean. Remember you’re not at happy hour so keep the Jimmy Choo’s and the clutch in the truck til after five.

Business casual attire is slacks and dress shirts. It is still business but more relaxed. Suits are not required but slacks and khaki’s are preferred. Shirts can tailor more to personality meaning added frills and colors yet stay away from stand out patterns, extremely bright colors and little to no lace or ruffles. Again the company’s employees are the examples to follow with how relaxed business casual is. Lastly, casual is freedom yet respectful. Wear what you want however remember you are in a business environment so remain professional; fitted attire-not tight and no see-through shirts. Again look to your fellow employees to be sure of how casual you can be.

Here are a few more tips to remember:

Lastly, be yourself and be honest in all situations. Honor and respect shines through in any level of business and most importantly education is power. Success is determined by the individual and the individual’s dedication to succeed. Corporate Culture can not stop nor redirect the path to success, although it can seem to deter it, with positive thoughts it becomes an appeasing challenge.

Invest in yourself, invest in your wardrobe and invest in your knowledge.

Barack the Vote.

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