11/30/2016 11:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

One Woman's Work Lesson: When Things Get Tough, Do Your Homework

I graduated from college in December 2003 and started working for global professional services company Accenture in January 2004. I used my very small signing bonus to go to the department store with my mom and buy a few suits, a pair of dress shoes, and an overcoat. I was about to enter the corporate world for the first time, and I was going to look the part even if my nerves were trying to tell me otherwise.

After a few weeks of orientation and training, it was time for me to report to my first client project. I showed up in my new suit and shoes ready to conquer the world, or at least ready to avoid making a fool of myself on my first day. I met Jason, my manager, and he led me down a long hall and up two floors to meet the client, Rick.

We stopped at the cube of a tall, lean, older gentleman. I later found out that Rick was retired military and now worked in the IT department. He swiveled around in his desk chair to face Jason, took one look at me, and stated that he did not want me on his team. I was mortified. How could I get dismissed within five minutes of my very first day at work? The color drained out of my face and my palms began to sweat as I began to wonder about what would happen next.

That's when I realized that my actions would have to speak louder than words, or in this case, my outfit. I would need to prove to my client that I was not only worthy of being on his team, but also that I would become an indispensable member.

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