You’d like to believe that to succeed in your job and advance your career all you need to do is work hard, be smart, capable and exceed expectations. That’s so sweet if you really believe that.
There is an art to getting ahead in business. Being capable and doing your job is not good enough. Coming in early and staying late doesn’t do the trick. Doing a really good job is okay, but not great. Everyone else is doing a reasonably sufficient job, so what makes you any different? You’re just another cog in the wheel. You’re working at a global corporation that has over 60,000 people. WTF makes you think that you’re so damn special?
Well, if you are reading this, then you are special. You’re already a cut above the rest. You have class, taste, motivation and drive. You want to succeed. You feel you have to succeed. You must succeed. That’s cool. That’s what I’m here for.
It’s not enough to do your job. Everyone’s doing their job. You have to stand out and be head and shoulders above everyone else. Here’s a crash course in dealing with office politics to get ahead.
The first thing you need to do is assess who has the power. Is it your boss, your boss’s boss or someone else. Find out who really makes the decisions in your general area. Once you spot that person, learn everything about her. What her goals are, what she wants to accomplish, what ambitions does she have for herself. Ask people about her. Stalk her online. Read anything she has written.
After you gain a clear sense of her mission, introduce yourself to her. Let her know that you are a big fan and believe in her ideas. Reference a couple of victories she had and a pet project that she’s passionate about. Then complement those activities. Make it clear that you want to help her anyway you can. Follow-up with her. Share ideas and find ways to get on her radar. Yes, I know this sounds super creepy. Would you rather toil away in obscurity in the corporate cubicle farm? No? Of course not! So don’t worry about being weird.
Your boss may be curious about what you are up to. You need to do the same drill with him. Since he’s a little lower down the totem pole the guy is probably not as smart and perceptive as the big boss that you now have a solid rapport with. Learn everything about him. Ask what he expects of you with respect to work. Then exceed all of his requirements. Do whatever it takes. Early mornings, late nights, and weekends. Deliver over and over again.
Build a tribe of people around you. Don’t get involved in the petty corporate politics that everyone else is playing. They’re playing small ball, worried about who’s making coffee and not cleaning out the fridge. You’re looking at the big picture. Let everyone else eat each other up with their petty nonsense.
Play nice with them. Buy bagels for breakfast. Pay for coffee deliveries. Take the team out for lunch and drinks after work. Always have on hand some hard-to-get tickets for concerts and big sporting events. Let some key players know that you have these tickets. Sadly your mom is sick and you need to take care of her. Say “would you like to take these tickets off my hands? I don’t want them to go to waste but I really need to take my mom for her cancer treatment.” They will be empathetic to your plight and gladly use the tickets. No charge, you’ll tell them. All you ask is that they enjoy the show or game.
The co-workers may get a little jealous and suspicious. Share the wealth. Take care of them too. Not too much that it looks like your buying their affection, but enough that they love you.
This was the easy part. The hard part is actually doing the work. If you are all style and no substance you’ll be tossed right out of there. You have to make a decision that you are playing to win. Learn every.damn.thing you need to know about your job. Have a complete understanding of the goals and objectives that the bosses ask of you.
Do whatever it takes to succeed. This definitely does not mean that you take short cuts or engage in any inappropriate behavior. It does mean being the first person in the office in the morning and the last one to leave. No long lunch breaks or disappearing during the day. Attack each project with gusto. Engage people within your circle and in other divisions to help out. Be very generous in sharing the credit with anyone who’s helped you. Offer more credit then they deserve. Make sure that your managers are aware of your accomplishments. Keep notes to remind yourself and share them later on when you have your annual reviews.
The thing is that most people squander their days at work. They arrive at the crack of 9:20 am with lame excuses why they’re late. Of course they didn’t get coffee or eat breakfast so they need to run out. Before they do, there is the obligatory chit-chat gossiping, rumor-spreading and complaining with coworkers. Since you’re on the 53rd floor it takes at least 20 minutes to take the elevate down, get some breakfast and come back up again. Eating the food, sipping coffee and taking a bathroom break takes us to 10:30 am. An hour and fifteen minutes later they start asking around who wants to go for lunch and what does everyone want to eat. The food debate lingers for about 10 minutes. This type of time-waste continues throughout the day. It’s actually a wonder anything gets done in the corporate world.
This is your competition. If you demonstrate consistent focus, hard work, don’t screw around, build-up and leverage your tribe, avoid inter-office wars, know what the boss wants, under promise and over deliver you will be far ahead of the pack.
It helps to do add some hacks. Always leave your jacket on the back of your chair with some half eaten food and a beverage that still has something left in it. If you are out of your office, everyone will know that your around due to the clues. Leave and send super early and late night voicemails and emails to people so they know you are working crazy long hours. Send stuff out to people throughout the weekend and holidays. Offer to pick up slack for others who can’t keep up. Mentor a protegee. Ask for someone to mentor you.
Hopefully you enjoy your job so all of this isn’t torture. It’s also best to look at it as if it’s all a game. This way you don’t take things personally. If you are a competitive person, viewing it as a game spurs you on.
I hope you know that I’m exaggerating a bit to make this lively and a fun read.