Thursday, December 03, 2009

Simple Career Advice

1. Do Your Job

I say 'Do Your Job' because 'professional' as in 'be professional' seems to spark people into thinking about how to dress and shake hands and shit. Being professional is doing whatever it is you are fucking paid to do. Do it. Read your job description, ask your supervisor, manager etc. whether your job description matches the actual work they want you to do. Ask them like this 'Does this job description match what you actually want me doing?' if not get consensus in the form of an up-to-date Job description.

2. Let people know you've done your Job.

This is literally all the marketing you need. This is all the self promotion you need. A few caveats though - you can't just say 'I did my job' its a falsifiable statement, so this has some sub-steps if you want:

i. Find the measure - How do you prove you did what you agreed you would do, objectively. Think Sales Figures, commissions, documents etc. Anything you can produce.
ii. Establish causation - as in you made it happen. I made these calls, to these customers and resolves their issues to their satisfaction. If you are delivering an intangible service, like a training session hand out feedback forms for people to fill out anonymously then collect that data.
iii. Let people know the objective measures are there. Let them know you've done your job, but keep in mind you might get questioned 6 months after the fact.

3. Don't Alienate Yourself

If you are socially isolated at work, ie working in a one man department, seated in a dark corner etc. get up and move around and talk to a bunch of people twice a day at least. Because when you are isolated, you get victimised, by others or yourself. Reach out even if its hard, or you are afraid you will be annoying (as I often am).

4. Don't Criticize in Public.

Which is two-fold, a) don't corner your boss in the Friday meeting by raising some issue you have for the first time for them in an open forum. b) don't bitch and gossip where you are overheard, because your conversation won't end with you. Furthermore as Mark Twain said 'Better to have everyone think you are an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt'.

5. Cherish Feedback, Seek it Out.

It's time to stop crying when a manager comes to you and says 'Hey you're dial rate is down on the average.' or 'Hey don't argue with the customer, just politely end the conversation as quickly as you can.' etc. because she/he doesn't appreciate how hard you are working, how much pressure you are under and realise realise you've just been given a gift.
They said something to you to arrest some behavior you are doing that is ineffective and have given you a chance to adjust. This is muchos preferable to just being left to dig your own grave because your supervisor didn't want to introduce conflict, or the greatest injustice - to be told you're doing a great job when you are in fact just mediocre but your boss thinks you're an idiot and has low expectations of you. So ask how you are going, and look for positive and negative because they are of equal value. Keeping doing the positive, stop doing the negative.

6. Start on time, Finish on Time.

Presenteeism and workaholia are social epidemics. 'Girls have to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good' is true, but it's misleading 'A man working twice as hard as another man is thought of as half as good'. And reverse it 'if you work half as hard as someone else you will be thought of as twice as good' and in many ways this leads back to Step 1 - your job description will have a one goalpost that says '9am' and another goal post that says '5pm' and you have to do your job somewhere between them.
That's doing your job and I am yet to meet someone whom on a daily basis cannot kick that goal given a few annual 'high pressure' seasonal demands. Furthermore I'm yet to see a full time job that convinces me it couldn't in essence be done between 3-4 hours. Don't ease in to your day, just start and get on to work, get it done and go home and make the most of your life.

7. Balance Your Life.

You could work hard every day, granted and maybe even impress some idiot manager. But you lose that time to read, for example. So 5 years will go by and you read the same amount of books (5) that a colleague reads in 5 months. You better hope that colleague reads the Twilight Series or similar escapist dross and not something that will introduce them to management ideas, TQM ideas, Game Theory Ideas or inspire any other quantum leap in ability. Same applies for fitness, social network etc.

8. Be Prepared to Walk.

Save 6 months wages - that is enough to live off with no other income for 6 whole months. Avoid a mortgage for as long as you can. Avoid any expensive ongoing financial obligation. Bank away the minimum you absolutely can't afford to lose. Keep your resume up to date. Furthermore don't sabotage any relationship you have as you go through life. Leave on good terms. But always have fundamentally up your sleeves the ability to walk if the environment turns poisonous, otherwise you have no position to negotiate anything, not wage rises, not promotions, nothing.
Furthermore you won't impress your company by not arguing, not taking risks, you will arrest your own career by just not taking risks because you can't afford to.
Every 'mover and shaker' I've ever met had this trait in common, they didn't turn up to work because they had to. They turned up because they wanted to.

9. Be Honest.

Don't hide anything, let people know when you have a problem or when you made a mistake as soon as you can. It's all part of the learning process.
Furthermore be yourself. Energy exerted trying to be something you are not is energy wasted. Refer to step 1. Don't play dress ups.

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