If you recently graduated into the world of work, most likely your picture of the corporate world is skewed away from the warm and fuzzy. With many businesses spending the last year or so desperately trying to survive the downturn, recent entrants to company life have probably seen more than their fair share of draconian cost cutting, lay offs and hiring freezes -- all of which might give you the sense that it's really a jungle out there and getting ahead is simply a matter of dirty politics and soul-less self-promotion. In a fabulously titled article in Ad Age, Joe Hodas argues against this war of all against all school of career advice, and instructs the office newbie in "How to Advance Your Career Without Selling Your Soul."
His message is one I can't support enough and his eleven tips, ranging from classic wisdom to offbeat and unexpected advice, are practical and actionable. Here are five of the best:
- We all have a personal toolkit -- know yours and how to use it. As my mother told me on numerous occasions, I have special talents. Specifically, I'm a good consensus builder. You may be a killer salesman. Or extremely detailed. Whatever your "special talents" are, hone them and let them help define your personal brand.
- It's about teamwork, but know who is and isn't on your team. I too hate office politics. And avoid them at all costs. But ignoring their existence is not only careless, but possibly counterproductive. Even if you don't engage in them, someone else might on your behalf. Know who has the boss' ear, who the players are, and who could take or leave ya. Whatever the political landscape in your company, it's your reality and one you'll have to navigate whether you like it or not.
- Never lose your s**t -- at least not in public. Let's play a little game of association. When I say Christian Bale, you say what? Probably not "great actor from 'American Psycho,'" right? Rather, I bet you said something along the lines of "overindulged jerk who pulverized some poor sound tech on a movie set for making a mistake." I'm not saying that we shouldn't be human, but one single outburst -- even if merited -- can do permanent damage to your personal brand.
- Life is not always a box of chocolates -- so decide how much you can take before you bail. The perfect job doesn't exist. I would imagine that even the taste-tester at Krispy Kreme has complaints about his gig (though I can't imagine what they might be). Too often we hit tough times and jump ship for a lateral move or get frustrated and stop giving 110 percent. A career is like a relationship, so make sure you're putting as much effort into trying to fix the problems as you put into feeling bad about them.
- Always be that ray of light in your boss'/co-worker's day. This one's simple. Surprise. Delight. Be the kind if individual you'd like to spend 200-plus days each year with. And to be clear -- that's much different than kissing ass.