Hard work, intelligence and motivation will get you far, but it’s not always enough to get ahead. You have to get along with your colleagues, even if you’re trying to get promoted ahead of them. Of course, some would say but in your best effort and hope for the best while others might recommend some more underhanded or unsavoury approaches to getting money, power and fame.
But there are (at least) seven pieces of advice that will help talented and aspiring young people get ahead at work.
1. Become indispensable.
A unique set of skills, specialised knowledge or range of experience is an asset in any company. Whether you can be the only person to speak German, work a spreadsheet, nurture a volatile computer or colleague, special skills will give you special status. Having a skill set that others need and don’t possess is a wonderful asset. Explore your own range of current (and potential) talents, and build the ones that are in short supply, and don’t keep it secret.
2. Learn when to step in (and out) of the limelight.
Getting noticed by the right people, at the right time, for the right reasons is essential but don’t be too dramatic. Take the time to get the job done right, and get noticed for real achievements. Constant attention-seeking and narcissism is off-putting, particularly when unaccompanied by achievement. Choose your opportunities wisely, and share credit when it’s deserved.
3. Learn the real power structure.
Figure out the real organisational structure, make useful connections and find soulmates. Getting connected and embedded throughout the organisation takes more than just superficial networming. Make real connections with people you find interesting, charming, intelligent, supportive or knowledgeable. Relationships will help you understand how to whole organisation really works (and where it doesn’t). Never trust the org chart, learn where the informal leaders, mentors and power brokers are.
4. Learn to co-operate.
Include others, share opportunities and be supportive. We come from an individualistic culture, so it takes a lot of time, energy and effort for most of us to play well with others. Real team players are helpful, and therefore valuable. Work for the group, the team, and the organisation if you want to be successful in it.
5. Avoid whinging and gossiping.
The complainers and whiners usually get passed over, pissed off and spend their time blaming it on others. Bitterness about the past, grumpiness about the present and gloom about the future will indefinitely cloud career prospects. Positivity and excitement about the future is both contagious and good for your career prospects.
6. Keep your options open.
Keep an eye out for opportunities inside and outside the organisation, your CV updated and your skill set sharp. The career path may sometimes appear to lead to a dead end, so sometimes you need to move around instead of up. You may have to leave the organisation, and you may or may not want to rejoin at a later date. So don’t ignore headhunters, entertain your curiosity on Linkedin, and be aware of your skills and your market value. When possible, or necessary, improve your knowledge and skills.
Some would disagree with this list, and some would say that game-players always get found out in the end. But career progression and corporate life is challenging.