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Welcome to the career guide for people who hate career guides. You know the books I'm talking about: How to Get a Raise in 30 Minutes; How to Become a CEO in 30 Days or Less; Follow Your Passion to Achieve Career Bliss. The shelves at your local bookstore are groaning with career/leadership/management tomes penned by the latest hot headhunter, executive career adviser, football coach, or motivational flimflammer. You can get leadership lessons from Star Trek, a success primer from Winnie-the-Pooh, and management tips from Moses — really! I'm waiting for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dictators by Fidel Castro or Management by Bullying by Bobby Knight.
Have these career gurus ever lived on this planet? If they did, they'd know their simplistic formulas for career success don't work for everyone. All of you who have toiled in the messy, chaotic vineyards of work know the task of building a career is replete with ups and downs, hurdles and roadblocks, luck and misfortune. Along the way, you pit your skills and competitive fire against a horde of ambitious bosses, peers, and subordinates, all seeking to grab the brass ring of career success. Some will play fair, others won't, and justice won't always prevail. The workplace isn't a pure meritocracy, as much as we'd like it to be (that goes for your workplace, too, you high-tech dreamers).
But that doesn't mean you can't prosper and be happy while doing it. You just need to know the possibilities available to you and then make the best possible choices. That's what this book is all about. What I am offering is a commonsense road map to the issues thatreally matter in building a successful management career: How can you find the right job? How can you make your job better? When should you dump your current job? How can you survive your boss's many quirks and foibles? How do you maneuver through the political quicksand that makes corporate life so treacherous? What alternate paths to glory exist, and what do you need to know to follow them? How can you make sense of all the mergers, technological advances, and cultural mutations that have muddied the career waters? How can you be an effective leader through all these shifting circumstances?
I know a little something about this, having been both a participant and an observer on the front lines of business for thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal. And for five years I wrote the Journal's weekly "Managing Your Career" column. I'm currently writing a similar column for the Journal's CareerJournal website.
So what will you find lurking in these pages? It won't be convenient buzzwords about empowerment and owning your job, which bear little resemblance to corporate reality. There won't be any paradigm shifting on my watch (if my paradigm shifts one more time, I'll need a chiropractor). I won't kill any trees expounding on the wonders of the two-paragraph cover letter. Entire books are already devoted to that riveting subject. We won't be exploring the soul in the workplace, and I won't promise you health, wealth, and the mate of your dreams in thirty minutes or less.
This book is for those folks who are as bewildered as I am by the training gurus who collect big bucks for convincing people that they can build a smooth corporate team and advance their careers by walking on a wire or tramping through the woods. It's for people who question the quick-fix psychobabble served up by the empowered, self-actualized, spirituality-seeking nexus that now dominates the overstuffed career advice field.
This is a book not for dummies or complete idiots, but for accomplished managers and highly skilled professionals seeking fulfilling careers. It recognizes that as much as things have changed — and they have — many essential truths about careers remain the same. It recognizes that there are no magic rules of conduct that will transform you into Jack Welch overnight.
But make no mistake about it: This is a book about people seeking a path to career success. And that means wildly different things to different people. For some, it's more important to be an integral part of their children's lives and to support their spouse's careers. They're willing to sacrifice their own advancement to be there when their family needs them. These are certainly people to be admired.
Others want to steam ahead at full speed, even if it means sacrificing parts of their lives. They won't be at all the soccer games and school plays. They'll often combine vacation and business. They will undoubtedly cross swords with their spouses now and again over whose career takes precedence.
Keep that in mind as you read this book, and ignore the incessant bleating of the work-family mafia, who insist that you must always place family and children above all else. All that matters is what works for you and your family. Sometimes — not always, or even most of the time — the needs of your career must take precedence over the needs of your family. I once wrote that there are times you must say to your kids, "No, I can't play with you, I have to work now." Such heresy earned me several scathing letters, which, in essence, damned me as the Antichrist and insisted that I promptly surrender my children to the nearest authorities.
But for many of us, careers are important and fulfilling. And if your career is a major priority, it doesn't mean you're a bad person. Nobody can do it all, not man, or woman, or beast. If you plan it well, you can be there for most of it. If you've married and parented well, and frequently demonstrated your enduring love to your family, they will understand the rest. Finally, this book is constructed on the notion that you learn best not by listening to the ramblings of so-called experts, but by studying the experiences of others like you who have been through the business wars.
Most of what you will read here comes from the real-life experiences of managers and professionals I have interviewed over the years. Their stories reflect the often baffling contradictions of the business world and offer no pat formulas for career success.
One caveat: It is highly likely that many of the sources cited herein have moved on to other positions since we crossed paths. Since up-to-the-minute descriptions were impossible, given the harsh realities of deadlines in the book-publishing world, I decided to leave them where I originally found them.
Hopefully, in the ensuing chapters, we can show you some of the roads to success others have taken and some of the principles they followed. Many of them, I hope, will resonate with you and offer templates for your own career. Some of them won't. So be it. You choose what might work for you.
Copyright © 2002 by Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
|Part 1||Selling Yourself||1|
|1.||Whither Goest Resumes?||3|
|2.||Highlighting Hidden Skills||8|
|3.||Promoting Yourself Online||11|
|4.||How to Tell Good Schmoozing from Bad||15|
|5.||Shhh! Be Wary While You're Job Hunting; the Boss May Be Listening||19|
|6.||Who Gets the Job, the Specialist or the Generalist?||23|
|7.||Acing the Interview||26|
|8.||Getting What You're Worth||32|
|Part 2||Getting Ahead||37|
|9.||Taking the Road Less Traveled||39|
|10.||Hunting the Elusive Mentor||42|
|11.||Being a Hub: Leading When You're Not the Leader||46|
|12.||Is That Promotion Right for You?||51|
|13.||Breaking Out of Your Pigeonhole||55|
|14.||Chasing the MBA: Is It Worth the Hassle?||59|
|15.||Dunning Your Boss for a Raise||64|
|Part 3||Into the Management Maelstrom||69|
|16.||Avoiding Those First-Time Manager Blues||71|
|17.||Who Said Techies Can't Manage?||75|
|18.||Managing Techies When You Aren't One||78|
|19.||Managing a Hostile Crew||82|
|20.||The Art and Craft of Being a Good Number Two||85|
|Part 4||Making Midcourse Corrections||89|
|21.||Turnarounds and Careers: Even a Lemon Has Juice||91|
|22.||Someone Will Benefit from a Company Crisis; Why Shouldn't It Be You?||95|
|23.||Learning from Failure: Overcoming Hubris||98|
|24.||Adapting to Continual Turmoil||101|
|25.||The Return of the Living Dead: Coming Back from a Demotion||104|
|26.||Job-hopping: Road to Riches or Ruin?||107|
|27.||How to Survive Your Midlife Crisis||111|
|28.||Can You Go Home Again?||116|
|29.||Using a Job Hiatus to Build a New Career||119|
|Part 5||Swimming in a Sea of Change: Fight or Flight?||123|
|30.||The High-Anxiety, Low-Self-Esteem Blues||125|
|31.||Reinventing Your Job||129|
|32.||Creating Your Own New Job||131|
|33.||Should You Take a Buyout and Go Bye-Bye?||134|
|34.||Wielding the Broom: Who Gets Swept Out, the Old Ways or the New Manager?||138|
|35.||Postmerger Trauma: How to Avoid Being a Deer in the Headlights||141|
|36.||Chasing the Start-up Pot of Gold||145|
|Part 6||Office Politics: Playing Well with Others||151|
|37.||Mastering Office Politics Without Becoming a Jerk||153|
|38.||Getting Noticed Without Getting Pushy||157|
|39.||Learn to Negotiate; Your Career Depends on It||159|
|40.||Living with Bad Bosses: Love 'Em or Leave 'Em||162|
|41.||Surviving a New Boss||165|
|42.||Going over the Boss's Head||168|
|43.||Teaching an Old Boss New Tricks||171|
|Part 7||Alternate Paths to Glory||175|
|44.||The Perils and Promise of Turning Your Hobby into a Career||177|
|45.||Alternative Work Arrangements: Beating the Odds and Making Them Work||182|
|46.||Living Life as a Pilot Fish||186|
|47.||Women Who Break the Mold||189|
|48.||Living La Vida Free Agency||192|
|49.||Getting Branded for Life||197|
|50.||Life as a Corporate Samurai||200|
|51.||Building a Parallel Career for Fun and Profit||203|
|52.||It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You End Up||206|
Chapter 38: Getting Noticed Without Getting Pushy
It's the eternal conundrum: How do I get recognized for my good work without becoming a self-aggrandizing climber? Is it enough simply to do good work? Can I trust the powers-that-be to notice?
The answer, I'm afraid, is no, you can't count on the attentiveness of your superiors. It could happen; the meritorious do sometimes triumph. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.
There are ways to get the recognition you deserve. I'm not advocating hiring a personal PR person, although I know some who have. But there are more subtle ways of exposing your halogen-like brilliance to a wider population. Periodic project updates to the boss can help. But delete the I's from your writing and focus on the accomplishments of the team; if they succeed, you'll succeed. Also, resist the temptation to e-mail your report to every executive in the organization. Most could not care less and will probably be annoyed by your effrontery.
Alan Schonberg, president of Management Recruiters International, an executive recruiting firm, and author of 169 Ways to Score Points with Your Boss, recalls one of his managers who fell into the self-promotion trap. He tried so vociferously to convince a group of executives to put him in charge of a new project that he eventually turned everyone against him. "He kept going on about how great he was and the wonderful things he was doing," Mr. Schonberg says. "It was a monologue, and it quickly became boring."
Longtime marketing executive Bob Wilson, of Evanston, Illinois, gained recognition internally by positioning himself as an external industry expert.That meant making himself available to reporters as an industry commentator, speaking at industry forums, and penning learned articles for industry publications. He was a frequent joiner of business and trade organizations, picking up committee chairmanships that marked him as an industry spokesperson.
And don't forget those humble in-house publications. Career-wise, that's targeted marketing, putting your message and expertise in front of the only audience that matters, eventually: your colleagues and superiors.
Another tried-and-true way to gain recognition is to make your boss look good. Taking on assignments that ease her load will earn you gratitude and recognition. So will bringing the manager new ideas that polish his résumé while providing new project teams for you to lead.
Of course nothing creates success like success. Amid all this positioning, don't forget to excel at what you do. Bob Skolnick rose to executive vice president of BAI Global, a market research firm in Tarrytown, New York, by developing and riding a hot product (a credit card tracking system). "It allowed me to develop expertise and gain credibility," he says. "That led to a larger leadership role."
The success of the product made Mr. Skolnick an expert everybody in the company wanted to talk to. And that, after all, is the best way to get recognition for yourself, by creating an internal buzz about your work.
All the self-promotion in the world can't overcome a lack of success, but a little subtle promotion can give a success story a winning edge.
Copyright © 2002 by Dow Jones & Company, Inc.