Reading time: 2,974 words, 8 pages, 7 to 12 minutes.
Updated November 21, 2017.
This article is the last of a three-part series. Categories are in alphabetical order, so it doesn’t matter in what order you read them or the articles Part 1 and Part 2.
This career advice is not intended to help some maniac claw his way to the top over their colleagues’ broken souls. Machiavelli already did that long ago. My advice helps people improve and get ahead, become indispensable, more likely to get promoted and less liable to get laid off. It helps both employees and employers, so it’s win-win advice.
Herewith is Part 3.
Remind Me – If you want to look foolish, tell me to remind you. I’ll think, “WTF? Am I your secretary?” Always carry a notepad and pen or something digital and record things, so you don’t need reminding.
When I tell someone something, and they don’t record it, I presume they’ll forget so I’ll record it and follow up on it. Three strikes and I tell their boss.
Repeat for Confirmation – A wise guy once said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
When someone tells you something that’s not simple, repeat it back to them in your own words to ensure what you think you heard is what they meant. This can prevent many problems.
Replace Yourself – If you want to get promoted, you need to train, coach and mentor your replacement. Then, when an opportunity for promotion arises, you already have a replacement. Preparing for succession is crucial to advancement.
“Reply vs. Reply All” – I get more than a hundred emails a day at work. I avoid CC’ing many people unnecessarily when I send an email, but at times it’s unavoidable. Before you reply to an email, see if other people are copied (CC) and then decide whether you want to ‘Reply’ only to the sender or ‘Reply All.’
You’ll piss me off if you reply only to me and make me forward your reply to everyone else.
However, before you ‘Reply All,’ check if you’re blind-copied (BCC.) I tested Microsoft Outlook on some coworkers and found that the BCC recipient reveals himself using ‘Reply All.’ It’ll embarrass the original sender and make you look like an idiot.
Research – Learn how to research. In 1999, the company gave me a laptop, encouraged me to take it home and browse the internet. I asked why. Because the World Wide Web will become vital in the future, so learning how to navigate it is crucial. Now, of course, we take it for granted.
That was the age of dial-up, and before Google. After six months, I had sucked the primitive internet dry of everything that interested me, and I went back to reading books. However, I learned to research using simple search engines without Google’s fuzzy-logic, algorithms. That meant I got exactly what I requested. If I asked the wrong thing, I got the wrong thing unlike present-day Google that ‘thinks’ for you.
Forget Google and learn to use other search engines. It’s clunky at first, but you’ll learn to narrow your queries. In fact, use Google to search for search engines, and then use one of the search engines to find other search engines to overcome Google’s biases. Try a few and use the ones that suit you.
Why avoid Google?
A) It’s biased.
B) It records your searches.
C) It reports you to Big Brother.
D) It doesn’t train you to search.
E) There may come a time when you NEED to avoid it so now’s the time to learn how to search.
FWIW, my preference is DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t store your searches, but there are many other search engines.
Resign Fast – I left a 19-year corporate career for a private venture. Hoping it would give me time to train my replacement correctly, I made the mistake of giving three months’ notice. That was the longest three months of my life. It seemed like a year. Once you pull the pin, your attention is on the next thing.
To add insult to injury, the company waited until the last minute, and I had less than a week to train the new guy. Unfortunately, my replacement didn’t work out. Next time, I’ll resign fast.
Respect, Respect, Respect – I repeat it because it’s so important and so little appreciated. For some people, respect is all they have. If you disrespect them, you’ve made a life-long enemy. People might not remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
What is respect? It’s valuing other points of view whether you agree with them or not. It means not dumping on them because you’re having a bad day. It means being polite even if it kills you. It’s the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In addition to respecting customers, we should also respect co-workers regardless of their position; from the janitor to the CEO. That doesn’t mean you have to like them. Many people are fighting some battle that you may not realize.
Respect also includes honoring company policy, regulations and property.
Restraint – As much as you’d like to tell someone to go to hell, keep your mouth shut and wait. You aren’t giving up the right to give them directions; you’re waiting to see if you still feel the same tomorrow. Then tell them to go to hell.
Robots are Coming! – Every generation has its unique challenges they must overcome. Ten years ago social media changed the face of the world. Thirty years ago it was computers, fifty years ago it was plastics, and a hundred years ago automobiles replaced horse and buggies.
Regardless what you think of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, they sounded the alarm about our future with robots, and they advocate that today’s young generation join the Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution. [Link]
Automation is expected to create about 15 million new jobs in the U.S. while killing 25 million old jobs.
However, not everyone will work in AI. Young people must be nimble and find “robot-proof” niche positions such as entrepreneurs and “composers and artists, nurse practitioners, home health aides, elder care specialists, child care workers, engineers, teachers …Gates also cited biosciences and energy as a safe bet for the Class of 2017.”
David Rosenberg says, “We aren’t graduating enough software engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians for this new industrial economy…” As well, there will still be security in some traditional blue collar jobs and trades such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.
Low-wage jobs are more likely to be automated than high-wage jobs. Order kiosks at fast food restaurants are replacing low-wage humans. And, it’s not just robots that will kill jobs. Systems and processes will replace many administrative positions. For example, my present incarnation as a logistics specialist will give way to suppliers managing transportation previously handled by their customers, and companies partnering with 3rd Party Logistics providers (3PL.)
Self-deception – A monkey might fool another monkey, but a monkey won’t fool itself. Humans are the only species that fool themselves. You might get away with fooling your buddies, but deceiving yourself is perilous. Self-deception, self-delusion, and denial are dangerous.
- We cannot control what is outside our awareness.
- We cannot take responsibility for what is outside our awareness.
- Acting without full awareness can sometimes lead us to do great harm.
- And that can lead to regrets.
Monitor yourself for wishful thinking, rationalizations, and blind spots. Complete honesty may not be wise with your spouse, but it’s the only way to deal with yourself. Otherwise, you risk becoming your own worst enemy.
Shit-flinging Monkeys – Not everyone will agree with you. Get used to it.
Unlike opinions which are nothing more than personal preferences, disagreement can be a learning experience albeit painful. You don’t know everything and never will, but you can learn more. Often there are hidden gems inside the shit the monkeys fling. Hold your nose and find them.
Show Me – People will tell you stuff. Most people have poor communication skills. One of my favorite lines is, “Don’t tell me; show me.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the real thing is worth a thousand pictures.
Sit at the Front – Dummies sit at the back of the class because they don’t want the teacher to call on them. Sitting at the front of the class, I could almost get away with murder. I once walked to the back, slapped Ray upside his head, walked back and sat down. The teacher gave Ray shit. “Ray, I don’t know what you did, but Gerold wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t deserve it.”
When you’re in a workplace meeting, sit at the front and don’t be afraid to ask questions; just make sure they’re good questions. Sitting at the front, you get noticed and remembered.
Look at the back of the room. You’ll see who the dummies are.
Smartphones & Teleconferencing – If you want to be heard and understood do NOT use a mobile or smartphone when a landline is available especially on a teleconference. Smartphones have lousy microphones, so your voice sounds weak and garbled. Instead, use a landline.
Tone of voice is an important part of communication. You want to sound strong and clear, not frail and distant.
Smile – It’s the little things that count the most. Just like properly greeting people puts you ahead of the crowd, a smile will do the same. It takes so little effort to smile, and it’s infectious. People remember you. And, they smile at the next person.
My staff once gave me a coffee mug that says, “Start each day with a smile and get it over with.” I know it was a hint. It didn’t work. But, it’s a nice mug.
Start at the Bottom – No one I know ever started at the top. I started my career as a lowly clerk, but it got my foot in the door and the opportunity to show I could handle responsibility.
Any job worth doing is worth doing well. You don’t need to kill yourself; you just need to do better than everyone else.
Stocks – You may have an opportunity to buy your company’s stocks (equities.) Often, companies provide incentives to do so. You might be tempted to load up on company stock. Be careful!
A smart investor adjusts his portfolio for diversity and balance. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I remember watching the Enron bankruptcy. Thousands of employees lost not only their jobs but also their life savings in Enron stock.
Teamwork or Two Heads are Better than One – Trained as a 6 Sigma (process improvement) Black Belt, I did a flow chart on a familiar procedure. It seemed simple enough. I identified 12 steps.
6 Sigma stresses teamwork, so I called a quick meeting with three other people involved in that procedure. They identified ten more steps for a total of 22. I had made the mistake of combining steps but the extra brainpower identified and corrected it.
A) Don’t assume you know everything.
B) See “Ask, Don’t Tell” in Part 1.
C) Meetings with more than six people become counter-productive
Never underestimate the power of teamwork. No doubt you’ve heard there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ There are, however, two in ‘idiot.’
Thank You Email – Most work emails are a pain in the ass. Few people reply to an email with “thanks.” Sending a “thank you” email shows consideration and appreciation. It takes but a moment and it pays dividends.
- You stand out from the herd.
- You’re not a pain in the ass.
- The recipient is relieved your email isn’t asking for something.
- They’ll remember you for that and are more likely to respond quickly and favorably to your future emails.
Think Outside the Box – Independent thinking is discouraged in most organizations. You must learn to think for yourself, but also know when to keep your mouth shut. It’s not hypocrisy; it’s diplomacy. “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
You’ll be encouraged to stay within your narrow boundaries. Once you have experience, say, “Yes, Sir,” and go ahead and do it your way. If you’re wrong, you’ll get shit. If you’re right, someone else will take credit. However, you’ll be noticed by those that matter, one of the first to get picked for the team and one of the last to get laid off.
It’s OK to make waves, just don’t sink the boat. You need to find the appropriate place between being just another cog in the wheel and a loose cannon.
Tone of Voice – Ninety percent of communication is body language and tone of voice. You will be judged on your speech pattern. Avoid ending sentences with a rising inflection (aka upspeak, uptalk, etc.) turning declarative sentences into a question. It invites the listener to constantly reassure with “uh-huh, uh-huh …” which gets pretty tiring pretty quick. It also makes you sound like an incompetent, unconfident teenager. And, if you’re a female, drop the Valley Girl guttural growl (aka glottal rattle, vocal fry, etc.) because it grates listeners’ nerves, sounds as phony as a three dollar bill and invites interruption. Speak with a strong, steady voice and people take you seriously.
Toot Your Horn – You must advise your boss of your successes. Nowadays, many bosses don’t have a clue about the work you do so if you don’t tell your boss about your achievements, he may never know.
I’m observant and conscientious. I often see trouble on the horizon and prevent it from hitting the fan. However, doing an excellent job without publicizing your successes can be detrimental.
At Head Office (HO) one day I overheard the Chairman talking to the company President. He asked “Why do we need a Logistics Dept.? Everything’s automatic. Suppliers ship the products; customers pick them up.”
I saw the writing on the wall. I had neglected to tell my boss about the problems I prevented. I failed to sing my own praises. I had made everything look ‘automatic.’
It was time to get out of Dodge, so I transferred to another division, took a slight demotion, licked my wounds and learned from my mistake.
‘Touch the Product’ – A heavy machinery company I worked for encouraged us to walk around the machines, examine them and climb into the operator’s cab. It was called “touching the iron.” On “Customer Demo Days” we were encouraged to operate the machinery. No spec sheet or video will ever replace digging dirt with a real dozer or excavator.
Care to guess which are the most productive employees? Those who ‘Touch the Product” or those who hide behind their computer screens?
Training – This varies with different companies; some do a little, some a lot. Help train coworkers. Don’t do their tasks for them, but show them how. They learn by doing. They appreciate it, it gets noticed, and they and the company benefit.
Update Frequently – Some projects take days or weeks or longer to complete. I know what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean anyone else does unless I tell them.
Your customer (That’s EVERYONE whether internal or external) doesn’t know what you’re doing unless you update them frequently. Tell them or call them at least daily even if nothing has changed since your last update.
“Hi, this is Gerold, and I’m calling to tell you there’s nothing new, but we haven’t forgotten about you. We’re still working on it.” I’ve never had anyone get mad at this. I’ve heard a few cracks like, “Gee, thanks for nothing! [laugh]” However, you’ve just relieved an anxious customer by telling him he isn’t on the back burner.
Volunteer – In the army you’re told never volunteer for anything because it’ll be a lousy job. I’m telling you that you SHOULD volunteer even if it’s a shitty job no matter if it’s in the army, or your job or your personal life. Get outside your comfort zone by volunteering for special projects, committees, charities, etc. Doing so will expand your skill set and your social contacts.
The more you do, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better your performance. The better your performance, the more indispensable you become.
They say no one is indispensable. However, some are more dispensable than others. As with most things, it’s a matter of degree. When the inevitable downturn hits, who gets laid off first? Mr. Dispensable or Mr. Indispensable?
Walk the Walk – Working at that heavy machinery company I mentioned previously, I made a point of walking through the Service Dept. and the yard at least once a day.
You cannot see something if you aren’t there to see it. That’s a short sentence, but it’s important so read it again. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see something that needs to be addressed or brought to someone’s attention.
Also, by walking about, you are seen by others. It shows you care. It makes you accessible. I’ve had otherwise shy people approach me and say, “I’ve got something for your little black book.”
What, Not How – Some people micromanage. They’ll start telling me how to do something they want. I stop them and say, “Tell me what you want, not how to do it because I may know a better way.” Most of the time, I do know a better, cheaper and faster way. After all, if they really knew how to do it, they wouldn’t ask me.
Yes – Yes is a small word, yet it’s infinitely stronger than the word ‘No.’ A bureaucrat is a person who can tell you numerous ways you cannot accomplish something. However, there’s usually a way to get it done.
Saying ‘No’ is easy. Finding a way to say ‘Yes’ takes courage and it risks failure, but you’ll develop a reputation as the guy who can ‘gitter done.’ Doers get ahead; bureaucrats don’t.
You’re Welcome – When someone says ‘Thanks’ don’t say “Uh, huh” or “No problem” or “Yup.” Say, “You’re welcome.” It’s simple, it’s classy, and it’ll put you above the crowd.
Yourself – Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.
This article is the last of a three-part series. Categories are in alphabetical order, so it doesn’t matter in what order you read them or the articles Part 1 and Part 2.
Admittedly, that’s a lot of advice. No one is expected to adhere to it all. No two people and few jobs are the same so choose the advice that makes sense to you. And, pass it on to someone you think could benefit from it.
If you have more career advice, please leave a comment.
June 10, 2017
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