For most of us, our jobs will be our number one money makers. You could start the next WhatsApp and sell it for $19 billion, but you could also become President of The United States too. Having a long and prosperous career is almost imperative to achieving a healthy retirement.
As someone who finished his career as a Director at a large Wall Street firm with employees to manage, I’ve seen my share of career limiting moves. One time, there was this 23 year old first year analyst who went on strike for three days after receiving his bonus. He refused to come into work after “only” getting paid a total compensation of $115,000 one year out of college because he felt shortchanged by $10,000. Needless to say he was no longer with the firm a year later. At least he was able to drive away in his brand new $50,000 SUV his parents purchased for his college graduation.
If you can get paid and promoted faster than the average person, you should be able to build a much larger financial nest egg quicker, all else being equal. This article will discuss five career limiting moves that will not only extend your time until retirement, but probably make you extremely bitter as well. I’ll then offer three career enhancing moves to balance things all out.
FIVE CAREER LIMITING MOVES
1) Forgetting to know your place. It doesn’t matter whether you graduated top of your class at Harvard for undergrad or business school, when you join any organization, you start back at the bottom. Coming in hot like a know-it-all big swinger will surely make you enemies among your colleagues and managers. Showing respect to your elders, even if they are junior to you in title is also very important. There’s a reason why some of the most prestigious organizations actively recruit ex-athletes and military veterans; they always respect their elders. The ones who get ahead expertly manage both up and down.
2) Perpetually coming in late. Coming in early and leaving after everyone else takes no skill, just discipline. If you are perpetually coming in late, you are saying your personal time is more important than your work time. As a result, why would any company want to pay or promote you? If you can’t be one of the first people in the office, then definitely be the last to leave. There is always some work to be done or something to learn. Definitely don’t be last in and first out.
3) Constantly complaining. Complainers are always the first to get slaughtered when it’s time to let people go. Nobody likes a complainer, especially the ones who complain about their colleagues, subordinates, and bosses. When there are millions of people dying from starvation and millions more who can’t find a minimum wage job, complaining just leaves a very poor taste. A complaint will always get around the office because nobody is able to keep their mouth shut either. Office gossip is like a juggernaut that cannot be stopped. Do not engage.
4) Frequently calling in sick on a Friday. Everybody knows that if you call in sick on a Friday you are probably bending the truth. There’s only a 14.2% probability you will be sick on a Friday given there are seven days a week. Furthermore, there’s less than a 50% probability you are actually sick enough to be contagious and not come into work. Hence, calling in sick on a Friday attacks your integrity, even if you are truly sick. If you want to booze it up with friends over a long weekend in Vegas, just come clean and ask for vacation time. Once you lose your colleagues’ trust, it’s all over.
5) Being exclusionary rather than inclusionary. Exclusionary people are too insecure with themselves to be good leaders. They are afraid others will steal their thunder and think someone is always out to get them. Insecure people are also some of the most dangerous people to interact with because their insecurity will lead to credit-taking of your work, not being open to accepting constructive criticism, and thinking they know more than they really do. There is no organization on Earth where success is the result of one person. Including your colleagues on key decisions not only makes them feel important, it actually brings new ideas and perspectives.
THREE CAREER ENHANCING MOVES
1) Build an incredible network of support. You’re mistaken if you think all it takes is good work to get a pay raise and a promotion. It’s just as important to build a wide network of support across various departments. If you’re in sales, get to know everyone in marketing. If you’re in engineering, get to know everyone in sales. Don’t limit your network to your own little department. Implement a very methodical process of meeting someone new each day or each week by just saying ‘hello’ and asking them what they do and how you may help. Perhaps offer to take each new person out for a lunch or a drink as mentioned in the tax refund post. When it comes time for senior management to decide who gets laid off and who ascends, good things will happen.
2) Understand your boss’s interests. If your boss likes the New York Yankees then it would be wise to not only memorize the current starting line-up, but also not cheer out loud for the Boston Red Sox. If your boss is a big supporter of Democratic causes, then having a framed picture of Mitt Romney on your desk is not a great idea either. The point is to be aware of what your boss cares about so at the very least, you don’t offend his or her ideals. Ideals are stronger than anything because they are inherent beliefs that have taken a lifetime to indoctrinate. If you are really skillful, you can figure out how to use a commonality to build a beautiful relationship.
3) Always underpromise and overdeliver. Expectations are everything. Pity the top performer because s/he has nowhere to go but down. Setting realistically low expectations with a high probability of overdelivering is a learned skill. The reason why few people are able to set expectations low enough is due to pride. Employees are often too eager to impress at the onset, thereby setting themselves up for disappointment later on. It’s also natural for people to overestimate their abilities. As soon as you become in tune with your strengths and weaknesses, good things start happening.
CAREER GROWTH IS IN YOUR HANDS
Once again, it’s not enough to just do good work. Good work is expected or else you wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. The people who really ascend in any organization are masters at not only selling themselves externally, but also masters at selling themselves internally. Once you’ve set yourself on the right career track, actively build your retirement savings in order to not squander your good fortune.
Sooner or later it’ll become obvious who is the rocket ship and who is the dud in your office. Let’s hope you’re the one blasting off!
Readers, any other career limiting moves you’ve noticed? Why do you think some people are able to achieve so much more than others even though both started off at the same time? Are you able to easily differentiate between the outperformers and the underperformers in your group?
Photo: Ex-banker now answering to no one, Waikiki, HI.