These are rules to live by for people who aspire for more at work. They may sound pessimistic but I’d rather call them realistic.
Focus on what matters
Distance yourself from anything that is not part of the core value creation process. Make meaningful things happen. Don’t waste your time and your company’s. Don’t waste your resources and your company’s.
Have an opinion
No one hired you to shut up. Don’t just stand there, echoing what others are saying. Develop original opinions and don’t keep them to yourself.
Know when to shut up
When talking to people material to your career advancement, don’t say everything that comes to mind. And for goodness sake, don’t beg for promotion. Instead, plant seeds – useful and memorable actions that will make people think of you. Leave it up to them to check with others and arrive at a conclusion about you.
Be a skeptic
Don’t believe your own hype nor others’. Assume that everything you hear is an exaggeration meant to make someone or something look better. Only after cross-referencing multiple independent sources can you be sure that the information is authentic. Even after you verify that it is, remember that facts can go stale very fast. Don’t base your decision on information that was once true; make sure it still is.
Have a healthy dose of paranoia
Yes, some people are out to get you. Disarm them and make their game irrelevant rather than fighting them. If you fight, you expose your vulnerabilities and are much more likely to lose (this fight or the next). Win the war before it starts.
Be your own mentor
Having a mentor is great, but don’t wait for one to show up. You can find plenty of resources online and offline, join meetup groups and consult with friends and colleagues. However, none of these understands you completely and works solely on your behalf. Be your own mentor and coach yourself to success.
Do your homework
Try harder. Work smart and focus on what’s important (see #1). Pay attention to details and don’t cut corners. If two people are up for promotion, in most cases the more productive one is likely to get ahead.
Forget about job security
Love your company? the people? the pay? the location? it can all end in an instant. When you go home in the evening, don’t assume you’ll have a job the next day. This may sound bleak but it happens all the time. Always have a plan B. Don’t burn your bridges, keep your eyes open, and most importantly: don’t be afraid to quit. Non-exempt goes both ways.
Everybody says “don’t give up”. Well, don’t give up alright, but know when giving up is the right thing to do. “Have a thick skin”, another cliché, is more relevant. Keep calm and don’t let the shit through no matter how “interesting” things become.