The Politics of Working

workplace myths

Guy Kawasaki asked Penelope Trunk, the author of a book on career advancement, for her 9 biggest myths of the workplace.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the workplace, a lot of it hiring and managing people.  Here’s the list, with my thoughts (and these are only my personal thoughts).

1. You’ll be happier if you have a job you like.

There’s logic (and condescension) to the garbage man in love story, but this is not a myth.  Being a pessimist can ruin any job, but the fact is that those who do what they do only for the paycheck are generally going to be less effective and less happy.  I’m not saying you have to love it so much, you’d do it for free.  But, within the context of a job, it really helps to like what you do.

2. Job-hopping will hurt you.

I think most folks have 2 maybe 3 hops.  After that, it becomes a red flag on a resume- as does missing years in the timeline (which often hide more jumping).  So it’s a matter of degree.

3. The glass ceiling still exists.

I don’t know if the glass ceiling in the traditional sense still exists or not.  But I completely agree that lots of people are stepping off the ladder and looking for life balance.  But there will always be a segment of the population who is scrambling up as fast as they can.  The important thing is to figure out where your personal sweet spot is and work towards that.  It may be to make the most money possible, or it may not.  I hope it’s not.

4. Office politics is about backstabbing.

Interestingly (at least to me), I agree that this is largely a myth.  What backstabbing remains is much more subtle, but the ones who do it are generally found out and controlled.  If you have good and attentive managers, it’s not much of a problem.

5. Do good work, and you’ll do fine.

I agree with this, but not the toot your own horn every chance you get part.  You have to do good work, period.  Then, you have to try to get others to toot your horn for you.  If I tell you I’m good, it means nothing.  If others tell you that, it means a lot.  People don’t like self promoters because people don’t like to be sold.  They like to make their own decisions.

6. You need a good resume.

This is not a myth- at least as far as content goes.  Sure, blind resumes don’t get you the job.  But once you’ve left the interview, a good resume helps you beat out the competition.  By good, I mean content.  I agree that the form and font and whatnot don’t matter.  I wouldn’t pay some so-called expert a quarter to write my resume.

7 People with good networks are good at networking.

I totally agree that this is a myth.  People who are sincere and likeable are the best at networking.  Because to them, it’s not networking- it’s living.  Nothing turns me off faster than someone who wants to get to know me mostly to leverage off that relationship for personal gain.

8. Work hard and good things will come.

I agree that this is a myth.  Hard work is a requirement, but there’s a lot more to it.  Having said that, it’s not this: “Make sure you’re not the hardest worker. Take a long lunch. Get all your work done early. Grand thinking requires space, flexibility and time. So let people see you staring at the wall. They’ll know you’re a person with big ideas and taking time to think makes you more valuable.”  Because if you do that, people won’t think you’re a person with big ideas, they’ll think you’re a slacker.  Period.

9 Create the shiny brand of you!

This sounds like a clip from some Powerpoint presentation, but I agree with this passage: “Offer your true, good-natured self to other people and you’ll have a great network. Those who stand out as leaders have a notable authenticity that enables them to make genuinely meaningful connections with a wide range of people.”

I think people tend to over analyze job advancement.  It’s really simple.  Be smart.  Be honest.  Be kind.  Work hard.  Live good.  Manage priorities.  Find your balance.

And as Webb Wilder says, wear glasses if you need ’em.

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