Dear Young Professional,
I find myself at a crossroads, where I can’t decide whether or not I should accept a job offer that has come my way.
I know beggers can’t necessarily be choosers, but I find myself wondering whether or not this job will provide me with a future. The salary leaves much to be desired, and I’ll be working in a cubicle with everyone else.
I’m not sure if this job will give me the opportunity to move up in my field. But here’s the catch and the silver lining: it does allow me to work with my own contacts and gives me that creative freedom that can really help me develop.
So, should I take it or leave it?
Author’s Note: In light of today’s job market, I decided to re-feature an article to help you weed out the jobs that won’t get you far, and highlight those that will give you the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder in a way you never thought possible.
Check out the deciding factors that really are important, and you may see your current job in a whole new light. Enjoy.
Fighting a great fight
Like any other journey, the warrior knows that there are some battles worth fighting for, and others worth letting slide. The corporate battleground is no different. Wage a battle on too may fronts, and you spread your resources too thin and stand to lose the war.
Depending on where you find yourself in your career, the best thing to do is prioritize your goals in order to select which issues you will go to bat for throughout your career. This way, you can successfully strike a balance between respect of your peers and bosses, instead of being the guy that whines and complains all day long.
So, let’s examine some thorny issues, starting with the one that keeps all of us up at night:
How much one earns has a lot to do with how well they sleep at night. This is not only because the fruit of our labor provides us with a safety net for that cloudy day when things don’t go our way, but it’s also an issue because our salary validates what we do, how well we do it, and serves as a benchmark against friends and colleagues.
The advice I always give to students leaving school is simple: unless you are supporting a family or owe money to a loan shark, don’t lose sleep over the moolah. Take the job with the better advancement opportunities and the one that surrounds you with the best cast.
When my friends and I finished school, many sent out e-mail congratulating themselves on the amazing jobs (read: salaries and perks) they scored straight out of school. Although I was truly happy for them, I was prouder of the ones who took a risk and put out their necks by going after the “bigger picture.”
To this day, I realize that sticking around that not-so-well paying job after I graduated ultimately provided me with the career opportunity that accelerated things by surrounding me with bright, innovative and risk-taking individuals.
The salaries have never been anything to brag about (well, except maybe that promotion after a handful of months…). That is not what others even measured my advancement and career by; what they saw were the tasks I was undertaking and the people I was meeting.
Obviously as one’s career advances, he or she begins to call the shots. Headhunters dangle exorbitant salary ranges in one’s face like a T-bone steak to a hungry rottweiler, knowing full well that it is not solely the salary that will sway talent away, but the other perks.
2. What’s my title?
This is something that young professionals really have no control over, except when they join start-ups. For one thing, it is never good to worry too much about one’s title. This gives others the impression that you are more concerned about window-dressing rather than what really matters: execution.
Execute every task that you are given to the best of your ability, no matter how trivial. When this is accomplished, trust me, top people will hand you greater responsibilities and nobler titles gladly, as they are shifting risk to you and covering their own derrieres.
But remember: ask and you shall receive. Fail at something and chances are that you will never be trusted with the same kind of challenge, but rather something inferior and more mundane.
What other issues come into play on the corporate battleground?
I have personally seen this hurt people’s careers. If your company has the luxury of fancy offices, then you may be justified in fighting for the office you want, but generally speaking, don’t waste your time on this issue.
In reality, as the economy changes, so do people’s perception and the power image associated with certain material things. The only office that matters is the corner one, all the others are just stepping stones that you want to spend as little time inhabiting anyway.
4. Just put it on my tab
This is pretty straightforward. Get a feeling of what kind of office culture you work in. If your company is frugal and the CFO, let alone the controller, goes through the office expense reports with a fine-toothed comb, then show how careful you are with finances too: it might just land you in the CFO’s role one day.
On the other hand, if you see that your office expense reports look like Charlie Sheen’s tab after a weekend in the red-light district, then rack those bills up and have a blast; the boss is ordering champagne and caviar and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be having some fun too.
As companies grow rapidly, there are usually more opportunities than resources. Execution becomes key and while many want to take on additional responsibilities, the best thing to do is consult with your boss.
Ask him (or her) what the company, department and individual goals are, and make sure that your responsibilities will help everyone pull the company’s resources toward achieving that common goal.
2. Grace under fire
Even the biggest starters see the day when their services are no longer required. It happened to Jamie Dimon at Citigroup and thousands of others at venerable and not-so venerable companies.
This is when your true colors will shine, amid your old colleagues as well as future ones. While it is important to speak your mind and not sell out, it is also important not to dig up dirt and blast your former teammates.
Bitterness and jealousy are stigmas that are difficult to shed. So avoid being labeled in such a way by always showing grace under fire, even if you happen to get fired.
3. Career path
For whatever reason, there always comes a time when people choose different roads. Upon one’s departure, it is critical to lay claim to their stake, especially the more distant they are to the top people at a company. If you report to someone who reports to ten people before the boss hears of you, then make sure that you get everything in writing.
If you report to the boss, it is the verbal understanding that is important. Of course, whether you are Michael Ovitz from Lynx Technology or Joe Blow from ABC Consulting, make sure that what is yours is put on paper and signed before you leave the offices.
If you think getting to the boss is hard when you work for him, imagine getting through to him when you are an ex -employee.
There are many other tips that employees must follow if they want to steadily climb that ladder of success, or perhaps even own the ladder.
For more on the necessary qualities and aspirations that one must possess in order to acquire and maintain a position of power, check out Ruling The Corporate Battleground: Part 2.
Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.