You career is probably your number one money maker. If you blow up your career, you will likely blow up your finances. If you blow up your finances, you will become a bitter person who decides to hate other people for their success. If you hate other people for their success, you’ll happily vote to raise taxes on people who already pay the most taxes without having to pay more yourself. If you become a hypocrite, sooner or later everybody will become like you because nobody will bother working hard anymore. Once we’re all living the good life, then maybe we can conquer new countries to make their citizens do our bidding. Great job!
The first time I heard of CLM (Career Limiting Moves) was during my first year of work out of college. I went down to the basement level to get some coffee for my senior co-workers. Given I had to get eight orders, I figured I might as well get a haircut next door while I waited. Unfortunately, the barber cut my sides a little too tight and my luscious locks turned into military buzz cut spikes. When I got back to my desk, everybody started making fun of me.
“You trying out for the military Sam?”
“How was your vacation?” (Given I was gone for about 25 minutes)
“Sonic boom!” (In reference to Guile from Street Fighter)
“Where’s Sam and what did you do with my grande mocha?”
It’s customary to get ribbings on the trading floor of a major investment bank so I took it like a man. Then out of nowhere, I thought of the best comeback lines when a senior VP started giving me more shit.
“I hope you like your coffee. I figure if it grows on company time, might as well cut it on company time!” BOOM! The senior VP wasn’t too amused. Welcome to my first Career Limiting Move! Luckily I escaped to San Francisco the following year for a new opportunity.
Now that you understand the importance of doing well in your career, let me share with you a list of career limiting moves you should not make.
CAREER LIMITING MOVES
* Not knowing your place. Seniors beat up freshmen. First year analysts listen to VPs. VPs listen to Directors. Directors listen to Managing Directors. If you choose to work for an organization instead of becoming an entrepreneur it is vital you know your place. The last thing anybody wants is some cocky kid who thinks he or she knows it all. You must suffer like they have suffered when they first started. Anything less will seem like insubordination. Do what you are told until the new incoming class.
One of the reasons why I think some Asian cultures do so well in the workplace is because filial piety is indoctrinated into their every move. It almost doesn’t even matter whether an older person is right or wrong. What matters is that you show the older person some respect through listening and following directions. Through respect comes mentorship. Through mentorship comes a much greater chance of being successful in one’s career.
* Perpetually coming in late. Coming in early is the easiest thing any newbie employee can do. Yet for some reason not everybody comes in early! If you come in after your boss you are disrespecting your boss and your senior colleagues. If you don’t really care then why should they care? You can kiss your promotions and pay raises goodbye. The same thing goes for those who perpetually leave early. You do not know everything so put in more time.
* Not speaking Swahili. If your boss is from Swaziland, then you need to know everything there is about Tanzania or Kenya. Immediately learn about the culture, language, customs, economy, and areas of pride and tradition. By studying about your boss’s culture, it shows you care. You won’t be busting out your Swahili to show off. Instead, you are simply prepared to speak and act in appropriate fashion when the inevitable culture bias shows itself.
Look around your office. People hire people who look, act, and speak like them. The phenomena goes across race, nationality, sex, education, and orientation. A pessimist can point to nepotism as a reason for such similarities. May I suggest the simple fact that people trust people who are more like themselves. You can’t change the color of your skin, but at least you can go to a tanning salon to understand someone else’s culture.
* Constant 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 can’t even get a minimum wage job, what the hell are you complaining about? A complaint will always get around the office because nobody is able to keep their mouth shut. Office gossip is like a juggernaut that cannot be stopped. Do not engage.
The number one thing a boss is thinking when s/he hears a complainer is, “If you’re so happy, why don’t you get the hell out of here?” Once the boss realizes it’s because you are too chicken shit or unqualified to move, he’ll also label you as a cancer that must be removed. Always think in your head, “Thank you sir! May I have another?” Revel in the long hours, the hard work, and the impossible tasks. Once you do, you will ascend.
* Getting too drunk at social functions. Free alcohol is great, but nobody ever gets promoted because of a holiday party. There is really only downside if you get hammered and start blabbering on about how you find Y colleague hot, and how you find X boss annoying. One old colleague of mine got sloshed at a Managing Director’s house and was fired two months later. Coincidence? Of course not. He was a blight to the firm.
* Not participating in office social functions. If your colleagues and bosses are going out for a beer after work, you better get your ass there as well. Of course you’re not going to get drunk, but you are going to spend another hour or two after a long day’s work getting to know your colleagues in a more relaxed setting. Outside of work, we are all equal. Here’s your chance to develop common ground.
It only takes a one hour lunch to drastically improve a relationship, especially if you pay. Your clients will pick up your e-mails and calls and business gets that much easier. Do not ever miss a chance to go bond with your colleagues. Once you develop friendships with higher ups, your survival rate shoots through the roof.
* Not identifying rocket ships. There is always a star in your office that is going places. The star doesn’t always have to be senior to you either. Look at Marissa Mayer who is now the CEO of Yahoo at age 37. She’s hiring plenty of under 37 year old colleagues from Google to be her lieutenants. It’s important to identify the rocket ship so you can also go along for the ride. If your friends ascend to powerful places, they will make sure they take care of the people who helped bring them there.
* Taking all your vacation too soon. If you haven’t even worked six months and are already asking for a two week vacation you can kiss your career goodbye. The first two or three years of work should be balls to the wall focus. Taking vacations too soon shows that you don’t care as much as you should about your future at the firm. Vacation days almost always carry over up to a certain point, therefore don’t worry about losing them. If you ever leave your firm, your old firm is required to pay your vacation days in the form of income as well.
If you must take your vacations, spread them out in two or three day chunks through the year. Try not to take more vacations during the second half of the year because that is usually when bonuses and promotions are decided. Remember, if you are enjoying your life too much, you will piss off those who don’t. If you piss of those who matter, then you’re not going to be very happy.
* Calling in sick on a Friday (or Monday). Everybody knows that if you call in sick on a Friday you are blatantly lying. Your boss knows that you are taking a three day weekend to go booz it up with your friends in Vegas. What are the chances that you are really sick on a Friday in a week of 7 days? 15%! If you call in sick more than a couple Fridays then you should start looking for a job right now since it’s statistically rare to always be sick on a Friday.
* Never volunteering for extra work. It’s important to raise your hand when your boss asks for volunteers. Take it as a privilege that you get to do more work. Your bosses will recognize those who go above and beyond their day to day jobs. Bosses love employees who come in on the weekends to make sure all the work for Monday is done. Another big tip is to volunteer for your boss’s charity.
* Overestimating your abilities. You may have gotten straight A’s at Harvard, but you don’t know shit once you first start working. If you carry your superiority complex into the work environment without putting in your due diligence, you will fail miserably. It is much better to come in with the attitude that you know nothing.
* Interoffice romance. Dating a colleague is risky business. There are strict HR policies that either forbid interoffice dating or that if a relationship occurs it must be reported for liability reasons. If we know that 50% of marriages end in divorce and even more relationships don’t even get to the marriage point, chances are high that eventually the relationship will back fire. If you can’t deny love, then just don’t get caught on camera doing something funny on the conference room table.
* Jumping ship too soon. There’s an inherent desire for all of us to want more now. If we are underappreciated and a better opportunity comes along, then absolutely jump ship. But if you are on track but simply lack the patience, then you are shooting yourself in the foot because you have to redevelop all your existing relationships.
Make sure you read the list of things to consider before quitting your job. Everything always seems greener on the other side. Make sure you bring some fertilizer.
KNOWING YOUR PLACE IS #1
Out of all the career limiting moves, knowing your place is the most important thing to grow your career. When you are just starting out spend most of your time listening, studying, and volunteering for work. Sooner or later you will no longer be the green gord in your office. Just be patient.
I hear a lot of excuses from people who “just don’t want to play the game.” The excuses are born out of laziness and lack of knowledge. Selling yourself internally is just as important as selling yourself externally. You are being naive if you think doing great work alone will move you ahead. I didn’t particularly like the process of selling myself, but I knew I had to in the very political world of finance where big bucks are at stake.
Only after I started planning my exit did I begin to not care as much. My focus was on engineering my layoff to receive maximum severance benefits. Remember, a job is a means to an end. Don’t cock it up!
Recommendation When It’s Time To Go:
* Negotiate A Severance Package: Never quit your job, get laid off instead. Negotiating a severance enabled me to receive six years worth of living expenses from a company I dedicated 11 years of my life to. If I had quit, I wouldn’t get any severance, deferred compensation, medical benefits, job assistance training or unemployment benefits. I believe so strongly in never quitting that I spent a couple years to write a 100-page book entitled, “How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.” I’m absolutely certain this book will help you recognize your rights as an employee and break free from the corporate grind to do something you truly want to do.
* Manage Your Finances In One Place: The best thing you can do to grow your net worth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going. Their 401K Fee Analyzer tool is saving me over $1,000 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying. There is no better free platform out there that is helping me manage my money. The entire sign-up process takes less than a minute.
Photo: Sleepy cat in an Amsterdam coffee shop, FS.