How To Get A Job You Do NOT Deserve

Illuminati by Colleen Kong

Have you ever wondered how some people who are terrible at their jobs got their jobs in the first place? Do you scratch your head when unqualified people get promoted way faster than the norm? Do you sometimes get pissed off thinking, “Why them and not me?”

Well get ready. I'd like to discuss three archetypes of people who successfully manipulate their way forward. I've come across each one of them at every medium-to-large organization I've worked for since 1999. We can probably all relate to each archetype on some level. 

How To Get A Job You Do Not Deserve

Life isn't fair. We all know this. But some people are much better at playing their cards than others. I played my pocket 10s like I had pocket rockets in my career until they got busted on the river by a full house.

Getting promoted to VP at age 27 and to Executive Director at age 31 took a tremendous amount of performance, luck, and political maneuvering. But I failed after my third year as an ED to break through to Managing Director after one year of trying, so I decided to negotiate a severance and be the CEO of my own company. Straight to the top baby!

Yes, if I stayed at my company for five more years, my chance of making Managing Director would increase significantly. But I had already felt the reward:performance correlation break down since the financial crisis, so I had to leave before getting too annoyed. I was too young to settle for a cushy job where nobody tried really hard anymore because the pay was beginning to all look the same.

I've shared with you plenty of career advice in the past through articles such as, “A List Of Career Limiting Moves To Blow Up Your Future,” “Why You Didn't Get The Job According To HR,” and “How To Protect Yourself From A Mass Layoff.” But now I want to share with you some incredibly effective tips for getting that job, raise, or promotion that you do not deserve.

If you are unworthy, you should essentially classify yourself into one of the three categories below to enact your strategy.

The Chameleon Ass Kisser (CAK – pronounce w/ Boston accent)

Let's say you disagree with your boss and your boss's boss. Don't ever tell them! As the CAK, your job is to always put on a smiley face and agree with whatever your bosses have to say. If your boss thinks it's wise to step up spending on creating a product that makes no sense, you must wholeheartedly agree with his or her idea in public. Then go a step further and write e-mails and create presentations supporting your boss' idea while CCing him or her.

It doesn't matter if you've already seen the horrible ending of the story. Horrible endings can often take years to play out. Your goal is to stick with your boss through thick and thin so that you can get a raise and a promotion before things blow up. Once you get that raise and promotion, you can then job hop to another company with your higher title for bigger and better bucks.

People don't stay at their jobs for much longer than three years on average anyway nowadays. Therefore, the CAK's goal is to be a loyal soldier until the day before the bomb blows up.

The downside for the unskilled CAK is that he will be too eager to please, and behind closed doors be too loose and speak his mind with colleagues on how he really feels. His colleagues will resent the CAK for his two-face nature and try to sink his chances for glory.

Therefore, if you want to be a skilled CAK, you must never speak ill about anybody. If you are not a CAK, you must never reveal your thoughts to a CAK because s/he'll just use your words and back stab you when you're not looking.

The biggest thing you can learn from a CAK is to learn how to RESPECT your boss.

The Attractive Manipulating Predator (AMP)

The AMP is a scary version of the CAK. AMPs use their beauty to manipulate men into hiring people they'd normally not hire or promote employees faster than they should. Rest assured, as more women get into power, there will be more male AMPs too.

Men are dogs. We can't help ourselves. There is deep preferential treatment for attractive women. What's said behind closed doors in locker rooms is not fit for print. I've known several male doctors who say the crudest things when we go out for drinks about their patients, yet act like CAKs to their patients who think they are saints.

The AMP knows how to prey on male weaknesses to get what they want. AMPs realize men are weak and constantly need to be loved. One AMP I know, tells me plenty of her amazing stories. She's an attractive 27 year old woman who speaks multiple languages and has a fine taste for food and drink.

Out of the blue she'll send me a “Hello from St. Thomas!” or a “Hello from Paris!” She's always with some random guy who is taking her on an amazing all expenses paid vacation. One man who is absolutely in love with her is paying her $3,100 a month Manhattan rent while he supports a wife and three children in Long Island!

AMPs can usually last about one or two years in an organization before moving on. The reason is that beauty must be followed by substance to last longer term. The smoke eventually clears, and mirrors eventually break. If this wasn't the case, super models would always stay married.

One nefarious tip an AMP taught me is to look for bosses who have recently gone through a divorce. She knows that when any man breaks up with a woman, he feels vulnerable and insecure. She knows that men want to constantly prove to the world they aren't “failures,” even though divorce is so common nowadays.

If she can swoop in and make her future boss feel good about himself (like a man again), regardless of her job qualifications, she knows she'll have an infinitely higher chance of getting the job, than if the boss was happily married.

If you are a male AMP, speak up! I want to hear about your strategies and experiences.

Related: Why Interacting With A Woman Can Leave Men Cognitively Impaired (Scientific American)

The Pedigree Pushing Pimp (Triple P)

The Triple P will come from a prestigious school or exclusive company and either think they know more than they really know, or attempt to make themselves look more knowledgeable than reality. They tend to live in the past on what they've done, instead of what they can do or need to do.

Triple Ps know that some hiring managers get mesmerized by pedigree, much like how some people get mesmerized by movie stars. Have you ever met someone who went to Harvard and Stanford who doesn't figure out a way to quickly mention they went to Harvard or Stanford?

The problem with Triple Ps is that they tend to come from very institutionalized organizations that have lost their sense of innovation. They are bogged down by bureaucratic habits and darkness. Sadly, size and bureaucracy are often the results of success. If they bring their darkness into your lightness, bad things will happen.

The worst scenario is when a Triple P joins a small organization like a startup. The small organization thinks they are getting a great resume, until they realize the Triple P's success has been largely helped by a massive budget and well-known company brand. Triple Ps are not used to hustling from the ground up.

Nothing can really replace experience. The ability to draw upon previous failures and successes, and apply them to new ideas and projects is invaluable. If you have Triple P qualifications and are starting at a startup, know your place. You need to prove yourself all over again.

The best person to hire is actually an ex-entrepreneur who knows all about hustle, yet fully appreciates the comfort and security of being an employee.

Related: How To Negotiate A Severance As A High Performing Employee

It Takes Skill To Truly Get Ahead

Luck can only take you so far. You've got to make an honest assessment of your abilities and then maximize your abilities to the fullest. The CAKs, AMPs, and Triple Ps of the world may be annoying, but they are simply leveraging their attributes to get ahead.

Recognize the reality of how people advance farther than their abilities would dictate. Instead of being envious, learn from them. You deserve everything coming to you!

Finally, the best way to take matters into your own hands is to start a business if you believe in your abilities. There's nothing better than being your own boss and seeing maximum correlation with effort and reward. Not a day goes by where I don't give thanks for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. Start something special on the side while you have a job, and work on it until it gains traction. You might surprise yourself!

Recommendation For Leaving A Job

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

When you get laid off, you're also eligible for up to roughly 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.

It's the only book that teaches you how to negotiate a severance. In addition, it was recently updated and expanded thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.

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Updated for 2020 and beyond

73 thoughts on “How To Get A Job You Do NOT Deserve”

  1. I´m just humble and easy-going. People seem to think it´s refreshing and keep me around, like a mascot.

  2. Mysticaltyger

    What is with the picture with the pyramid and all-seeing-eye on top? That symbolism is creepy stuff!!!

  3. Posts like this are my favorite types of your posts, Sam. I would love for you to write a post about “How to see all the angles”, or “The most common angles”, something like that. Not only in finance and work, but also life. Heck, maybe it would require an entire book. Any thoughts???

  4. I learned halfway through college that hard work wasn’t going to get me that far in life. So I’ve invested a lot in my social skills to fill in the gaps and give myself enough time to catch up with people with a stronger skillet, or even surpass them.

    If I had to choose one of the three, then I’d probably fall closer to being a “male AMP”. Even though I don’t think I’ve fully used this style. While more women are getting into positions of power, don’t forget that HR is mostly made of females/gays. Being attractive gets you a good head start. I’ve been with my company a little over a year and I’ve two big opportunities to be a “male AMP.” Once my VP wanted to set my up with his sister, another time my boss’s wife wanted to introduce me to their daughter. Too bad I have an iron rule of not doing office dating. :P I consider it laziness, and the potential drama is too high in a corporate environment.

    But like someone said before, there’s a fourth type, the guy who knows people. And I think I’m more of “networking” type of guy. Out of the 3 internships and 7 full time job offers in my senior year, Only for the first internship I had to approach a manager at a career fair. All the rest came from people I had already networked with, be it HR, recruiting managers or professors who knew recruiters.

      1. Yeah, I could have at least taken them out for a drink. Dating your boss’s daughter is an “all or nothing” deal.

  5. These are hilarious and I think we all were visualizing certain people in our lives that fit these to a tee.

    I’ve found with larger organizations that the philosophy of “The Squeaky Wheel Get Cleaned” always rules out. Whoever can yell and complain the loudest gets their way. People don’t like change and will do whatever it takes to shut up the complainers. So those who are persistent will get their way and those are both good and bad people.

    Personally I like your philosophy that it’s just best to be the CEO and leave all of the politics to other people. The current goal is to become my own CEO of my online blog and quit the “power plays” of the 8-5 world. Just how do I make that a reality? lol

    1. Just stick with posting 3x a week on average about a subject you love and have expertise in for 3 years and there is a high likelihood you can make at least $1,000/month if not much much more from your site!

  6. if i was a ceo, or in any position of authority for that matter- if i realized someone was not competent in their role / really didn’t deserve their job i would fire them, and maybe even their dumbass boss that gave them the job.

    1. I always wonder the same thing: who are the idiots who hire these folks? Then I observed the CEOs themselves make the hiring decision, then I realize … uh oh… maybe the company is FOOKED b/c it is so obvious the person was a bad hire, what other bad choices is the CEO making.

      Bad hiring abilities is a KEY indicator for a company’s success IMO. There’s a reason why some firms require 30+ interviews, and others just require a couple. The 30+ interview company has a much stronger culture and is much better at weeding out unqualified people.

      1. Well, I guess to be fair the CEO doesn’t always know this type of stuff is going on- there is a lot of stuff going on in a company, and execs only see so much of it. I do like to think at least that the CEO (of all people) and any exec for that matter should be actively “cleaning up” the company in any way possible, but I guess this just comes down to personality / company culture. If it was me though, I wouldn’t put up with people that truely are not qualified for their roles that are working for my company, influencing my profits. (ever heard of the Peter Principle??? these people should be demoted back to their level of competence.)

        Yeah, I would rather go thru a bunch of interviews to make sure a company is a good fit for me than to take an offer and have it end up being a bad fit. But i guess sometimes you never really know what it will really turn out like until you start out there, regardless of the number of interviews… and ideally everyone would work for somewhere where they are perfect fits, but there are other factors sometimes, ex. people that are in desperate need for any job they can get. i would be comfortable going thru a bunch of interviews tho, agreed that it’s a good sign that the company is good.

        Definition Of Peter Principle:

        The Peter principle is an observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. Over time, every position in the hierarchy will be filled by someone who is not competent enough to carry out his or her new duties.

  7. When I started in banking, there was a real CAK sucker in my branch that would use dishonest tactics to sell to people, causing problems for the rest of us. Instead of getting fired, he went to another bank and was a branch manager at age 25, an age in which I was still a bank teller. Last I heard, he worked for a life insurance company and would sell policies to kids fresh out of high school.

    Unfortunately, I am not making this up.


    “I was too young to settle for a cushy job where nobody tried really hard anymore because the pay was beginning to all look the same.”

    Dude, I want that. If I’m going to hustle, I want it to be for ME, not somebody else. Fortunately, me and a friend are starting a business that begins operations tomorrow, so I can at least say I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  8. Sam, one trend I’ve seen in my workplace is that people who no one can stand get passed from group to group, often picking up promotions on their transfers. Now, I work for a government-funded organization which often doesn’t feel like “the real world” so maybe this path only works in very limited (and ridiculous) scenarios.

    Have you ever witnessed this?

    1. Not really. I think you might be working at a special place!

      But people who do transfer get to RESTART their image w/ other people. That’s the greatest opportunity to get better.

  9. Very entertaining read, Sam! I cringed a bit because I’ve had to deal with all 3 of these types before in my prior company. Although we attempted to hired slow, and fire fast, we admittedly let at least one or more of each type through our doors (over a decade). Luckily it was short lived for most of them… we expected results – not pretty eyes, shiny resumes, or someone kissing our ass. It is hard to distinguish the real deal early on, but the truth always surfaces.

  10. Interesting points Sam, thanks for bringing this to the forefront of our minds. I’m not any of those 3 things (nor would I want to be) I’ve always been a part of small teams though and with the 20 or so people i’ve worked with (in 6 years of employment) only 1 was any of those 3, an AMP. She was only there a couple of months (good riddance).

    Work is much easier with small teams, though I suppose not as much of a team spirit etc. I have wondered what a larger office environment might be like.


    1. No Tristan, it isn’t always easier to work with small teams. My manager and I do the heavy lifting, with a CAK who does nothing all day but look for training sessions to go to. He prefers out of town. I love my work, my agency and my boss, but I am becoming disillusioned with this person doing NOTHING OF VALUE to the organization.

      My skill set is worth quite a lot in today’s economy. I am seriously considering a job change because of this creep and my managers inability/lack of desire to correct the problem.

      Makes me sad.

  11. I have another 4 years left before early retirement and my focus really is on doing the best I can do at work and promoting my own personal brand. Being open and honest at work has been really refreshing. All that other stuff is too much energy!

  12. I’m still a baby to the game – just starting my career, and not even the field I want – but I actually find it refreshing to not have terrible office politics. Granted, that’s only because of my particular job, as the deputies still have much to contend with.

    I’m actually looking forward to the games though. I enjoy the schmoozing and learning various traits about people; it’s a great exercise in game theory. It’s actually how I’m trying to gain my next job in finance, I started networking and politicking in the local scene and have already landed a few interviews doing so.

  13. PatientWealthBuilder

    Thats pretty funny but sadly true. My boss’s boss was talking to me about career and gave me some really good advice telling me that only about half of the reason you get promoted relates to your actual performance. The other half all relates to luck and these various other reasons, how you look, if someone likes you, if you are perceived as being smart or quick. Its interesting that there is a type of person who excels at looking good while not actually doing much of anything. But one thing I have seen consistently and that is that people who are malicious or not performing well are always eventually dealt with. It may take a long time to deal with but it always gets done.

  14. I really enjoyed your article. During my career I have tried not to kiss any of the boss’s body parts such as hands, as- or feet. I think both men and women can appreciate someone who is physically attractive aka Eye Candy. I also think if I paid over $200 K for a prestigious school education I would probably be guilty of making shameless plugs about my alma mater.

    My physical appearance and professional school are slightly above average. I have tried to advance my career through hard work and sacrifice. That being said, I will probably have to work until I reach full Social Security retirement age. I am glad I enjoy my work. :)

  15. The Finance Games

    I really struggle with corporate politics (even at a startup). Recently, I learned that no matter how much the management says they value independent thinkers, they actually mean they value those that always agree with them. I overworked myself into a week long illness trying to protect my engineers for no gain against the overbearing management.

    I’m learning now to be a CAK – to smile, nod, do nothing and wait until the CEO discovers his error and can be the hero to ‘save us’. That way, I don’t get torn apart for being ‘argumentative’ while I only present data — which is also probably a function of being female in a male-dominated startup.

  16. Male AMP checking in. I’ve been told many times that I’m easy on the eyes.

    I do work it when I need to and its not as easy as women AMPs have it, but it does help me in certain situations. Not sure about you guys, but in my industry there are a lot a women in the field that are in management positions.

  17. I worked with an AMP once. (Though I’m admittedly not a fan of the stereotype either.) When I got promoted to management I politely but firmly put my foot down, letting her know that stuff was not going to fly with me. It ended up being no big deal to her. She was a good worker and a decent person, but while she was putting up with essential harassment from the previous supervisor, she wasn’t going to turn down the benefits.

    1. Good stuff! Perhaps I wrote about the AMP in too negative a light? Every attractive person knows they are attractive since they were young. It’s only logical to use your attraction to get ahead.

      And every attractive woman I know realizes how easy it is to manipulate men into doing things for them.

      Men and women should realize that some of the most powerful people in power were once irrelevant nerds who nobody gave a shit about. They are now making up for lost time and love it. If you can CAK and AMP them, you will get ahead!

  18. It is not in my DNA to be a CAK, I am not a triple P – my second degree has some added value, but it gets diminished by my first degree – and I am not a blonde :-) so no AMP.

    I do know some AMPs. It is hard to deal with them if they know how to play the game.

    Deep down, I have the need to express my thoughts and have an opinion on everything. Over the years, seeing some CAK, I adjusted and now know when to shut up… Not sure what that makes me

    1. Gotta hold your tongue sometimes and be a good soldier! At the end of the day, your bosses just want respect. Respect them in public, and have your objections w/ them in private.

    2. I’ve discovered that at work you should never miss a good opportunity to shut the $%&* up! :)

      And although it may seem like brown nosing and ass kissing, even if your boss humiliates/berates you in front of the entire office (wrongly btw.), suck it up (even though it may take everything you have) and don’t fight/argue back or belittle or gossip about your boss.

      Instead, arrange a private meeting and discuss the issue your boss misunderstood. Take the high road.

      It’s a few months now down the line and I can still hold my head up high because I held on to my professionalism.

  19. Curtis Alexander

    Pretty accurate unfortunately. I’d add from my experience that people can be a combination of two or more.

    Interestingly, I always thought this sort of stuff was worse at a larger corporation. But I’ve worked for all sizes now and I think once you get over, say, 50 employees nepotism, backstabbing and corporate jargon are par for the course.

  20. The MAD Consultant

    Interesting article. Nice job making it a fun read too. It should be pointed out to people that these exact types of characters don’t exist in every organization.

    As for the AMP while there might be situations where women get preferential treatment for their looks, I’d say it’s not very common though. The woman mentioned in your post is probably not very representative either. But as you say this does happen on both sides of the fence. It just seems within our culture that the female side is singled out, or maybe it’s just more obvious to detect.

    If a person is jealous of someone else getting ahead when they don’t feel its warranted then I agree it’s time for some self reflection. See what you can learn by observing from others, and then take action with your own plan. If it involves enough honest hard work eventually the light will shine.

  21. I’d add a fourth option – be friends someone that is high up at a company. A lot of times its who you know, not what you know. High School or College buddy is now a SVP of some company? Give them a buzz!

  22. Interesting how you’ve described the AMP category in a somewhat cynical and true manner. I agree with you that there is skill involved no matter what bucket you fall under. I once had a colleague who one could say is a “male AMP” who used to be a very successful sales representative but is now an orthopaedic surgeon. He clearly had the brains too.

  23. Crystal Ball

    Bad Samurai! Off, off! Whatever dude – I see thee giggling whilst thee poketh the bull.

    I’ve watched enough anime to know that the samurai doesn’t win unless he stays true to the warrior code, which can pretty much be summarized as integrity: say what you mean; do what you say. All the CAKs, AMPs, PPPs are POOP. Ya, sure, they often make more money faster, and for anyone who believes more cash is all that matters, don’t stop at just being a manipulative shithead, really go for it! Embezzle! Lie, cheat and steal from your colleagues and company! Siphon money off vendor deals! Follow a UPS truck on the way home from work and take the packages off people’s porches. C’mon, how bad do you want this!!??

    If the goal of having money is to have more of it at any cost, you’re a corporate and social liability and I farrrrrt in your general direction. One of the themes I appreciate about this site is the exploration of balance between accumulating money and creating happiness. If your pockets are full of cash but your soul is full of crap, FAIL.

    Hey YOU – stay proud, live with integrity, and focus on creating value while the CAKs strut around with toilet paper stuck to their shoes. If that’s you, I’ll hire you and I’ll promote you and you won’t have to worry about what you say over beers.

    1. None of these archetypes are evil. They are just the reality of how some people who are less than qualified get ahead. Either recognize, adapt, learn, follow their lead, or not.

      We all have a little bit of CAK, AMP, and Triple Ps in us!

      1. Crystal Ball

        I hear you. I’ve heard variations of this for decades. Dangerous ground, Samurai. If having a little bit of something bad in us means we have to accept it in our colleagues and even emulate it for our personal gain at the expense of others, where do we draw the line? There are many who say we all have a little bit of racism, sexism and plenty of other -isms in us. Your archetypes are destructive of both their colleagues and their companies for their own gain. I don’t know how you define evil, but can we say they’re at least “bad”? Even in purely financial terms, they’re bad. Corps exist to make money and hire people to help them make money. Your archetypes intentionally destroy corporate value and other people’s careers to create wealth for themselves. They usually run before it catches up with them, but in my experience, they usually face the music at some point – especially if they hop jobs in the same city. Suggesting that “hey, that’s just the way things work – adapt or lose” is an eerily familiar theme from dark periods in human history when large groups of people rationalized destruction because they saw opportunity for personal gain and thought they wouldn’t have to pay for it.

  24. The Long Haul Investor

    Hahaha the Triple P made me laugh. That’s a funny one.

    I was just having this conversation with a good friend during the week that’s basically playing the same game with one of their bosses as a modified CAK. I guess we could take out the chameleon and switch it with “certified”. Although my friend is currently knocking it out of the ballpark at their position. But the boss is willing to back every proposed move now. That’s a lot of power to have. I bet that a promotion was going to come in a year.

    Politics in corporate America is alive and well. In reality it’s just part of the way humans are. But if you can’t play the game then get out.

    1. Spend 50% of your time promoting yourself internally, and the other 50% of the time externally.

      Send him this article and let me know what he thinks about being a CAK!

  25. I worked for a mid-sized company starting out and they were nothing like what this article describes. They appreciated hard work and rewarded me for it. I got promoted 2 times before leaving for more opportunities (or so I thought). In the large corporation I work in now it is completely different. This article pinpoints precisely the realities surrounding office politics. Unfortunately/Fortunately, I don’t possess the mindset or background described in this article that would potentially put me ahead of the pack.

  26. I’ve been told that I have a great potential to move upwards and have had the opportunity to do that. But I still stick to what I believe, that is, my family always come first. The opportunities that were presented to me were the ones that would take my time away from my family. I don’t want such opportunities if they’re going to interfere with my family.

    May be it’s just me, I’d rather be where I am for the rest of my life (well, as long as I love the job) than be in a higher or management position but will take time away from my family. I guess there are tradeoffs in here. My trade off is work for being with my family all the time.

    For me, at the end of the day, it all comes down to happiness and I am happy with my decision and happy that I am always with my family even during birthdays, picnics, games, etc.

    1. Give yourself 5-10 years of being where you are and perhaps you will want to change. It’s human nature, especially if you see people who were once your equals become your superior.

    2. This is very wise. I can speak from experience and say that you are making the right choice. I am in the process of exiting a job that has stolen my happiness and family time. The money isn’t worth it, so I am taking a pay cut in the short term. I have a plan in place to recover the lost income and hopefully exceed my previous high water mark.

      The value of quality of life can not be understated, IMO.

  27. I’m not a huge fun of the “AMP” classification / stereotype, especially when it is targeted at women. The person you’re describing, and forgive me for being crude, but accepting rent money from a married man, she kind of sounds like a prostitute. That’s pretty different from being well-qualified and hardworking and trying to get ahead. If you are a semi-attractive woman with a big job, people already assume it must be because of looks, or worse, and it’s a long, uphill battle to win respect. Plus, in some situations, things are actually stacked against you because you don’t get invited to important after work networking events because people already view you as “dangerous” for no other reason than a stereotype like the one you are perpetuating. I know you’re well-meaning, but I just don’t like where you’re going with the AMP thing.

    1. “That’s pretty different from being well-qualified and hardworking and trying to get ahead.”

      I could be wrong…but you seem to have missed the entire point of the article. He is specifically describing people who find alternative ways to get ahead BESIDES being well-qualified and hard working. Nowhere is it stated that all attractive women who have successful careers are APMs, just that APMs do exist in the world. Which means the only stereotype being perpetuated here is the indignant, crusading female frantically pointing up at the glass ceiling and shouting “LOOK! IT’S REAL!”

  28. As a mail-room on up hustler, no worker irritates me more than the Triple P. Can spot them a mile away. Average intelligence, but distinguished family. Get into middle management based on the school brand name. Then struggle to compete based on the average intelligence.

  29. great article Sam, wish I found your site a few years back, it would totally have helped me played the corporate politic game better. By the way, what happened to the search function on your website?

  30. I am none of those. I do not have great skills but show up and put in time to get the job done. Luckily, my boss is a workacholic and appreciates this. We are a 5 person startup that can either become a multi-million dollar company or sold for scrap IP in a year.

  31. SavvyFinancialLatina

    4 years into corporate and I have realized that hard work does not get you anywhere. I need to become a CAK!

  32. Sam, insightful post, we must be on the same brainwave because I was thinking about this today because of another post I read.

    You have a great list. I’d add: i’ve also noticed people moving up because no one knew what to do with this person, they got to a management level by going though the process (training program in the department) and no one wanted to work with this person that the person ended up moving up. I’ve seen this happen.

    1. Its kinda funny you say that… I used to work for a very large firm… People that make really bad mistakes get moved to another department via promotion or lateral move instead of getting fired…. I guess from the supervising manager’s point of view, its easier to “promote” this individual and get them out of their department than to get through the pile of HR paperwork to fire them. I’ve seen this time after time…. needless to say, I am no longer with that company.

  33. Anyone who has worked more than 10 years will know that it’s not only background that gets you ahead but also working hard at “politics”, managing your career, and, yes, luck. Great points, Sam!

    I have had several “big” breaks the past 25 years that have propelled my career. Here are some with the downs too:

    *I went to a decent enough (not top 25 but just out of it) school, got my MBA, and doubled the salary I would have made two years earlier with just a BS degree.

    *I was in the right place at the right time. Within five years out of grad school my company reorganized and I went from managing a $30 million business to managing $400 million.

    *The company invested heavily in the $400 million business and it grew rapidly. I was credited for much of the success and received a very prestigious industry award. I deserved credit for about 25% of what happened but got credit for 75% of it. Good fortune!

    *My new company reorganized and again I was promoted. I was terrible at the new job (promoted too soon with too little experience) and was reassigned to another spot where I thrived.

    *Two years later I received another (even higher) industry award. This one I actually earned.

    *I joined the dot com frenzy, helped my startup spend $30 million in one year, then watched the whole thing crumble within months. Fortunately, the parent company hired me and I gained experience in a whole new industry.

    *A new CEO was hired five years later, he hated all the current executive team, so I left. Found a great job working only 8 am to 5 pm and only weekdays. Made more money than I ever had. Went to every event my kids participated in. LOVED that job and those people.

    *Became the president of a $100 million company, produced a record sales year my first year there, then was fired five months later when the new CEO decided he didn’t want a president.

    *Now I’m at a good company and in the process of winding down my career (I hope to retire around 55). The skills it requires are below what I could do, but it’s comfortable and challenging enough.

    I write all this to say there are lots of ups and downs during the course of a career. Some you deserve and some you don’t (both good and bad). Try to make the most of the good and minimize the bad and you’ll do well overall.

    Perhaps there’s a post coming on exactly how to do that… :)

    1. Out of curiosity, what kind of figure are you trying to hit before retirement? From the sound of it, you could retire now!

    2. “Try to make the most of the good and minimize the bad.” Exactly. These three archetypes are trying to maximize what they have and manipulate human nature. They aren’t doing anything illegal. They are just trying to get ahead.

  34. Entertaining and entirely true. At the large global corporation where I work, you see the CAKs most often. I don’t really notice it much anymore unless it is done badly, which is always amusing. You need a certain personality type to use any of these strategies, and it is amazing how many people have them!

  35. Getting To One Million

    I chose not to climb the corporate ladder and remain a secretary for the past 20 years at the same company. I live very comfortably on 47% of my pre-tax income, have no stress and hardly ever get sick but there are plenty of executives around me that are going through their second bout of pneumonia and are always rushing around.

  36. Apathy Ends

    I busted out laughing on the bus “CAK said with w Boston accent”.

    I use brute honesty to advance, you have to be right more than you are wrong, but under the right manager it builds a lot of trust.

    Outside of cheesy phrases (synergy!, cross departmental collaboration) office politics will be the main reason I find a way out of the corporate world.

  37. The Green Swan

    Somewhat harsh, yet a reality in the workplace today. Do these only apply to those who are unworthy? Skill/knowledge/talent still plays a part, right?

    1. The archetypes can apply to whomever who chooses to take advantage. You can look at the archetypes in a bad way, or a good way.

      When you finally leave work, as I have done, you’ll realize that no organization will care about you have you are gone. What you will have wanted to do was take full advantage while you had the chance. These archetypes are taking advantaging.

  38. Unfortunately, I’m none of the above – dislike the taste of ass too much to be a CAK, not hot enough to be an AMP, and only went to UC for my degrees so no PPP option.

    Guess I’ll just have to keep working hard as ever and continue to focus on making my own success in this world.

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