Three (Unprofessional) Ways to Get Ahead at Work
“The world is filled with advice about how to do things at work better or differently so that you’ll get noticed, and in faster-than-due time, get ahead. Much of such advice is excellent. Lord knows, I’ve offered up my fair share of it. Don’t deliver, over-deliver. Volunteer for hard assignments. Stay tech-current. Avoid office politics. All professional stuff, right?
So how about some unprofessional advice for a change? That is, how about some advice about what you can do when you’re not at work to improve your chances of advancement? Because in my experience, three techniques – all conducted off the clock — can be very powerful career boosters as well.
First, read a book about a time or a culture that confounds you.
… When you dive into the deep with a mystery, and you then somehow wrangle that mystery into the light of understanding, it can blow open your mind to new ways of seeing people and the world. It can soften you and sharpen you. …
Second, write thank you notes.
The best manager I’ve ever known used to keep a small piece of paper taped to her desk. ‘Gratitude,’ it read. And gratitude she did indeed display, to each member of the team, with an authenticity and warmth that inspired nothing short of devotion from us all. …
Finally, get your hands dirty volunteering. Literally.
I often recommend that young professionals get involved in one or two small non-profit organizations that might give them a shot at becoming a board member. Governance is a great learning experience.
But with this final point I’m recommending something more gritty. Like walking dogs at a rescue, or serving meals at a homeless shelter. The reason is simple: almost nothing builds character like giving away your precious time, time you could be catching up on Game of Thrones, say, or playing tennis, especially when you’re giving it away when it ‘doesn’t count.’
But guess what? Character matters. It matters a ton. People may tell you promotions are all about the numbers you hit. But in any good company, character is the intangible ‘X factor’ that managers agonize over when they’re behind closed doors, trying to decide who will get promoted.”