1. Don't be the hardest worker.
No one can work 70-hour weeks forever without losing their mind — or at least their perspective. You need to pace yourself. Besides, at this kind of pace, you may not always the best worker, but you’ll surely look like the most desperate.

2. Hire people you wouldn't want as friends.
Diverse business teams are more successful than homogenous teams. Creating diversity doesn't mean hiring one guy from each fraternity. It means hiring people who scare you, disagree with you and think in totally different ways than you.

3. Don’t fear failure.
Most people who have wild success have wild failure first. Have your failure early and significantly so that you're primed for success.

4. Learn to write direct mail.
A resume is a piece of direct mail. At best, it will get a 10-second scan from a hiring manager trying to decide whether to interview you. Know how to control what happens in those 10 seconds. Hint: You don't want the person to spend that time reading “References available upon request.”

5. Bake cookies for your team.
Surprise people with your caring and kindness. They will view you — and your mistakes — much more generously. Also, showing your soft side at the office is risky. Cookies are softness without the risk that you're revealing too much.

6. Give the brand of you a rest.
You cannot get to the top alone, so stop looking at yourself like you're a one-man show. Education is the No. 1 factor in determining who will be successful. The caliber of your stable of mentors is the No. 2 factor. So start looking outside yourself. You need help.

7. Blend in.
Do not stand out for how your dress. Stand out for your intelligence and creativity. If you dress in a way that makes people look at your clothes, then you say “look at me for my clothes”. If you dress in a way where no one notices what you are wearing then you force people to look at you for your brains. Remember, though, that boring, frumpy fashion stands out as much as flashy, funky fashion.

8. Toss the business books: Read fiction.
Your career is as dependent on your people skills as it is on your professional skills, so read books and magazines that help you to understand people. Read novels your co-workers recommend, and you'll have reliable repartee for weeks. Besides, most non-fiction tells you about peoples' mistakes, but fiction describes what’s achievable.

9. Say no frequently.
Be choosy about how you spend your time so that each project you work on becomes a great bulleted item on your resume. Don't work on projects that don't matter, will get killed or are clearly mismanaged. When your boss asks you to do something you don't have time for, remind her of her priorities and say you want to work on what’s most important to her. This is a professional way of saying no to unimportant assignments.

10. Ignore the urgent stuff.
Most urgent items on your to-do list are not big-picture items. But it’s the big-picture tasks that will make a significant difference in your career. So block off time each day to work solely on big-picture aspects of your to-do list. You don't have to be a visionary at work. But if you aren’t a visionary for your life, who will be?

8 replies
  1. TJ
    TJ says:

    Another good idea is instead of reading fiction to understand people, read basic guides to psychology, sociology, or organizational studies.

  2. Charles Cantin
    Charles Cantin says:

    Hello,

    There are tons of Top 10 list and there 3 tons of advice for job seeker / or manager in needs.

    This is by FAR the best I’ve seen. I’d like to add some comments:

    1. If you have to work 15 hours à day EVERYDAY, it also doesn’t show proper priority/work/time management. I had to do it sometimes for weeks. But if someone is doing it all the time, he’s hitting the gaz for a nice burnout! or a bad reputation.

    6. Some manager are just giving lectures in team meeting. Some team member are experts whom opinion are never asked. Team member will loose interest pretty quickly if the are never heard.

    But a bit in contrario of the sixth advice you gave, one of the most important one would be: “Don’t be afraid to show off a bit”. Reporting about your accomplishments is often overlooked or taken for granted. You have to be inventive and promote your (and your team) work. Participate to newsletter and tell a success story about your team (the writer would gets more recognition). Blog it somewhere.

    Thanks again. Your advices are refreshing and useful.

    Charles.

  3. Dips
    Dips says:

    This makes so much sense, yet is quite difficult to achieve, especially #9 and 10.

    I love #8. Makes me correct on one count, immediately!

    PS – How do you ‘blend in’ when you are the only woman at work, especially when the men are bent to the chauvinistic side. Then an appearance by me equals their brains screaming – woman! woman! woman! no matter what my intelligence is saying.
    The effort taken to blend in, to make my brains count for more than my gender is hard work, and takes time and is unfortunately, a process oft repeated.

  4. HTGillis
    HTGillis says:

    Dear Penelope :  I am becoming a real fan of your blog and your writing style.  I really enjoy what you have to say – it is empowering for someone like me who often feels powerless.  Thank you for that last sentence in this post – if I am not my own visionary – who will be. Answer: no one. I will take that comment to the bank / or to heart and remember to be my visionary no matter what the odds stacked against me.  – Wolud you ever consider writing a small post on womens issues dealing with Alcoholism, and the problems women face.??
    Love to hear from you ………..  xxxxoooo
    Thomas Gillis
    founder / nonprofit
    http://www.AlcoholicShare.org

  5. HTGillis
    HTGillis says:

    Dear Penelope :  I am becoming a real fan of your blog and your writing style.  I really enjoy what you have to say – it is empowering for someone like me who often feels powerless.  Thank you for that last sentence in this post – if I am not my own visionary – who will be. Answer: no one. I will take that comment to the bank / or to heart and remember to be my visionary no matter what the odds stacked against me.  – Wolud you ever consider writing a small post on womens issues dealing with Alcoholism, and the problems women face.??
    Love to hear from you ………..  xxxxoooo
    Thomas Gillis
    founder / nonprofit
    http://www.AlcoholicShare.org

  6. Jacqueline Sullivan
    Jacqueline Sullivan says:

    I agree that showing your softer side is risky. Doing too much can turn you into the office wife, where you’re expected to clean up after events and cut and serve the cake at birthdays!

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