When it comes to getting employment in today’s economy, it’s all about professional skills and education, but don’t knock ethics and a good old-fashioned hustler’s mentality either. Ethics and social intelligence play just as big of a part in keeping people within great positions, helping them successfully navigate their professional path, networking and actually growing within an organization.
If climbing the career ladder were as easy as doing your work and doing it well, many of us would have executive somewhere in our job title. Unfortunately, in a work force where job competition grows more and more cutthroat, you may find yourself calling into question your personal and professional ethics. Working smarter and not harder is just as much about networking and social interaction as it is about Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations. There comes a time in everyone’s career where they have to decide what type of professional they want to be, and ask themselves the following questions about how their character affects their chances at climbing the ladder:
1. What do you consider the difference between sucking up and being social?
I remember when I interned in college and I saw many of my classmates doing what at the time I thought was “the most.” They would pick up breakfast for their site supervisors and then engage in shallow conversations about how interested they were in the boss’s weekend hobby of gardening (when I knew damn well the only grass they cared about made you light-headed and happy). Still, I could only be but so surprised when they were offered positions within the company when the internship ended.
It’s all about where you stand. I don’t engage in empty conversations that I don’t care about. It’s just not me. I’m all about friendly and polite small talk, but if we don’t click on any level other than that, that’s okay. There are supervisors that enjoy bending over and getting their behinds kissed and others that see right through it. I’d rather know that I’m being judged on my work ethic and professional skills than how great of a brown-noser I am.
2. How valuable is your time?
I won’t even lie. I’ve been that person working on assignment and activities off the clock, but it’s only because I have a significant passion for what I do. With that said, any good organization will recognize when an employee is truly invested and even if you’re not compensated monetarily, you’ll be the first one whom they think of when that promotion comes along. When it comes to working off the clock, my advice is do it because you want to and not because you’re expecting anything in return. It’s also important to note that having your own life doesn’t make you any less dedicated. Some employers will take advantage of you because they can. When you volunteer to take the minutes at every meeting, team-lead three projects and MC the annual fundraiser event, you don’t look like a hard worker, you look like you don’t know how to manage time and delegate responsibility. You don’t have to apologize for having a life outside of work.
3. What are you willing to do to get ahead?
There are all kinds of gray areas that you will encounter in your professional life. Do you help that co-worker you hate while he is drowning in work that he isn’t too sharp at getting done, but that you’ve done a thousand times? Do you take equal credit for that great idea your colleague had although all you did was nod and agree? As you navigate your professional path your character will be constantly tested and you’ll build a reputation for yourself. It all depends on what you can live with doing to get ahead. If that office with the window and a few extra zeros is really worth you breaking backs and throwing others under the bus, assume the position.