The author of Suits and Ladders knows what it takes to make it in the corporate world. She ought to; she asked 102 people how they pulled it off.
Our third entry in the Career Advice series features Suzen Fromstein, author of Suits and Ladders: Ten proven ways to keep your job safe (with a few jokes thrown in). The book is geared to young professionals learning how to succeed in corporate Canada. It’s based on interviews with 102 mid- and senior-level leaders across the country.
“What’s interesting about my situation is that I failed to be successful in terms of holding onto my positions,” Fromstein joked in an interview with me on Friday. “That failure inspired me to do this research. I realized right from my first interview: ‘Oh, I didn’t do any of those things.’”
Here are four standout pieces of advice Fromstein learned:
1. Develop authentic relationships
LinkedIn can only do so much for you. Fromstein recommends building one new relationship a month, whether you’re looking for a job or not. “Identify the person you’d like to have a relationship with and reach out to them,” she said. “Tell them you admire them. Everybody loves to be admired, and to be asked for advice and guidance. That will help in terms of easing the introduction. If you can get somebody to introduce you, even better.”
2. Your boss’ career is the one that matters
You’re not entitled to great assignments. You have to earn them by excelling at the projects most of your colleagues think are boring or low-profile. Fromstein told me it’s about winning your boss’ trust. And a big part of that is making sure she knows you have her back. She has to be completely confident that your interests are aligned. “The way you further your boss’ career is by following instructions,” said Fromstein. “Don’t argue … There’s only one priority, that’s helping the boss and keeping the boss’ job safe. They’ll think you’re a great team player. As they move up, chances are they’ll drag you with them.”
“The only acceptable emotions in business are excitement and enthusiasm,” she told me. “Learn your trigger points and how to control your emotions, especially when your boss or your colleagues shoot down your brilliant idea. It’s about the work … How do you react to rejection? Do you withdraw or shut down? Stubbornly defend your position? Throw a tantrum? If an assignment does not work out as you expected, suck it up and move on. When you remove the emotional attachment to your work and leave your ego at home, you can give, take in and deal with negative feedback in a constructive manner.”
4. Understand process, politics and culture
This is as important as understanding the tasks you’re assigned. Fromstein explained that employers too often give young people mixed messages on the basics. “Companies say they want creativity, so chances are younger, less experienced people think they’re doing a good thing by breaking the rules,” she said. That’s almost never the case. Make the extra effort to really know the organization you’ve joined and how people get things done. You’ll be respected — and promoted — for it.
More on managing your career:
- Career advice from Bill McCollam
- Career advice from Paul Williams
- Seven things that bosses need to know
- Seven things your boss wants you to know
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