When I started my last corporate job, I asked experienced co-workers for advice and best-practices, and most of them told me something like: “Try to get in front of important people.”
That’s corporate code for sucking up.
It wasn’t my first time working for a large company. I’d seen a lot of suck-ups get promotions in the past, and in a moment of weakness, I decided to listen to those idiots.
You “get in front of important people” by scheduling unnecessary meetings with random people, always saying something during meetings, pretending you’re working while you’re watching YouTube videos and staying at the office until late when you’re not productive at all.
But sucking up didn’t feel right — I just couldn’t do it. It’s not my style. But it’s so tempting to do it because people get rewarded for that.
And who doesn’t want to get promoted? So you get lured in. That’s why I understand why people who start at corporations decide to play politics—you think it’s normal.
But “get in front of important people,” is horrible advice. Anything that is close to that, like “fake it till you make it,” or “just network your way up,” is also bad. It’s all based on appearances.
Thank god there’s another way to get rewarded.
I was lucky enough to finally meet a stand-up guy. He was a new VP in another department. We met at the elevator, talked a bit, hit it off, and decided to schedule some time to properly meet.
I thought he was very honest and confident, so I told him about the “getting in front of people” thing, and asked his opinion.
He said: “Stay out of the chit-chat. Do your work. Let your results speak for you.”
He said that he never played politics and he never applied for a manager role. He worked hard, people recognized his results, and THEY came to him with opportunities.
That’s the best piece of career advice I’ve ever received. It’s good because it’s simple. And it works for every single industry.
“Big ideas are usually simple ideas.” — David Ogilvy
But it’s also tough advice for people to take. It’s uncertain: Do your job and hope for the best. You get rewarded when you work hard.
It’s like when people say: “Good things will come in due time.”
“Yeah, right! I want to see instant results.”
Yes, and the kid wants his candy NOW. Calm down, honestly.
I get it: We’re obsessed with quick results and blueprints. We want people to tell us: Do X, and you will get Y.
But unfortunately, things are not that simple. Over the past few months, thousands of people joined my newsletter, more than a million read my articles — and from that exposure, I got new opportunities.
Want to know my exact blueprint? I HAVE NO IDEA.
I just do my work and I don’t procrastinate. I’m also not a magician. I can’t trick people to read my stuff or work with me.
No matter how many marketing hacks you use, A/B tests you run, meetings you schedule with important people, or meetups you visit — if you keep wasting time, you never get better at what you do.
Instead of always trying new things, or doing things that are not essential, try to keep things simple. Focus on your core competencies, and improve that. No gimmicks, just real work.
“Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.” — Seth Godin
In the end, this is the best and simplest career advice I ever got: Do your job well (you don’t even have to be the best in the world, to start; be better than average people). That’s the ONLY career advice you need. And the results will come.
If they don’t, let me know, so we can go back to sucking up. But I’m pretty sure that will never happen. For now, let’s get back to work.