The 8 New Rules of a Career Survivalist

How to truly stay ahead in the 21st century workplace.

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Mediocre doesn't cut it any longer. Your employer expects excellence, super achievement and more. Everyone is now asked to do more with less and the burden falls on us. As unfair as it seems, it is up to each of us to stay up on industry trends, manage our professional development and take care of the personal demands in our overbooked lives. Here are some of the new rules and ways of thinking to help you survival in the 21st century workplace.

Rule No. 1: Don't Follow the Crowd


This advice seems counterintuitive but Jeff Haden, author and ghost-writer, explains it in a piece for Inc.com called "8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do:" "Conventional wisdom yields conventional results. Joining the crowd – no matter how trendy the crowd or 'hot' the opportunity – is a recipe for mediocrity. ... Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won't do. They go where others won't go because there's a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success." The Fix: Think about how and when you will separate yourself from conventional crowd-think and stand out for being exceptional. The options and opportunities are endless.

Rule No. 2: Morph

We are all works-in-progress and the world changes so quickly, being stagnant won't help you survive. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, says in his book, "The Start-up of You," that "You remake yourself as you grow and as the world changes. Your identity doesn't get found. It emerges."

According to Hoffman, this new principle is about being in "permanent beta:" a state of trial, readiness to implement change and reinvention. It serves as an important reminder to the older worker and a vital workplace "rule of engagement" for the new graduate.

The Fix: Find ways to evaluate who you are, what you know and how you perform.

Rule No. 3: Forget Compliance, Become Engaged

According to Daniel Pink, autonomy is a true motivator, especially for creative work. His book, "Drive," deeply explores what motivates us. There, he writes: "While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it's a lousy one for personal fulfillment. Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control. Yet in our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night."

The Fix: Begin by defining your values of what motivates you, and be on the lookout for opportunities to break from the status quo.

Rule No. 4: Embrace Change

If we continue to seek what used to be, we'll be disappointed or worse. Change is inevitable, and one of the greatest advancements in recent history has been the power of social networking and its byproduct: collaboration. In a blog post titled "The Forever Recession," Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author and public speaker, warns: "The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities and a lot of change. What it's not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corner office, follow-the-manual middle class jobs. And it's not going to."

The Fix: Stay smart by teaching yourself new social networking skills and beat the natural tendency to work in a silo by collaborating with others.

Rule No. 5: Learn to Sell

How would you answer this question, "What percentage of your time do you spend trying to persuade someone to give you something in exchange for something, such as time, effort or attention?" In another book by Pink called "To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others," the author asked 7,000 full-time employees this question in support of his hypothesis. Pink found that about 90 percent of them were in the business of selling, or as he calls it "non-selling sales." Persuasion and listening are two vitally important skills necessary to move people along.

The Fix: Learn the art and science of selling.

Rule No. 6: Dual Awareness

It isn't enough to be your personal best. You also have to bring out the best in others, no matter your position or level in an organization. The emotional intelligence quotient, or EIQ, is a concept that's gaining visibility in the workplace. Daniel Goleman, author of "Social Intelligence: The New Science of Relationships," attributes it to these five dimensions:

  • Self awareness
  • Self regulation
  • Social skill
  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • According to Goleman, "Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action."

    The Fix: Look for formal and informal coaching and seek a mentor to help you reach the next level in these areas of your personal and professional development.

    Rule No. 7: Take Ownership and Accountability

    You, and only you, are responsible for your actions and career achievements. Trying hard is only part of the equation, results speak volumes and if you aren't giving 100 percent, everyone will know. If you don't learn to take ownership, someone else will. And if you don't fess up to mistakes, it is easy to find the truth. In an opinion editorial piece for The New York Times, Columnist and Author Thomas L. Friedman says: "We're entering a world that increasingly rewards individual aspiration and persistence and can measure precisely who is contributing and who is not."

    The Fix: Learn to take credit where credit is due. Monitor and track your own performance and communicate success as well as opportunities for improvement.

    Rule No. 8: The Only Quality That Really Matters

    While intelligence, energy and integrity are three key qualities that Warren Buffett, the self-made billionaire, looks for in a person. But in his opinion, integrity is a key differentiator and the one quality that matters. In a blog post for Farnam Street, Buffett is quoted as saying: "You're looking for three things, generally, in a person," he says. "Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don't have the last one, don't even bother with the first two. I tell them, 'Everyone here has the intelligence and energy – you wouldn't be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren't born with it, you can't learn it in school.'"

    The Fix: Be honest and develop integrity. No compromises.

    Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

    TAGS:
    careers
    Generation Y

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