I live outside of London but as the economy became harder I was forced to commute the 4+ hours a day paying over £7,500 pa for the privilege of having people getting closer to my private parts than my gynaecologist on trains and rarely seeing daylight in winter months.
Here is what I have learned, in the hope it helps save you a lot of soul searching.
- There is always someone in your team who will smile at your face while either a) stabbing you in the back or b) offloading their work onto you then taking the credit. They are usually a much higher grade than you. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or they are a bad person. It means you are good at *their* job and they probably don’t deserve to have it. Protect yourself. Figure out how to quietly ensure people know you are the one doing the work, and do that, with a smile. Give people enough rope to hang themselves.
- Be self-reliant. Get to know people in your office and learn from them. Ask questions when the opportunity arises. When your manager then wants to know how to do a particular thing, or who a person is, you will already know the answer. You will be seen as a leader, not a follower.
- Pay attention. People take on almost archetypal roles in offices. Figure out who does what. This sounds simple but it’s not about what a job description says. There are people that keep the wheels turning in other ways, that you can only identify if you stop, look, listen. Find out who knows who, who does what, and who makes things happen. That’s usually the least senior person in the office, in my experience. Cultivate a relationship with them.
- Never do work for another person outside of your immediate team without documenting it in an email or via a diary invitation, first. By all means, do the work, but ensure you get the credit. Not everyone has your best interests at heart.
- Never say an obviously negative thing about another person in the office. Always phrase it in an ambiguous way so you can read the room. An example of this would be “I am still learning their way of working and what is expected of me” instead of “they are a nightmare and give me no support”.
- Learn the buzzwords used to present bad news artfully. Telling someone “we need to move at pace on this” is a way of telling them to put a rocket up their arsehole and get on with it.
- Learn the dark arts of networking. Attend industry events, volunteer to help on projects, attend meetings in other teams to “develop” and never piss off a Diary Secretary or a PA.
- Be responsive in a crisis. Know what balls you can drop to help others respond to demands for urgent work. Build some slack into your diary. Be organised. Plan effectively. They will remember you as the person who supported them.
- Ensure you are never the last one to arrive and the first one to leave. People won’t always say, but they will notice.
- Never take on more work than you know you can deliver. People hate martyr’s and it is a sign that you need to work on your personal impact and learn how to say no. It is also bad time management. Conversely, don’t deliver every project early, leave one or two close to the wire to manage expectations, but always ensure you deliver on time.