The MR PORTER Guide To Climbing The Ladder
We all want a promotion. More money, a bigger team, a glass office, maybe a company car, and a driver if you’re lucky. The appurtenances of success smell sweet – approximately like Tom Ford Oud Wood, we’d say. And even if you are not in it for the bells and the whistles, a little recognition for not being a waste of space is always welcome. The question is: how do you go about achieving it? How do you shimmy up the greasy pole swiftly and successfully without putting noses out of joint?
There are as many schools of thought on this matter as there are paperclips in the stationery cupboard. Some would have us believe that the only way to rise to the top is to imitate a raging bull: that you should sharpen your elbows and go in guns blazing, stamp your authority, and on everyone else’s shoes at the same time. Others counsel that you need to display fox-like cunning to queue jump your way up, never missing an opportunity for subterfuge or underhand tactics, destroying reputations in as covert a manner as possible and never letting the crumb trail find its way back to you.
We all wish we could be that paragon of the successful man who must display the humility of a saint and praise his team until the cows come home, but more often than not, it’s a race among middle management to vacuum up the credit like a squadron of avaricious Dysons.
The theories are not in short supply when it comes to this matter. And while there is no magic formula to be a winner in the workplace, we have assembled a collection of helpful hints, which, if followed, should see you prosper this year and the next.
Make A Plan
This injunction might sound almost biblical at this point, but that’s because it is the gospel truth: the more time you devote to planning where you want to be and how you plan to get there, the easier it will be to achieve your goals. Be specific. Think of the exact place you want to be in a year’s time and write down five things you need to do to get there. Armed with all five at the end of the year, you’ll be in a much stronger position when you make your case for promotion.
Rise Above Politics
When you go to the pub with your friends, do you spend the evening trying to undermine them? At Sunday lunch, do you moan to your brother about what a bad job your father did as a parent? No, you don’t. Unless you are completely mad. Now consider that you spend about the same number of hours awake at home as you do at work and stop wasting them complaining about other people when you could be working on a clever idea to pitch to the big man (or woman).
Petty office squabbles, jealousy, stabbing in the back (and front) are a waste of time. People who spend most of their working hours plotting invariably get their comeuppance. Any good manager knows it takes two to tango. So, rise above it and keep your eye on the prize, rather than that space between their shoulder blades.
Dress The Part
Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the one you want, the adage goes. But only up to a point. If you have designs on being a boss, don’t reach straight for a three-piece and a tie – if you happen to work at Google, for example, the eyebrows would go skywards. No, it means dressing appropriately to the company culture and maybe adding a low-key flourish. A Charvet shirt rather than a button-down. Some John Lobb Chelsea boots rather than the same white sneakers everyone else is wearing.
Manage Your Social Media
Social media wielded sensibly can do wonders for your career. It is like having your own portfolio/personal PR machine at the press of a button. But as with anything that amplifies your voice, it can all go awry if you shout too loud. So, care is needed. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to your Great Aunt Joan. Mine sweep your tweets for anything too mouthy, moany or offensive, and keep your vanity under control. That pic of you on a yacht will just get sent round by your colleagues with a face-palm emoji.
Don't Shout Too Loud About Your Achievements
We get it. You are doing well. You have a nice flat, a degree from Yale, several holidays a year and an enviably Instagrammable other half. Oh, and yes, you did do very well in pulling together that deal in Tokyo. But must you go on about it? Presumably you wouldn’t bang on like this in front of your book group, so why is it permissible between 9.00am and 6.00pm in the office? Let your achievements be discussed ad nauseam behind your back and brush them off with humility and grace. Once home, feel free to jump in a bath of champagne.
Treat Your Boss Like A Human
Despite what you might think, your boss is human. He or she lives, breathes, likes a drink and Mr Wes Anderson films, but tires of sycophants and moaners. If you are over-deferent or constantly simpering, you’ll find yourself an unbearable bore less likely to get a promotion. And if the thought of a one-to-one in the corner office terrifies you, then you are also on a losing streak. A simple rule we employ is this – and it works with waiters, too – treat them as you would wish to be treated yourself.
All offices are a system of interlocking teams and coalitions. They have to be. That’s the only way you can get things done, not to mention get through the week. You may have arrived with a brief to mix things up a bit, but if you want to progress beyond square one, there is no point being a bulldozer. Win over those with the fiercest reputations, make them believe your plans are their plans and start to make changes little by little. There is a reason alliances are the cornerstone of diplomacy – you can’t do it all on your own.
Be Good At Your Job
Among all the many job commandments, there is one that stands apart from the rest. No amount of flimflammery, embellishment, corporate jargon or out-and-out lies can make up for the fact that you are no good at the job you are employed to do. So, get the results. Gather the data. And let the numbers do the talking. Yes, the bad ones can be spun, but the good ones get you noticed.
Illustrations by Mr Adam Nickel