The Art of Career Building: Chapter 3 - Picking the Right Job

In the first chapter of The Art of Career Building, Gary provides a discussion of the five factors that determine your position. In the second chapter, he reminds us that job hunting can be expensive so we must be aware of the economics of career competition. In this third chapter, we address how pick the right job.

You will want to refer to this chapter when you are planning to change jobs and want to make the right choice. Sun Tzu says that unity comes from having a shared mission. Therefore, when looking for the “right” company, it’s important to look for an enterprise that has a well communicated mission from the boardroom to the basement. Division anywhere creates weakness everywhere. Keep in mind that it only takes one weak link in a chain of otherwise infinite strength to destroy the integrity of the entire chain.

When it comes to your career, you must stay focused. When you believe in your mission wholeheartedly, you can overcome any challenge. If you waver, you can be overcome by even the smallest challenge. But, don’t fall into the trap that overcome challenges make for a good career. Good careers are made by avoiding roadblocks to success and standing out from our rivals.

There are three approaches to getting a new job or position.

  1. The best time to win a new job or position is when it is still be planned by the organization - before anyone else knows of its existence.
  2. The second best way to win a new job or position is to get it from your contacts and connections in the market.
  3. The worst way to win a new job is by going after someone else’s job when they are securely entrenched in their position.

If you go after such a position, you won’t succeed. Let’s look at what happens if you try to take someone’s job when they’re securely entrenched. In order to take the job away from that person, you would have to build a strong case against them. This requires gathering compelling evidence of problems they have caused or left unresolved. Gathering this evidence would take weeks or months and since they’re job is secure, the right people wouldn’t accept it anyway. When this fails, you would try to build a coalition of supporters against them. Again, this would take months and won’t succeed because you wont’ find people willing to go public against such a person. After all this effort you will become frustrated and angry. Once you get angry you’ll directly attack the person and the whole affair will end in disaster.

You have to be smart when building your career. Here’s what you should do. Accept more responsibility in your current job without fighting for a new position. If you encounter someone stuck in a rut, entrenched in their position, just go around them. Real progress in your career happens by many small promotions so focus on incrementally winning away other people’s responsibilities. Stay focused on your career goals and you’ll do well.

Keep in mind that everything you do matters. Concentrate all your skills on advancing your career and you will eventually gain complete authority.

Here are the rules for building a career:

  • If you’re already the boss, expand your operations.
  • If you’re near the top, be more aggressive.
  • If you’re further down, invent your own department or division.
  • If you’re a low-level manager, outperform everyone else.
  • If you’re an experienced employee, defend your unique skills.
  • If you’re a new employee, develop a special skill.

You have to learn how to be a valuable manager for your organization and avoid organizations with bad managers. Bad managers create problems for their organization in three ways so you don’t want to work with them.

  • Ignorant of your lack of resources, bad managers put you on projects where you will fail.
  • Ignorant of what you can accomplish, they hold you back from real achievement. This is hamstringing your efforts.
  • Bad managers don’t understand your skills and goals but think they’re helping you. In the end, all they do is confuse everyone.

If you work for a bad manager they won’t make your responsibilities clear and won’t offer you support. When responsibilities are unclear it creates an untrusting work environment and in time, this leads to political bickering. This ends up creating nothing but uncertainty in your career and when your career goals are unclear, you destroy your chance of success. No matter what they are paying, it’s not worth it.

Here are five things you absolutely must know to advance your career:
1. Success comes from knowing when to make a change and when to stay put.
2. Success comes from excelling at both the small and great tasks that you’re assigned.
3. Success comes from sharing your organization’s goals.
4. Success comes from turning problems into opportunities.
5. Success comes from mastering management and avoiding internal politics.

Learn from the voice of experience. Know your abilities and limitations. If you do, you’ll be safe taking any new job. If you know your abilities but not your limitations, then for every successful job you have, you’ll fail in another. Of course, if you don’t know your abilities or your limitations then you’ll fail in every job.