Career warfare

Finished reading Career Warfare by David D’Alessandro. He also wrote the popular book, Brand Warfare. In Career Warfare, he takes the perspective of managing a brand but adjusted it to managing a person’s career as a brand. After reading the book, I see that I’ve done a shitty job of managing my brand over the past years. If nothing, the book helped me start looking at myself more detached to get an idea of how others perceive me. Because I could never do anything wrong, right? 🙂 The book also reminded my a bunch of The Prince by Machiavelli (which BTW I consider a book more about human nature than a guide to being evil). Here’s a few interesting passages:

…thousands of opinions that are created by thousands of transactions will generate a kind of consensus about who you are. That consensus goes by many names: It is your reputation, public image, legend, or character. …think of it as a “personal brand.”

We tend to view our own activities in a forgiving light…”yes I did snap at him, but I’m usually a very easy-going person.” …we tend to view our own less-than-heroic actions as no reflection on the basic goodness of our character, outside observers believe just the opposite: that we do the things we do because of the kind of people we are. Everything you do and say will be viewed by the people around you as evidence of who you are.

If you expect to go far, you have to develop a reputation for five key qualities: Earning the organization money, telling the truth, being discreet, keeping your promises, making people want to work for you.

…if you are indiscreet, no one with any power will trust you. While it’s enjoyable to gossip, especially about colleagues you don’t like, I’ve seen enough people damage their reputations by saying something in public that they shouldn’t have said, to believe that it is frequently smarter to keep you own counsel.

The formula for a successful personal brand is pretty simple: Become self aware. Get noticed by people in power. Develop qualities that suggest that you are going places.

Of different kinds of bosses:

The little league parent. “I can’t believe I put up with you,” they say. “It’s a good thing you have me, because if you didn’t, you’d be out of here.”

Mentors. [protect] you from the organization’s predators and from the system itself. Then they move on to help you develop your skills. They help you build your brand…. They create for you an aura that says, “The boss likes this person, so he or she is someone to watch.” …when he or she believes you are ready for it, the mentor will work to move you up and out. A real mentor is mature enough not to want to keep you forever.

The pariah: try to keep your brand distinct from his or her’s. …we couldn’t make the pariah look good because he was so outrageously impolitic. He’d be in the middle of a meeting with his peers, and instead of trying to maneuver his way around an issue, he would arrogantly intellectualize his way through it, and then end by telling the rest of the assembly that they were idiots. He was so widely hated that the game on the executive floor was, how do we kill this guy? Even the most powerful king’s courtier is never given the same respect as someone who controls the smallest duchy. The greatest respect goes to those who are both loyal to the regime and independent powers in their own right. Ideally, you want to be seen as a conduit between your boss and the rest of the organization, an independent power who is universally trusted to convey information in all directions without betraying anyone.

The one way user. They readily claim your accomplishments for themselves and use them to add to their glory. But no matter how extraordinary those accomplishments may be, one-way users don’t think you deserve any particular recognition…. If you report to someone who is too selfish about his or her own brand to allow you to build your brand, it is time to move on.

The wimp. The real trouble with Wimps is that they are too fearful to allow you to prove yourself in action. Wimps don’t give you that opportunity because they are so loathe to make a decision.

The one time you have any control over which person you will be reporting to is when you are weighing job offers. You should be … considering whether the place and the potential boss will add to your brand. Even if a potential boss does not set off any alarms during the interview process, it is smart to inquire about the reputations of the people for whom you’ll be working for.

More general comments:

…here is something that is equally foolish: trying to build a successful brand by never offending anyone. Even the attempt is guaranteed to turn you into mayonnaise, into beige wallpaper, into the kind of white noise that only gets ignored in organizational life. …you have to decide at some point who you are and who you are not. And then you have to take the hits that you will take for being yourself, because not everyone is going to like you….

About retirement: Most 25-year-olds would say they would want to be remembered this way: “Incredibly innovative and creative, took bold risks, sensitive person, fantastic manager, great leader.” The sorry fact is that somewhere between ages 25 and 65, most ambitious people go wrong. They start their careers ready to set the world on fire, yet at some point they make decisions that give them a personal brand that is notable only for its mediocrity. …middle age and mid-career are dangerous. …things conspire against risk and change. So it’s easy to simply stop moving forward, become another cog in the wheel, and wind up with a reputation that spells “going nowhere.”

If I could condense all the advice in this book into just one line, that line would have to be this: “Be conscious every day of what you are building.” That alone will set you apart from 99 percent of the people you will meet in organization life….