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Top 10 Ways to Survive 30 Years on the Job
(And Thrive in the Process)

By: Christopher Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
DieQua Corporation

Normally I would never even consider the concept highlighted in the title of this article. However, by chance, on March 19, 2014, I found myself having just passed the 30 year mark at my present employer. Whoa!!

Yes, you are exactly right. After the initial shock of realizing more than half my life had slipped away, my first question to myself was “Where did all that time go?” Even after looking back and thinking about all the things I did and all the people I met, it still seemed so strange that all those years had rolled on by.

Maybe part of the reason it didn’t seem so long was that I wasn’t unhappy to be here. It wasn’t like it was this long death march or repeated drudgery. I actually still find it exciting and interesting and rewarding to come to work every day.

It also may be because I’ve been able to evolve and do different things. But there’s a reason for that. I prepared and set myself up for that evolution. Worked hard. Took care of business.

For this Personal Development column I have always linked to some other article written by someone else doling out wisdom or advice. To celebrate my anniversary I thought I’d share some of my own experiences and insights on how to survive and thrive in your place of business.

Note to Diequa: I’m only lending you these thoughts. In case I write a book about this topic later, I will refuse to share the revenue from the 5 copies I sell to the 4 people who order it (my mom will probably buy 2).

As this is already getting long, this month I will highlight 4 of the top 10 things to do to survive 30 years on the job. I will share the other 6 next month.

#10. Have Something On The Boss

Compromising pictures, of course, would be ideal. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. You’ve heard about the need to manage both up and down the ladder. You need things from your boss to be successful. You need their advice, their support and their confidence in you.

My very first boss out of college used to pound on me every day. I made some progress but was happy when that experience was over. I vowed to do it different with the next one. I had two other opportunities to hone the skill before getting to DieQua.

One of my favorite anecdotes is from the early days when our founder Dietmar Quaas was still running the place. It revolves around hearing him padding down the hallway towards my cube surely ready to grill me about something I did wrong. As soon as he turned the corner, and before he could say anything, I’d shout out: “Hey Dietmar, glad you are here. Do you have that information I need to finish that project for so and so?” Screech! He’d make a quick stop, turn on his heels and make some excuse about still working on it while he made his escape.

Actually it was me who escaped. But I did need the information. The bottom line is, make sure you are pressing to get the resources and information you need to meet or exceed your boss’s expectations. Too many of his other underlings are trying to hide from him. Be his go-to person.

#9. Support Your Co-Workers

You spend 8 to 10 hours a day at work. Regardless whether there is one other person or a thousand other people, it’s much more pleasant if you can get along. Some say you have to step on people to get where you want to go. I just don’t believe that. It’s working with other people, developing synergy to multiply your efforts and providing mutual support that allows progress in the workplace to be made.

Your ability to collaborate with other people in a team atmosphere, whether its working on planning the company picnic or as a manager on an executive board making strategic decisions, will be judged by others.

That goes for both directions as well as on your peer level. When working in a group on your level, share the spotlight. If you’ve made a significant contribution it will often be noticed, although not always. And when you are working up, keeping up with the next level will show you may be ready to join them.

But when you are leading teams, especially your subordinates, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Nobody wants to work for someone who hogs the spotlight. Mentoring, training and supporting your co-workers and subordinates is critically important to further develop skills and capabilities necessary to enhance performance. Remember, if you can’t develop someone to replace you, you can’t be promoted.

#8. Consider No Job Too Small or Too Big

In my opinion, “I’m not paid to do that” is probably the worst thing you can let anybody hear you say. Ok, maybe “I’m thinking an extra splash of J.D. for my coffee this morning.” would probably rank a bit higher.

The point is you need to do what needs to be done. If you get a chance to do something extra, to show that willingness to go the extra mile, or take on that project no one else wants to do, it can pay big dividends over time. It shows you are engaged and looking to be a major contributor to the organization.

Likewise for jumping in and doing things you think may be below you. Answering a phone, generating some reports, making suggestions about something no one else is seeing, covering for a sick or overworked colleague. These lead to things that can fall through the cracks and cause problems down the line if not handled by someone.

Its not necessarily that you are doing these things to get noticed. Its that you care about what is happening, or not happening. Its more an attitude that every job and every task is important. Its recognizing where help is needed and pitching in. A seemingly small problem can turn into a big one. If you can take care of it, do it, because it needs to be done.

#7. Volunteer To Travel If Given The Chance

In my job, travel was a given. I was lucky enough to see most of the United States and Canada as well as a big portion of Europe. But there were significant sacrifices. I was away a lot of the time my kids were growing up. That can’t be replaced.

But the thing about traveling for the company is that you become a representative of the company wherever you go. People see you as one of the faces of the company. They watch you and listen to what you say. It's an opportunity to influence what people think about your company. If you make a good impression you’ll get more chances. You are creating value.

The other thing about travel is the personal development. You get to see how your products are used. You get direct feedback on what people think about your company and what you offer. You get to hear all the positive and negative things that people are thinking.

More importantly, you get first hand experience on different perspectives, cultures and ideas. It helps you see the big picture, both in how business operates and how the world works. You can’t pay for that kind of education.

Well, that is a review of my first 4 things to do to survive 30 years on the job. They are actually good ideas to keep your job past year one. If for some reason things go south, make sure you are too valuable to let go.

Next month I will continue with 6 more things, not just to survive, but to thrive and help you grow with your company.

03/2014

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