Top 10 Ways to Survive 30 Years on the Job
By: Christopher Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
I’ve had varied responses when I’ve mentioned that I recently celebrated my 30th anniversary at DieQua Corporation. Most of them have been congratulatory. Many were of astonishment, commenting that it just doesn’t happen much anymore. Only a few were of sympathy.
My own feelings are of pride and accomplishment. Oh, and a little shock that the years flew by so quickly.
Being a part of anything for 30 years requires a level of discipline, determination, a high degree of satisfaction with the activity and, possibly, a propensity toward tradition. The feeling of accomplishment results from realizing I must have created enough value that the company still wanted me around.
In Part 1 I highlighted 4 things I felt were significant to survive on the job, whether it is for 30 years or just getting by the first one. You can read the entire article here. They were:
#10 - Have something on the boss.
# 9 - Support your co-workers
# 8 - Consider no job too small or too big
# 7 - Volunteer to travel if given the chance
I know I previously said in Part 1 that I would provide the remaining six ways on my list this month. However, in further discussing the topic I have suddenly become verbose, which I must admit I’ve been know to be from time to time (ok, most of the time). Therefore, I will offer the next three ways in this article and finish with the last three in a third and final segment in next month’s Personal Development column.
Beside, you all have work to do. I’ve often said I’d get much more done if I didn’t subscribe to and read so many time management newsletters. Knowledge can be so addicting!
Now, it’s onward to #6 through #4 on my top 10 list.
#6. Speak up in meetings, but only if you know what you are talking about
Company meetings, whether they are informational or for the purpose of developing tactics or strategy, are an opportunity for you to make an impression and exert influence. In every meeting there are usually one or two people that dominate the discussion and develop a reputation of one kind or other.
Do you ever notice that those who ask insightful questions or make compelling comments are listened to intently and influence the topic’s direction? Do you note that those who ask uneducated questions or drone on with irrelevant opinions elicit nothing but a collective low decibel groan? And do you also notice those that never say anything and therefore don’t really contribute any value? If you think about it, I’m sure you do.
You certainly don’t want to be the second one because people won’t be able to get away from you fast enough. And, unless you choose to be invisible, you don’t want to be the third one either as that will doom you to forever remain where you are in the hierarchy, if not be moved down as the organization grows above you.
Other than just working hard and hoping to get noticed, meetings are your chance to make an impression. That impression, of course, will be a function of your knowledge, insight and presentation. Know what is going on around you, not just in your department but others as well. Listen intently to the issues. Be empathetic to other’s needs and concerns.
When you do choose to speak, be compelling and sound intelligent. Then pay attention so you’ll know if you succeeded by reading the others in the room. If you don’t get the reaction you hoped for, don’t give up. Get to work. You just need to become more informed and learn to make more thoughtful contributions.
#5. Be more valuable than what they pay you
Pretty much everyone feels they should be making more money for doing what they do than they presently are. A few are correct. Many others are delusional and should feel lucky they get what they get. Most, however, are fairly paid for their station and fit somewhere within industry standards. The fact is you agreed on the pay scale when you accepted the job. So, how to make more?
Positive, productive, efficient, versatile, knowledgeable, creative and reliable are all characteristics that you want everyone to the think about when they think about you. None of those are present when you start a job. How quickly you develop the positive impression of you having those characteristics and then sustaining them is a key to establishing and growing your value.
Don’t be the one that shows up for work at 8:29 and leaves at 5:01. Don’t be the one taking the first half hour to get coffee and tell everyone what you did the night before. Don’t be the one taking extended lunches. Don’t be the one that takes more sick days than everyone else.
Don’t be the one that attends meetings and never contributes any ideas. Don’t be the one giving “reasons” for missing task deadlines. Don’t be the one complaining about everything that is wrong with the place. And certainly don’t be the one that only does the minimum of what the job entails and thinks they are going to get anywhere.
You need to go above and beyond, within your job and in the company as a whole. Produce more than expected. Think about and come up with good ideas. Know how to do other people’s jobs if required and understand their challenges. Be there when needed. Know what is going on within the company and where it’s headed.
When people talk about you it shouldn’t be in hushed whispers “Did you see what so and so did?” in a tone of sympathy or disdain. It should be “Did you see what so and so did?” in a tone of admiration or jealousy. Both versions make big impressions.
When it comes to either driving yourself toward achieving excellence or accepting and living with mediocrity you will eventually get what you deserve, in both cases.
#4. Know more than anyone else about your products or procedures
In today’s technical environment, especially in our industry of engineered products, whether that be components or complete machinery designs, knowledge is key. Becoming an expert in the intricacies, applications, continuing developments and tools used within your particular industry is critical for creating the additional value necessary to either keep you on staff or, hopefully, push you up the ladder.
While experience is a huge contributor to being an effective problem solver, many newbies won’t have the luxury of that benefit. In fact, with how quickly things are changing, experience can sometimes be considered “baggage” if not kept in perspective. After all, if you’ve been around a long time like me, you really have to think creatively about how your 30 years experience can be beneficial when trying to implement something that was only developed 3 years ago.
So, what do you do? You do extra work, that’s what. I’m sorry to say it will often have to be on your own time. These days, when you get a new job, training is often lackluster at best. Baptism by fire is the term most of us have heard before. Getting up to speed quickly requires concentration, good listening skills, independent study, thoughfulness and just plain hard work.
But guess what? If you want to continue to be an expert as the world continues to hurtle towards the future, you have to do the exact same thing, time and again, over and over, year after year. But the positive is that most of your peers won’t want to put in that kind of sustained effort.
The bottom line is, if you can become the “go to” person in your chosen endeavor you will have amassed a tremendous amount of value and influence within your place of employment.
Therefore, take responsibility for your own development. Analyze your corporate culture and how you fit into it, read industrial journals to stay up on new trends and technologies, subscribe to newsletters that highlight new products relevant to your needs, join associations of your peers to keep up with best practices and research the competition so you know how your products stack up within your industry.
When you know more about your stuff than anyone else in the place, you will be the one everyone comes to for, perhaps, up to 30 years.
Hopefully you found a couple of tidbits here to compel you to take control of your destiny. Keep a look out for next month’s Diequa In Motion for the riveting (at least to my mother) conclusion of my Top 10 way to survive on the job. See you then.
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