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5 Ways To Bulletproof Your Career

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash.

This is not how to be a total jerk, it’s about self respect.

As a person becomes more experienced and successful, they attract all sorts of attention. Most people you deal with are probably decent. However, as the statistics from numerous studies document, there are always a few who aren’t good.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid all of the bastards. You know them as the jealous colleagues, the competition who will take any opportunity to stab you in the back, the cheap ones who never pay invoices, the people you work with who tell you to your face ‘I’m riding your coattails’ while they copy your knowledge and spin it to get ahead of you. By practising the following points you can avoid frustration or worse, setbacks caused by dirty, rotten, scoundrels.


1. Know the ethics of your industry:

Ethics are the morals of your industry. The rights and wrongs. The good and the bad. Is your industry putting something positive back into the world or is it just taking something out? This is where you concentrate on what your industry does morally. This isn’t just about doing things that harm Mother Nature or the environment, it can be any kind of harm to anything or anyone.

Here’s an example ripped from the headlines. Perhaps you’re already aware of the data scandal that’s been rocking Facebook and making numerous global political leaders uncomfortable? In the UK, a business called ‘Cambridge Analytica’ (its parent company is London headquartered SCL Group) has been pressured to close after questions and subsequent investigations into its handling of data used for election campaigns in several countries including the UK’s Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016.

Coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The company was a political consulting firm — not founded by the University of Cambridge or anyone who graduated from it — which combined data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during electoral processes.

Most of us know as much about Cambridge Analytica’s practices as we do thanks to a former Cambridge Analytica employee that became the company’s main whistleblower, Canadian born Christopher Wylie. He had been employed as the company’s Director of Research. It’s clear when you read his tweets or his testimony before official panels that he felt his former employer had crossed a moral line (and possibly even a legal one too). He chose to leave the company.

So now the question is on you — if your employer crossed an industry ethics line would you stay or would you walk away? Let’s push it a bit further — if your company deliberately broke laws what would you do? Remember, the media almost always find out about these types of scandals so think about what the headline would be if you were involved in this sort of mess. To look after yourself and manage any potential issues, know the ethics of your industry and what your company’s contribution is.


2. Set personal standards:

Personal standards are just that. They are personal, and as such, vary from person to person. There is no generic template that suits everyone. However, each of us should have standards for how we let people treat us and how we will treat others. Here are a few examples for you to pick n’ mix for your own list:

  • Don’t knowingly break any laws while in pursuit of success
  • Question the long-term impact of what you do on a regular basis
  • Don’t knowingly hurt or hinder another human being in the pursuit of success
  • Always aim to give something back
  • Openly pass on any skills, knowledge, or experience others can use to benefit
  • Don’t be jealous of other’s success — celebrate it
  • Don’t do anything you’re ashamed to talk to your family and closest friends about

3. Cultivate your support:

Petty office gang warfare can get bloody. So how do you skip feeding time with the sharks and avoid becoming someone else’s snack? Too many people at work tend to have the attitude that others can carry their workload, cover-up for their mistakes and do their dirty work for them.

How many people would say they’ve had a boss who dished out the dirty work then pointed the finger when he blew his own deadlines? Yeah… it happens, but this isn’t you. You’re the reliable strength in the team. You don’t get shaken or stirred. And because you are so reliable, honest and trustworthy, other colleagues will come to rely on you for advice and guidance.

However, while you don’t hunt with the pack, all of your good deeds aren’t being done for nothing. You see, every pointer and pat on the back creates loyalty. Using kindness and being dependable in a cheerful and supportive way transforms you into a leader others look-up to, even if you don’t officially have a title (yet!).

The rumour is that only the most ruthless survive and thrive but the consequences of this flawed assumption is that everyone thinks like an animal and not like a real person. Here’s the thing: real people go to work every morning (or for every shift if you work non-traditional hours). So show those around you how it should really be and you’ll cultivate a support network of professional friends and colleagues.


4. Understand other’s motives:

We know you go home after a hard day’s work confident you’ve done an excellent job and that you’ve been pleasant to everyone. You earn lots but your driving force is the need to be very best at what you do. But what motivates the others you have to deal with? Because to achieve even greater success, you’ll need to understand what’s driving the others.

While you operate in a calm, dignified and in control manner — anyone who has motives that use fear and greed should be treated carefully. To succeed, you will need to stay on the right side of this ruthless type without faltering. You’ll have to outmanoeuvre them without sinking to their level.

What motivates others can be very diverse:
* Money
* Power
* Prestige
* Revenge
* Greed
* A need to hurt
* A need to control
* A need to be loved

Learn to identify the motives of others and you’ll be able to handle them easily. Remember — knowledge is power.


5. Keep records:

This isn’t about being paranoid or litigious. It’s about clarifying all issues before they become any sort of problem. For example, if your client asks you to do something and you write it down in front of them then they will have a harder time arguing later that you’ve done it wrong or submitted it late.

It could also be that if you’re asked to submit a report containing some analysis you can decide to send your boss a quick (and short!) email outlining the facts so there will be no confusion later. Keep a copy and don’t be afraid to show you’ve kept a copy (cc).

This isn’t about butt-covering because you’re up to no good. It really is amazing how often the smallest detail will cause a major upset — unless you’ve got it in writing. Nobody has a perfect memory. Four people in a meeting can remember the outcome differently — we all forget things like dates and details — and nobody is being shady. Keeping records is a sensible precaution. Once we have made a note of whatever it is we can refer to it later.

Copyright Rawpixel on Unsplash.

When I studied for my masters degree in journalism, public relations and advertising as a young 22 year old, university housing assigned me to live in the residence hall with the international law students because I too wasn’t from the local area. If there’s one thing I learned from living among so many ‘baby lawyers’ is that if you take good notes you can mitigate the need to pay their huge lawyer fees. Your good notes might resolve a conflict before it begins or help bring a resolution if it ever gets to an unfortunate stage.

Years later when I was working for Bloomberg News, a corporate lawyer friend of mine in London told me he believed that many business lawsuits could be avoided if leaders just wrote good notes or created detailed contracts up front because its the gaps in detail that often leads each side to interpret things differently and sometimes this can become very messy (and expensive!).

If you’re doing business with someone who refuses to put your agreement in writing or sign a payment schedule, think hard about whether this is a deal worth pursuing. Employers/clients/customers that respect your experience and want the value you bring, will sign fair agreements and don’t resort to cheap theatrics over payment.

As a person gets more successful, it is often a side-effect that they can attract jealousy and envy alongside admiration and respect. By practising these points you can remain a class act while looking after yourself.


Up next: Read my Medium article “4 Ways To Make Your Work Stand Out”.

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Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter