2/19/2008

Corporate Survival Guide: Sole Survivor

In Corporate War-drobe, it's all about the shoes.

  • The shoes are what your minions see when, awestruck by your power, they look down at the floor as you walk forcefully by.
  • The shoes are the only article of clothing you wear that sounds with each step (apart from the chain mail girdle), announcing to everyone around that You Are Walking.
  • The shoes, when shined appropriately, can reflect your visage enough for you to be able to tell in an after-lunch meeting whether you have any of that chili verde burrito left on your face.
So whatever you do about the rest of your clothing, make sure to wear the right shoes. Heels made of cast iron, leather made from the finest tanned squirrel hide, and buffed enough to shimmer; these are Shoes of Power.

I have experimented with different colors in the battlefields of corporate life, and have determined without a doubt that yellow does not cut it. Today's corporate warrior needs to make a bold color statement. This is why black is so critical to success; not only is it strong and stunning, it's a color that clearly says "Hey, I'm one of you, guys! My shoes are the same color! See?"

When choosing a style of shoe, first watch the executives of your company carefully. Come to the office in stocking feet, initially; choosing the wrong shoe will be worse than wearing no shoes at all (except for the broken glass in the parking lot, but the pain and blood will only harden your resolve). Note the color of the shoes (simply verify that they're black; I'm just proving a point here). And the style (wingtip? loafer? hi-top?). Now comes the important part; you need to know the manufacturer and brand exactly.

The best shoes are subtle about this, and only divulge the brand name inside the shoe (unless the tag is still dangling from the laces), so this will take some detective work. In some cases, you might be lucky and have a boss that takes off their shoes in meetings (this is a Corporate Warrior trick to keep meetings short with underlings). Or they might take off their shoes at the corporate gym when they go for a Power Shower. In either of these cases, you have easy access to the shoes. Otherwise, you will need to find out where they live and raid their closet.

Now that you have the shoes in your hands, take them. It's not good enough to just copy what they wear - you need to wear their exact shoes. The Corporate Warrior's version of the old saying goes, "You can never be the boss until you've walked a mile in his shoes." It's not a metaphor.

In some situations, this strategy can be problematic. For example, the shoes may be a poor fit or your boss may be of the opposite sex from you. There are two workarounds possible:
  • Suck it up: this is war, and you've got to be prepared to do what you need to in every battle. The shoes are just the beginning. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn't, change your feet.
  • Choose your department and executive carefully. Everything about corporate life takes planning and precision, and choosing your department is no exception. As you look around the company, choose a group with an executive whose shoes look like they might be comfortable.
Sure, the boss might have big shoes to fill. But better your feet banging around in them than those of one of your conniving co-workers.
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