3/10/2008

Corporate Survival Guide: The New Guy

Starting out at a new job is one of the most important things you will ever do at the company, right up there with remembering to zip up before you exit the bathroom (known as "The Zip Code") and not throwing up at staff meetings.

Having recently changed jobs, I can speak with recent and deep experience about the best strategy to adopt during this turbulent yet critical period in one's career. There are several facets of life at a new company for today's Corporate Warrior; I'll go through them one by one so that we don't lose count.

Suck it up: all the way up

I can't stress this enough; sucking up is the single-most important technique in every company since Man first climbed down from the trees to form a limited-liability corporation.

But there's a twist in today's Corporate Battlefield; sucking up isn't just about your boss anymore.

It used to be that you'd do anything for your boss. And I mean anything. Here are some classic no-fail strategies:
  • Lick-shine their shoes. This works best if you do it while the shoes are being worn. In fact, if you can squeeze yourself under your boss's desk, you'll have the opportunity to do it whenever they return to their office from their important meetings.
  • Walk their dog. If they don't own a dog, rent or steal a dog and walk it instead.
  • Dry-clean their laundry. Sometimes this incredible convenience is too much of a bother since they may still be wearing their clothes. If you cannot trick them out of their outfit, consider dry-cleaning your clothes instead and giving them to your boss, or just buying them a new set of clothes completely. You should already have their size and color preferences tattooed on your person; if not, get that information and make the tattoo appointment now.

In the old days, you would do anything to convince your boss that You were Theirs. In return, they would condescend to wipe their feet on you if you happened to be in a convenient location, and might one day even remember your name.

But things have changed dramatically since those dark days of corporate life; it's now the enlightened world of the 21st century, and companies have adjusted accordingly. Of course, you still do all that old stuff; it's rock-solid Corporate Warrior strategy. But you not only do it for your boss; you also do it for everyone above your boss. In today's "open door" corporation, you have complete access to the entire management chain and can feel free to suck up like a Roomba with an infinite charge, right to the top.

Get to know your co-workers. Sorta.

It's always good to ingratiate yourself with your new team. And by "new team" I mean, of course, those people whom you plan to leave behind as you advance up the corporate ladder.

It's good to become friends with these people, since they will be your support network as you learn the ropes at work. But it's also good to remember the warrior's mantra, "These people will be working for me one day," and to let that influence your every action.

Do they invite you when going to lunch? Great! That's a wonderful sign. You should accept immediately and join them. But as you pass your boss's office, you suddenly 'remember' that you had a critical meeting or assignment that you must finish, and beg off the lunch, apologizing and promising that you'll join them 'soon, right?' You'll be hungry at this point, but suffer through it, or if absolutely necessary, go into the bathroom stall and pack down some toilet paper until you feel like you don't need anything else (this usually takes me only a sheet or two). The respect and mystery that you will garner from such actions will earn you several times what they cost you in terms of stress, hunger, and gastro-intestinal surgery for toilet paper removal.

This dedication to work, even through arduous self-sacrifice of lunchtime starvation, will be seen among the ranks of executives as nothing less than a tireless devotion to corporate goals and bureaucratic excellence.

Eat right, meat right

Any new situation in life, such as a new job or hemorrhoids, means stress on the body and the mind. It’s particularly important to treat the body right by eating well during this tense period.

Apart from the lunches you must avoid (see above), you should eat meals consisting only of meat, lard, and juices made from blood. Plus a pinch of salt.

"You are what you eat," as a great man(anager) once said. And what he meant was this: If you eat salad, you're going to act like a salad-eater. If you're a vegan or other non-meat-eating freak, then you're going to come across to your boss and co-workers as a complete "I don't know how to be a human because I reject my carnivore instincts" person. If you pick and peck at tofu then you are obviously a poor substitute for a human being.

Humans were created in the wild. We bred in the trees, swinging from branch to branch as we feasted on the rib-cages of the prey that the lion killed for us and we conveniently stole. Blood is in our bodies and in our minds. We need blood sacrifice in order to keep our minds and our spirits alive.

More importantly, today's Corporate Warrior relies on blood instincts to stay wary and intense in today's corporate jungle. It's a cruel business planet, and the wise worker knows that it's either prey or be prey.

Note that some of the meat you eat should be raw, or at least red, and that you need to leave some drippings running down your chin when coming back to your cube. Leave it there until the boss sees it; they will duly note it. (If you didn’t have any raw meat for lunch, try lipstick or red crayon instead. Avoid the red Sharpie; I couldn't get it off my skin for weeks).

Work work out

It's good to be seen as a 'go-getter!' at work, by your co-workers as well as your boss. Make a point of joining a gym near work and going there on a regular basis. The act of working out is irrelevant; what you're really after is the reputation.

A typical workout at a gym would end with a shower and you'd dress back up in your business attire, arriving back at the office looking much the same as you did when you left. That's simply not good enough. You need people to know that you exercised.

To do this, you need to 'run' to the gym and back, and then shower off in the company showers instead of the gym's showers. This enables you to be seen leaving the company in workout attire. This is important: make sure that you time your departure with that of your co-workers going off to have a coffee and, if possible, with your boss doing anything. If you can have both parties see you running off to the gym simultaneously, your day is made.

Then after the workout (which could be as simple as sitting at the coffee shop for an hour, followed by spraying yourself liberally from your water bottle until you are soaking wet), make a point of going back to your cube and 'checking in!' on your computer. This will show your absolute dedication to work, even when it's in the middle of what is clearly personal time and smell.

Your drive to exercise will convince management that you are someone that has the energy, focus, and gym shorts to do what it takes for the corporation.

Always carry a coffee

Management knows that coffee motivates their workers more than any christmas bonus or whipping ever does. Let them know that you're extra-motivated by always having a coffee cup in your hands.

It's not good enough to do this with some "my kids made this" mug from home that's just holding the burned, acrid swill from the break room. You need to show that you go to extra lengths to stay extra caffeinated by drinking the expensive swill with a fancy Italianesque name from the coffee shop down the street.

Never let the cup leave your hand. Carry it into the building with you, while walking around the office, when you're in the bathroom (but watch your aim), and as you're gesturing importantly at meetings - always hold the cup. I've found it helpful to actually glue it onto my palm so that I don't forget myself and set it down somewhere. One paper cup will usually last out the day. It hurts like the dickens removing it that night, but it's worth it.

Moreover

There are many more tips for starting out than I have time to go into now; I've got to go shine some shoes. But the strategies above are clearly the most important for today's Corporate Warrior starting on a new job; just because you're new to the battle doesn't mean you can't fight.
Remember: your experience starting out at a company is critical. In fact, the latest research clearly shows that if you don't actually start at a company, you won't work there for long.

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