The Rules of Work summary (flourishing in the corporate world)

An efficient way to make money is to be good at your work. To make your experience even better, flourishing in the corporate world would be great. But the corporate world can be complex, so the rules of work will help in reducing the friction during your transition from school to the workplace.

The rules of work mentions about the unspoken truth about getting ahead in the corporate world.

Successful navigation in this unfamiliar territory will enable you to thrive. As a start, you need to understand the unwritten rules of the office. Here’s the summary of The Rules of Work by one of my favourite authors - Richard Templar.

Part 1: Work Ethnic

Know your job well, do it well and be better than anyone else at doing it.

  • Get your work noticed

The best way to attract attention is to provide extra value and go above the expectations. For example, you can show initiative and share your perspective on how things could be done more efficiently. Be sure that your idea works beforehand via a discussion, to make sure that you don't waste your efforts.

  • Never stand still

 Spend any extra time in honing the skills needed for your next desired role. Have a growth mindset and keep learning.

  • Volunteer carefully for ad-hoc tasks
  • Carve out a niche for yourself

Creating your own niche will make you stand out among the rest. You can do so by filling an unmet need in your office. For example, you could create personal profiles of top customers or master the functionalities of a new software.

  • Under promise and over deliver
  • Be inquisitive and understand the big picture
  • Be 100% committed
  • Learn from others’ mistakes
  • Enjoy what you are doing
  • Develop the right attitude

The right attitude is about developing standards and sticking to them. It also means giving it your best shot, consistently every day.

  • Be passionate but don’t kill yourself

Cultivate a positive enthusiasm about your work. If you don’t feel passionate about it, look for a new way to view it such that it makes you care. Otherwise, figure out what would generate that kind of passion in you.

  • Manage your energy

Managing your energy is as important as managing your time. You need to ensure that the energy is there when it is needed.

  • Never let anyone know how hard you work

The important thing is to look calm and efficient. Even if you come across some bumps in the road, you will give others the confidence in you by appearing to be in control.

  • Keep your personal life private.

Part 2: Know that you are being judged all the time

The way you dress, how you speak and the clothes you wear etc are noticed. The critical thing is to make sure you’re in control, so their judgments will be positive. Here’s how:

  • Cultivate a smile
  • Develop a firm handshake
  • Exude confidence and energy
  • Pay attention to personal grooming

Make each day as conscientious as an interview day.

  • Be cool and attractive

Remain civilized and sophisticated at all times.

  • Speak well and write well

It means getting information across clearly and effectively.

Part 3: Have a plan

You have to know where you are going and plot your path —in six months, in a year, in five years. Remain flexible and convert your plan according to circumstances 

  • Know what you want in the long term 

Select the position you want and study your industry to determine how to get there.

Work out what you want from each step—gaining experience, relocation, learning new skills, acquiring people management understanding. Then, set short term and intermediate goals.

  • Know what you want in the short term

All plans should include practical steps to put into action and make them happen. This means acting and thinking one step ahead.

  1. One-month short-term plan: list out current work projects—deadlines, prioritized tasks, basic routines.
  2. One-year plan: should have projects that are being formulated, planned, presented, whatever.
  3. Five-year plan: should be for ideas, dreams, goals, wishes, wants; it is for work you intend executing one day.
  4. Long-term plan: have a career path built into it.
  5. Five-year plan: take into it any steps you need to carry out that long-term plan.
  • Study the promotion system

While making your promotion chart, list all the skills/experience that you would need for each step to be made successfully. Next to this, you can add what you have to do to acquire these—where you must go, what you have to learn, what you need to study. You can incorporate these into your long-term plan and your five-year plan.

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Identify key times and events

Refine your timing and strike at the right moment. Save your energy and your top performances for key moments when doing your best really matters, such as a presentation to the CEO or a tremendous sales opportunity.

Identify these times and events and shine at them. Be a cobra and strike when it is appropriate. There is no point in using your energy all the time.

  • Anticipate threats

Threats come at us every here and now — redundancy, downsizing, takeovers, new technology and systems etc. If we can think on our feet, be flexible and move fast, each threat can be an opportunity to grow and reinvent yourself.

  • Look for opportunities

Learn to see opportunities as balls—if they get thrown your way, you only have split second to catch them. Also, be prepared for opportunities in advance.

  • Make learning a lifelong mission

Part 4: If you have nothing nice to say, keep your lips sealed

Your words can cause your undoing in the workplace. It happens all the time. Practice saying only positive things.

  • Don’t gossip, swear and complain 

Life and work present many unfair situations. However, complaining about them never makes them better. 

  • Compliment people sincerely
  • Stand up for others
  • Be cheerful and positive
  • Ask questions

Asking questions shows that you have paid attention and care. It also reflects your interest, thoughtfulness and your intelligence.

  • Use “please” and “thank you”
  • Be a good listener

Good listening is a skill which comes with practice!

  • Only speak sense

Part 5: look after yourself

  • Set personal standards

We must strive to be the best we can at all times.

  • Keep records

If it is in writing, it makes your job much easier.

  • Cultivate your support/ contacts/ friends
  • Understand others’ motives
  • Put things in perspective

Put things into perspective. You have to learn to switch off, relax and not take things so seriously all the time.

Part 6: Blend in

  • Know the corporate culture

You don’t have to buy into or believe in the corporate culture. All you have to do is fit in. 

  • Speak the language
  • Dress up or down accordingly

We all need to be part of the herd to a certain extent.

  • Be adaptable in your dealings with different people

Know their frequency and adjust to it.

Everyone is different. If you treat them all the same, you run the risk of offending them all or at least failing to satisfy any of them. You have to be adaptable and ready to change quickly, depending on what is required of you.

  • Make your boss look good
  • Never disapprove of others

Smart strategists concentrate on their own path and ignore the route that others choose to take. Keep your focus on where you are going. Ignore anything that others are up to, so it is easier to stop making judgments. If you make judgments, the categorization makes it much more difficult to be flexible and to move easily from situation to situation.

Part 7: Cultivate diplomacy

Be focused and dynamic. Keep your personal details to yourself.

  • Don't take sides
  • Know when to keep your opinions to yourself
  • Be conciliatory
  • Never lose your temper
  • Never get personal
  • Know how to handle other people’s anger
  • Stand your ground
  • Be objective about the situation
  • Identify the people who count
  • Know the favourites and cultivate them

You have to earn being a favorite, instead of worming your way in.

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