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How to Gracefully Pull Rank

March 19, 2012

Here is a piece I wrote for the folks at the Job Box Report.  The topic is especially relevant for operational and back office professionals whose skills are being increasingly commoditized in the workplace.

Thriving professionally is about leveraging our unique assets to deliver results and shine at work.  But in this crazy job scarce economy, it has morphed into a race to see who can work the longest for cheapest.

Unfortunately, the “cheap hire/long hours” game is rigged in favor of the pre-KMAP (kids, mortgage, aging parents) crowd.  And frankly, it is also a race with no winners.  Too many hours in the cubicle make you fat and sick – both of which will significantly impair your career and personal life.

It’s true.

Hiring managers are prejudiced against those who are overweight, and on the love front, women need more education in order to compensate for extra pounds.  (Obese men, on the other hands, must earn more to make up for the bulge.  Um, can we say vicious cycle?)

So, if you want to break from this race to the bottom, it’s time to dust off that past experience and put it to work because you’re still king of the jungle.  Here are three small ways to gracefully leverage prior work experience to help you collaborate better with colleagues, solidify your own credibility and maintain your unique competitive advantage at work.

  1. Act Your Age.  Experience breeds an air of self-assurance that is impossible to fake.  Don’t downplay this for fear of being labeled as an old-timer.  Signal your depth of experience through confidence and composure.  How do you carry yourself?  Seasoned professionals are polished.  Their gestures are measured, and their presence exudes deep knowledge.  Obviously, if you are 55 and work at MTV, it’s best NOT to act your age.  But that’s not the case for most of us.
  2. Legitimize a Good Idea.  You gain an ally when you support someone else’s good idea by sharing a similar success story from the past.  As an added bonus, it also serves as a public reminder of your know-how and expertise.   And let’s face it: One company’s new and untested idea is often already tried and true somewhere else.  So chances are you won’t have to reach too deep into the past.  Have you supported anyone lately?
  3. Share Your Network.  You may not think your network is all that special.  But the thing about YOUR network is that other colleagues can benefit from the friends you’ve made in past jobs.  Every career expert talks about building your network before you need it, and the way we build it is by giving first.  Let others access your contacts.  Don’t be embarrassed about not knowing some of your LinkedIn “connections” well enough to make an introduction if asked.  It’s normal to not know at least 30% of your social media contacts.  Who are you connecting?
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