After power-watching Season 2 of “House of Cards” on Netfilx this weekend, I realized that the notion of “politics” has taken on a whole new meaning. I’m not suggesting we redefine politics by your sense of who you’d like to bump off in your work place, but there is something to be learned from someone who has enough passion to not only fuel his own career ambitions but who can certainly take care of those around him as well (brilliantly portrayed by Kevin Spacey in his character, Frank Underwood.)
Now the old expression, “Hitching your wagon to the right horse,” may have merit but making sure you align yourself with the successful and the powerful and knowing who can help you in your rise to the top is not necessarily a bad strategy so long as you don’t get caught in the crossfire. Career politics can bring out the stalker or the prey in all of us. In any event, knowing how to play the game is as much about learning how to survive as it is about how to win.
It’s okay to think you don’t need to learn the rules of engagement when you are planning your next career move. Maybe your resume speaks for itself or maybe you have great contacts that can help you generate enough job leads that you don’t really need to “politic” your way into your next job? Career politics is not so much about maneuvering your next job move as it is about helping you sustain in the job you do have.
You may think that by just doing a good job, working hard and showing up on time it’s all you need to do in order to advance in your career. Think again. When you accept a position, the expectation from your boss, the board or whoever is in a leadership role is that you perform to your maximum capabilities. The powers that be don’t care if you are busting your butt they just care that you are getting results. The top brass do not much care whether you are liked or respected by your peers, subordinates or colleagues-they just want to see you can make stuff happen. What you don’t know or perhaps what they don’t teach you in grad school is just because you are smart and can think out of the proverbial box, does in no way entitle or ensure that you will move to the top of the career chain no matter how many degrees you have.
Learning how to manage the hierarchical powers that be and by orchestrating your career the way you would a trip aboard means you have to not only be two steps ahead of the game but you better be in top form if you are going to master your career politics. You can be called a true “career strategist” if you are plotting and manipulating your next move, and are “seizing the opportunity” before your boss has a chance to pour their morning coffee. Making sure you stay alert and aware and block your opponent before they try to move in and take over means you are savvy to career politics. Every job, every company, every work situation has its own level of politics whether you are leading the company or count yourself among the many foot soldiers who take orders.
Learning how to read the signs of career politics means you are a survivor amidst the political apocalypse that is your work place. Knowing how to take out the enemy, identify your allies and manage the casualties means you are not only ready for the next step in your career but also may mean your time to move up the career ladder is imminent. Here are some words to live by and to turn your career politics into an art form:
“If you want to earn my loyalty then you will have to offer yours in return.”
“I’ve worked too hard to get in arms reach of the prize only to have my hand cut off before I seize it.”
“ How quickly poor grades are forgotten in the shadow of power and wealth.”
“I must not lose my resolve. I will march forward even if I have to do so alone.”
– Frank Underwood, “House of Cards”
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