Wise Words for Getting Ahead in Your Career

As you will recall I discussed how to succeed in Hollywood...or any other business, based on my long years -- 30 years as of June 30 -- toiling here in Lotus Land. Here’s Part 2 of my tips on how you can advance in your career -- with the strong admonition that for most of us, how much we earn by our labor is far more important and a larger sum than how we earn with our investments.

As you will recall I discussed how to succeed in Hollywood...or any other business, based on my long years -- 30 years as of June 30 -- toiling here in Lotus Land.

Here’s Part 2 of my tips on how you can advance in your career -- with the strong admonition that for most of us, how much we earn by our labor is far more important and a larger sum than how we earn with our investments.

Thus, it pays to maximize your utility (as we economists say) by working smart.

Stay in the Game

Don’t let temporary pique or anger toss you off your horse. People will be rude to you. They will cheat you. They will disappoint you. Nevertheless, stay on your horse -- or get back on it -- and stay in the game. Unless you have an excellent alternative -- a better way to pay your bills and fulfill your dreams -- stay in the game. This takes a lot of forbearance and swallowing of pride, but it’s worth it in the long run.

However....

Don’t Work for Insane People

Yes, you will have people who yell at you, demean your abilities, or boss you around even though you’re a lot smarter than they are. But that’s totally normal. That’s called “life in the workplace.” Expect it, and roll with the punches.

But if a boss calls you a racial epithet, casts slurs on your family, touches you inappropriately, or screams at you and calls you at home to yell at you over something you did or didn’t do at work, tell him politely that you don’t want such treatment.

And if it persists, then quit. Life is short. It’s far too short to waste working for someone who’s mentally sick enough to think he owns your soul and that you have no dignity just because he gives you a paycheck.

You’ll find this kind of person extremely frequently here in Hollywood: Little Caesars, little Napoleons, little dictators who will treat you like a slave. There are a great many sick people here with serious rage problems.

If one of them is your boss, politely but firmly take your leave. A boss who treats you with respect means fewer sleepless nights and a lot more possibility for making a name for yourself.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

That was the name of a great civil rights song. It means to get through the small, aggravating stuff today and then go on to look at the big glittering gold cup down the road. Or, one might say, focus on the long-term goal you have in mind, and forget the piddling little detours on the way.

Just keep in mind a question, “Will this in any way get me closer to where I want to be?” If the answer is “yes,” then just do the babysitting, Xeroxing, or whatever it takes to get you to the next step.

Don’t Talk Endlessly About Yourself

No one wants to hear it. It’s boring. It creates negative utility and wastes your colleagues’ time. If you need to talk about yourself, get a shrink and talk to her. Or talk to your dog.

But no one wants to hear every detail of your life, and it will just make your employers hate you. When you get to be boss, you can talk about yourself endlessly. On the way up, listen. Don’t talk.

Get a Rabbi

No, I don’t mean to convert to Judaism. I mean a get a leader, guru, or guide who will help you with your goals and your journey. Get someone up above you on the ladder.

Listen to his war stories. Listen to his boasts. In return, get his advice, get his contacts (contacts are everything in life), get his words to a friend, get him to boost you up the ladder. Everyone in Hollywood needs someone who’s been there, knows the right people, and can and will make the call that pushes you up the ladder.

In return, you’ll be a faithful companion, cheerleader, and admirer of your rabbi. But get one, and do it soon. You really can’t get ahead if you don’t have someone ahead of you working the angles for you.

Look the Part, and Look Good

We’re judged by how we look. If we’re ridiculously slobby or dirty, if our clothes are old and tattered, if our hair is a weird color or shape, we will make a bad impression.

People assume you’re what you look like, so appear at your best all of the time. Wear clean clothes. Stand straight. Look alert and business like. No piercings. No tattoos. No strange hair. No looking like a prostitute.

Look like a business person or a writer or an actor. But always look neat and clean and well organized. For a few dollars, anyone can look good. You don’t have to wear Prada. You just have to look good.

Stand Out for the Excellence of Your Work

Do good work. Don’t allow the word “sloppy” to be heard near your name. Let people know you by the quality of your labors and work product. There are so few good workers out there that you will soon make a name for yourself.

There are more rules, but these will hold you for now.

Ben Stein is a lawyer, economist, and commentator on finance

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