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Be Politically Savvy to Protect Your Career

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Everywhere you turn, the media is bombarding us with news about job losses. The days of qualified with the right skills are gone!

Today, professionals need to be more politically savvy to keep their jobs. Additionally, learning how to market yourself also makes for heightened job security. If you learn to be politically smart and marketable, you will be more successful and able to influence others.

Even in a politically-charged workplace you can connect with the right people to keep your job. Here are some strategies for navigating politics in the workplace and marketing yourself.

What Does It Mean To Be Politically Savvy At Work?

It actually has nothing to do with being a Republican or Democrat. Not to say a political issue cannot affect your relationships at work, but political savvy has much more to do with strategic communication skills. To me, political savvy is the ability to build influence through your interaction with others. Simply put, you need to know who the people are who influence others and make decisions and you do not get on their bad side. You learn to work with and influence them.

Identifying People’s Agendas In The Workplace

Effective communication is important, but at work it’s essential. You must truly understand the agendas of your bosses and coworkers. Doing so is critical to your success. Try and figure out what is the message within the message? Many times this is referred to as “reading between the lines.”

Everyone has an agenda. For example, your boss wants to be on the board of directors of an important foundation. So out of all the groups you invite to an upcoming company event, you better be sure and include the one he or she wants to schmooze.

It’s knowing what a manager’s underlying desire or goal is and then using that knowledge to your best advantage. Maybe it’s to get closer to this executive or impress him in some way.

How To Influence Others At Work

Become the living version of Google at work. Be the search engine that taps into the formal, and informal, circuits and connections within your organization. Knowledge is power. When you’re well-connected and understand personal agendas, and how to influence people, you’re becoming “politically savvy.” More importantly, you’ll increase your job security!

Understand who the influencers are at your workplace are and engage them. Sometimes it might be a chance meeting, but it’s your opportunity to communicate with that influential person. Sometimes it’s simply sharing an elevator ride with a leader of your company.

Be able to deliver your message concisely in such lucky meetings with power players. I call it the 30-second elevator pitch! It’s an opening to lay the groundwork for your big idea, promotion, screenplay — or whatever your goal might be.

Learn How To Market Yourself At Work

I’m also observing that people who know how to market themselves are quite successful. The other secret to protecting your career is being able to market yourself without arrogance. Simply put, be your own publicist. Build your career through positioning information to the right individuals. But do it in a way that is not pushy or annoying.

At a company event, don’t sit in the corner with the other entry-level works discussing the food. Rather, meet the executives who can help your career grow and flourish. Ask them questions and learn how they became successful.

At the end of the day, it’s about engaging others. Becoming well-connected with the right professionals at work could keep you from having to visit the unemployment website!

Feel free to share your thoughts about strategies for protecting your career in a downturn market!

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About Ken Skiba

  • I think it’s a fine line that separates playing politics at work and letting people walk all over you just to keep your job. There is a balance that some might not be paying attention to just because the economy is in dire straits.

  • Melanie Parrish

    Ken hits the nail on the head! Figuring out how to help others attain their goals, particularly those higher up than you, will ultimately give you the opportunity to reach yours. Also, figuring out what is important to your boss and making sure to always deliver on those things will keep you in their good graces. The key is to be savvy but honest – not underhanded!

  • Laura Jedacek

    My marketing position was dissolved June 30, 2008 at 4:15pm… don’t have a boss to be politically savvy with. I am one of those thousands of Clevelanders feeling the pain of this fabulous economy. Maybe I can use Ken’s advice in 2009 when/if I am lucky enough to have a boss again!

  • Caroline Pizzo

    This kind of advice is also important for those entering the job place for the first time. Sometimes you network with the wrong people and say the wrong things. And for all of us looking for work, being politically smarter might help us too. Ken makes a good point about getting a lot of information. That is really helpful.

  • Ken- as usual; great stuff!! Thank you for the super advice and thank you for all you do for and in our community. You are a real hero

  • Carol Vogel

    This is fantastic career advice. It’s always been a given to excell at what you do to get ahead; however, to be a real standout in your workplace, it makes sense to promte your boss’ agenda as well. Making that connection in your boss’ mind keeps your career on the fast track. I would, however, add a word of caution: don’t be so focused on your boss’ needs that you forget your co-workers and those below you on the career ladder. Be known as a team player, who helps everyone get ahead. Better to garner goodwill among everyone than to be viewed as self-serving!

  • Justin Cashman

    Great article! I especially like the part about knowing the message within the message and knowing what my boss’s goals are. Knowing, aligning and supporting these goals helps make me a valuable employee. Keep the advice coming!

  • Les Burleson

    Great stuff, Ken! I love the way you have so masterfully woven together a very strong article highlighting the need for initiative, personal responsibility and good relationship building skills. This is great stuff for both the seasoned employee and the new grad!

  • Bliffle

    What a bunch of crap.

    Just what we need at this time of crisis: a generation of ass-kissers and brown-nosers elbowing aside people whose only skill is doing a good job.

    They’ll get their way, and US business will slide further down while the dumbest nitwits exercise their opportunism and wheedling to get positions of power far beyond their ability to perform.

  • ana

    I have always felt like attitude and ambition are more important than your work experiance. Being in tune with your fellow workers, as well as understanding the needs your boss’s or managers require are exceptional traits.

  • Finally, Survival of the Fittest / Politically Savvy!

    Best regards,

    Have a great day,
    francis jeyaraj

  • Dear Ken,

    Politics in my Bank plays vital role. I do agree with you, in corporate world, what you know is not important but whom you know matters!

    We need to sometime tune ourselves to adapt.

    Finally, Survival of the Fittest / Fastest / Politically Savvy!

    Best regards,

    Have a great day,

  • Diane Adams

    Love the way you define being “politically savvy!” Being politically savvy really is all about strategic communications….a person’s ability to understand key stakeholders, their motivation, and ultimately how to influence. Most of the time when we use the term “political” it’s automatically viewed as a negative, when the reality is that being politically savvy is an important career success factor, because it helps you to influence others for the better good of the organization.

  • Building politically savvy techniques into a person’s agenda takes research on what works for the that person therefore trying everything out even if it has minimal effort can bring productive results.

    -Tania Lopez
    Tech Savvy Virtual Assistant

  • AM

    Great article- it’s so important (in any economy) to stay focused on meeting and exceeding your boss’s expectations first and putting your goals and objectives behind his/hers. Being politically savvy gives you the opportunity to create healthy professional relationships with your co-workers with a purpose…ultimately contributing to the success and security of yourself, employee’s and employer.

  • M.V.

    This is truly a very well written article on the art of effective and efficient communication within the workplace. By incorporating these simple yet mainly unrealized values, one will truly be viewed as an “asset” within their professional work environment.

  • Cheryl Kelley

    This is great advice for any occupation. Two thumbs up!! 🙂