Three Offbeat Ways to Advance Your Career

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Promote and Post.

A colleague of mine told me of a novel strategy in the army. In the army it is almost impossible to get rid of an incompetent subordinate. When an officer found someone of lower rank was incurably incompetent and could not be moved somewhere they could do no damage they would promote them and have them posted to another unit as far away as possible. This strategy was not used too often since, after one had got rid of a truly incompetent person, that person might be reposted several times and return as ones superior officer.

It is possible to use incompetence as a career strategy even though you can be fired. First find a country or corporation where dismissing people is impossible or at least frowned on and make sure your incompetence is not so great that you have to be dismissed.

WARNING: THIS WILL NOT WORK IN A START UP OR SMALL TO MEDIUM BUSINESS. Choose a big, preferably multinational firm to start your career.

Make sure you maintain a good relationship with your manager and his manager ( if you happen to know with whom they are having an extracurricular affair that is a help, but on no account let them be sure you know- that could leave you open to changes of blackmail- leave them uncertain).

Pick where you want to go. If you have several places start with the one at the bottom of the list, if you are planning to use this trick more than once. Otherwise make it the place at the top of your list. Start dropping hints that you would like to be transferred. Scour the internal jobs boards for opportunities. If you see a good opportunity, one that involves a promotion, apply for it. Your manager should support you all the way and breathe a sigh of mingled regret and relief as you walk out the door for the last time. As you shake hands with him say to yourself “I’ll be back, as your boss”, but not aloud.

If your new workplace is where you want to be you should demonstrate a rapid increase in competence, perhaps moving from incompetent to annoying or eccentric. Wearing a paper bag over your head and developing a fear of staplers may be going too far. Careful judgment is needed. If the new office is a staging post demonstrate a slight increase in competence and a few more annoying habits.

Carefully done the above strategy will let you move up the organisation. If you are really good you will end in the boardroom. After that the only option left is Politics.

Security through Obscurity.

Some years ago I read of an experiment in which two investigators picked an academic paper and produced three versions. One much harder to read than the original, on about as easy to read, and one much easier to read. All three versions provided the same information.

They then sent the papers to a number of academics and asked them to rate the anonymised author’s competence. Almost all the academics rated the author of the hardest to read paper as most competent and the author of the easiest to read paper as least competent.

Another strategy for advancing your reputation, and possibly also your career, is to make your written communications hard to read. Of course when deciphered they must make sense and any course of action advocated must be plausible. You do not want someone proving you are writing nonsense. If you continue you may be promoted, as in promote and post, or you may be moved sideways. A prerequisite for this approach is a fluent writing style, a good vocabulary and a knowledge of how to use language properly: readers should not be able to spot grammatical errors in your communications.

The risk is that someone may spot that what you are saying is the obvious dressed for a night out. But if it is hard enough to make out what you are saying the reaction might be that you are a clever person who deserves promotion, as does the only one clever enough to understand what you are saying. Use with care as part of a complete strategy.

Outsourcing aka Offshoring

Although this section refers to outsourcing it can be used with any novel initiative.

First provide a good case for outsourcing work. It should not apply to your work or even your manager’s work. Ideally it will apply to the department where your strongest rival works. Make sure you think of twenty objections and answer the ten or fifteen hardest questions you are likely or be asked. Make sure you promise BIG but unverifiable cost savings and skim over things like cultural differences. Ideally someone else will champion it but you will get known as the originator.

Once the initiative is under way start applying for jobs in other companies, before the problems become obvious. Make sure you move up on the basis of your work saving money for your old company

Repeat two or three times. After this people may get suspicious. So do the obvious thing

Set up un business as an outsourcing consultant. And contact the firm where you started this cycle. The chances are they will say “Thank God, it all went wrong after you left, we NEED you to clear up the mess” or something similar.

And while clearing up the mess you will be promoting a new money saving initiative to each of your clients. Maybe promoting the advantages of insourcing or onshoring work…..

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