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Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 10:44 AM   #1
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Any tips for corporate climbers?

I see we have quite a few people here who reached FIRE as successful business owners and investors. Has anyone here had a lot of success in a large coporate environment? Is there any advice you can share with the rest of us? Books you recommend? Anyone had success with stuff like "The 7 Habits" etc?

I'm in a technical position right now in a Fortune 100. I hope to move up into middle management and even executive level if I can. I'm trying to up the means and reach FIRE faster. Might make the journey more interesting to boot =)

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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 10:58 AM   #2
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

I found the secret was that while you're doing the corporate climbing and by necessity buying into all of that, you don't need to buy into the lifestyle and spending that goes with it.

My last few years in the corporate world I radically reexamined my lifestyle, which was no means extravagent but normal or even conservative for someone in my position. Before I wasn't running up debt or anything but I had a big house to myself, was leasing a Saab, etc. The last few years I got roommates, I got rid of the car and just generally ramped spending way down in realization that my priority was to get out of there. And I managed to put more than half of my paycheck to savings.

ER is much much closer than you think if you can do that and can live with lower spending in the future.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 11:14 AM   #3
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BristolBane
I'm in a technical position right now in a Fortune 100.* I hope to move up into middle management and even executive level if I can.
I've never been in your situation since I'm self-employed. *I just wonder how many corporate butts need to be kissed to get as high as you want to get? *Even one would be too much for me.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 11:28 AM   #4
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

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Originally Posted by retire@40
I've never been in your situation since I'm self-employed. *I just wonder how many corporate butts need to be kissed to get as high as you want to get? *Even one would be too much for me.
You beat me to the punch.* Corporate climbing = a very brown nose.*
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 11:54 AM   #5
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

The Terhorst book is out of print - but they did the corporate lifestyle and cashed it all in (house, cars, etc) and did the ER thing(1980's).

Among posters here - perhaps Th? - comes closest.

Sales strikes me as the closest to a relationship between performance/compensation and perhaps less brown nosing.

Could be all wet - was a plunka, plunka DCA over a long period - average tech grunt - aerospace.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 11:55 AM   #6
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

For God's sake, don't engage corporate America intending to get rich. The game ain't set up that way. All the numbers on the wheel are house numbers.

That said, I can give you a few tips on avoiding the game. I started out as a junior-level analyst and I'm ending as a senior director. Took approximately 13 years.

I'm not going to give you tips for getting promoted. I'm going to give you tips for making your corporate career as short as possible (which may or may not involve promotion.)

1. Promises are handcuffs. Cash is the key. Take the cash; just about everything else is merde (sorry, the filter won't let me say "****".)

2. Stay on the interview trail. Chase the 10% raise. Keep your mouth shut about it until you turn in your notice. Move every couple of years.

3. Up-sell your resume.

4. Max out your 401-K and Roth IRA. Today. Now.

5. Kissing ass is an art form and does not have to be dishonest or demeaning. You can learn to like even your boss. Don't shun the practice.

6. At least until, at some point, you find that it's your booty being kissed. Now you're in real danger because power is seductive. Don't get addicted to it.

7. Don't depend on your work life for your social gratification. In other words, don't mix your friends and your coworkers. See number 2, above.

8. Don't become addicted to your paycheck by using it to leverage a lifestyle you can't afford, even if you feel like a flashy lifestyle is a requisite for promotion in your corporate culture.

9. A young, smart, capable person has no excuse for being miserable in a job. There's too much opportunity out there.

10. But: find little things to hate. Meetings called for four-thirty on Friday, pager duty, etc. Don't obsess on this stuff, just remember it. It'll keep you motivated.

11. Find something you're better at than anyone else, even if it's something simple and/or humble. When your coworkers are beating a path to your cubicle you have a lot of leverage.

12. Keep your ER plans to yourself.

Good luck.

Ed
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 12:09 PM   #7
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Thanks gratefuled!

That's good stuff. What do you mean by "Up-sell your resume"?

One thing about the cash that I've noticed.. In my current company the real money is in the bonus. It's a little sneaky too. Everyone in the company is eligible for a performance bonus (typically 4-5% of salary). BUT, there's another pool of bonus money (which is not mentioned) for people who are higher up. I think it starts at the director level which in this company would be the same as a 2nd line at IBM. A manager of department managers. That's where the real money starts here.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 12:15 PM   #8
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Up-selling your resume:

I hired a liquor salesman for a trading job one time. I was dubious...I mean, look at it: "liquor salesman"...but in the interview he told me a person who could make a living selling in as cut-throat a market as wholesale liquor could make a living at anything. And he went on to give me a couple of examples.

So if all you have is "sandwich artist" you can still find ways to make it look like you did the best you could possibly do with the responsibility you were entrusted with. And that's what's going to get you moved up the ladder.

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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 12:52 PM   #9
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gratefuled
I started out as a junior-level analyst and I'm ending as a senior director.*
Ed, does your experience epitomize the Don Henley quote "I saw a DeadHead sticker on a Cadillac"?
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 12:57 PM   #10
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Nah, I'm just 36; too young for Don Henley.

But I've got a deadhead sticker on my Ranger 4X4, if that counts. And I've got a big Steal Your Face flag hanging up in my office. That one's gotten a few double-takes through the years.

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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 01:13 PM   #11
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Try not to get stepped on, try not to step in it & don't be afraid to jump every now & then
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 01:14 PM   #12
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Push for individual and local performance based bonuses that you can influence, then work your butt off. You arent going to get good stock and bonus options unless you move up the food chain. Salary is almost irrelevant. Stick with the companies core business and be someone who makes or delivers that product somehow.

If your companys stock isnt in position for steady appreciation, or if the company wont let you break out of the fake 40 hour "just salary" thing, or if your job is "supporting xyz for the abc group who does blah blah division who prepares plans for the foobar group that is involved in selling the main product...find another job or another company. You arent going to ER anytime soon on $65k a year and LBYM. My first two jobs at my last employer were IT jobs operating products that every single person in the company used every single day. My last job with that company was the primary marketing guy for the companies core product. Get the picture?

Oh yeah, and make sure you get good solid visibility by senior management and make sure they think good thoughts about you. Work with your manager to get you into a meeting or two every now and then, or fixing a big problem. I used to bring one or two people into big meetings with me or to a conference with a VP and have them available to answer one or two of the 'tough questions'. For example, I had one guy who focused on performance metrics. Normally he'd sit in his cube 40x5 and churn out charts and graphs the usual manager-type would bury in a powerpoint presentation. He'd be invisible and get 2% raises. I brought him into senior staff meetings with me to present those couple of charts, explain them and answer questions. It didnt hurt that he was a smart guy and that we practiced before hand, but after a year or so a couple of the VP's would call him directly to answer a pointed question or two they knew he'd have the info on. A year after I transferred to another division one of the vp's decided we should have a dedicated group doing independent metrics and performance measurements...guess who they tapped to run it? If your manager wants you to be some invisible entity under him and basically take advantage of your skills to float themselves, get another manager. I became powerful by showing off the powerful people I had 'developed', not by hiding them and aggregating their efforts.

Avoid those projects that run for years...you're only going to be known as "the guy who did x"...the size and scope of it wont be perceived as exceptional as "the guy who did a,b,c,d,e,f,g and h last year". Big projects bog down, have big problems, and you'll become known as the guy who was six months late on the big program rather than the guy who was a week late six times.

Its acceptable and perhaps even advisable that you take on managing the "difficult" people and fixing the "problem" groups. I made a living out of being the 'troubleshooter'...make sure its brought up at review time and periodically that your good performance is aggregated by the fact that you took on and 'fixed' 3 'problem' employees or turned around a "bad" group. BTW...most 'problem' people and groups just dont feel appreciated or feel like they matter...the 'bad' employees are easier to fix than you think...as long as you dont approach them as something that needs fixing but rather somebody who needs to be understood and appreciated. Do not become a pest by broadcasting that you're doing the "bad" work on a daily basis.

Know how you are measured and perform to that measurement standard. Doing lots and lots of really, really great work does you absolutely no good. Following the company rules is no help either. I never showed up to work on time, had a folder full of security and other 'misdemeanor' complaints (eg: rollerblading through the building), etc. Didnt matter. Know the impact and measurement of all the major work you do...if you cant say what the dollar, time or quality impact is of a six month or yearlong project is, dont do it until you do.

I think you get the gist of it...know the power of your work and make sure you're rewarded for it, or find someone who WILL reward you for it.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 02:03 PM   #13
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Thanks th, that was really interesting. As someone who is "supporting xyz for the abc group who does blah blah division who prepares plans for the foobar group.." you've certainly given me something to think about. Like you said, making 65k and LBYM won't get you to FIRE quickly. I can certainly attest to that.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 02:23 PM   #14
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Quote:
Like you said, making 65k and LBYM won't get you to FIRE quickly. I can certainly attest to that.
Makes me wonder what people make that get to ER fast...any takers? I would like to have a job when I get out of school where pay is linked to performance but I suck as a salesman (seems to account for the majority of those types of jobs).
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 02:52 PM   #15
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

In short, I do not recommend Corp. America as a career choice. For most getting to the top is not a possibility. Most people are downsized or offshored long before they get a pension. No gurantee they wont cancel the pension like United either. Surviving long term is difficult. Not to mention if you are in a tech field. Todays hot shot is tomorrows old fart working with legacy tech. When it's gone so are they. Corporate politics is a difficult skill to master. I have seen careers destroyed in one meeting when the wrong thing was said. Do yourself a favor and have your own business or profession where you are in control.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 03:27 PM   #16
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazarus
In short, I do not recommend Corp. America as a career choice... Do yourself a favor and have your own business or profession where you are in control.
Yup, I know lots of people that work for corporations and lots of people that own their own business.* Most of the self-employed complain about things like collecting accounts receivable, high taxes and insurance, and bad employees.* But when I ask them if they would ever give up their business to work for someone they all laugh and say no way.

Even though these self-employed people make more money than their employee, it's the freedom to work as they wish without having someone controlling them that they cherish more than the money.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 03:38 PM   #17
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

I have 25 years in Corp. life the key points to success are:
1. Dress like the people at the top do.
2. Learn communication skills
3. Be able to know which way the wind is blowing and don't go against it.
4. Appear to be interested in things even if you aren't.
5. Dollars aren't important - growth rates are.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 04:26 PM   #18
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dex
I have 25 years in Corp. life the key points to success are:
...Dress like the people at the top do...Be able to know which way the wind is blowing and don't go against it...Appear to be interested in things even if you aren't.
You think you're successful if you spend 25 years of your life dressing like other people, not having the guts to go against something you may not want to do, and doing things you are not interested in?

I call that a complete waste of human life at best and self-torture at worst.

My key points to success are to dress well (but not the stiff corporate look), do something everyone else isn't doing, and only do the things you are interested in.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 04:28 PM   #19
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?

I have about 20 years in Corp. America myself. Your advice Dex, is good for someone who is there anyway. I just think there are too many pitfalls in a Corp. career. The company that I worked for first was "merged" with another. We from the smaller company are on the losing end. Many have quit, many downsized. I have survived so far. I don't think moving up is much of a possibility now. Still, I'm payed well and am close to pension age so it's to my advantage I think to stay. If I were young again I would not have trusted anything other than the paycheck already cashed from a corp. I thought I was getting security by working for a large company and so far I have made it but it is far riskier than I knew.
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?
Old 05-18-2005, 04:57 PM   #20
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Re: Any tips for corporate climbers?


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