Big Companies FTW May 23, 2012 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Great Metafilter comment on moving up from a low-level position in a big company?

I recall someone praising the ability to apply internally to positions, networking, etc., all from a starter-level position at a big company. Ring any bells? It's not lending itself to easy queries.
posted by leotrotsky to MetaFilter-Related at 12:02 PM (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

┬──┬ ノ( º _ ºノ)


(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by leotrotsky at 7:25 PM on May 23, 2012 [17 favorites]


Kinda half rings a bell. I wonder if the best way to search might be to just start with site:metafilter.com and then start adding and subtracting likely keywords.
posted by box at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2012


How long ago? Months, or years?
posted by jkaczor at 8:04 PM on May 23, 2012


Are you sure you didn't just see How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? Because it's basically what you're asking, in musical form.
posted by Nomyte at 8:12 PM on May 23, 2012


Is it this AskMeFi comment by Faze?
posted by flex at 8:23 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


That or The Hudsucker Proxy.
posted by brundlefly at 8:23 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or maybe this amazing film could help?
posted by marienbad at 3:47 AM on May 24, 2012


I'm not sure what comment you're talking about, but for purposes of posterity, here's how I did it. (Caveat: I'm not yet C-level, but that's mostly because I haven't gotten my Masters yet.) Subtitle: How to Succeed in Business by Trying Your Damndest

I started out entry-level with a major US department store retailer (at the time, they've since been absorbed by their competition). My first boss was a generally pretty nice guy who could also be a bit of a dick at times, but in retrospect he was mostly being that way to help me grow up a lot in a hurry. The 2 things I took away from him were:

1) I existed to deflect bullshit from my boss. His job had lots of competing priorities, and my job had a limited number of priorities, so I existed both to handle my priorities and to deflect BS that would otherwise impede my boss from handling his own priorities. So, I had to figure out which things I could make decisions on and deflect, and which were big enough issues that I had to push up to him. One big lesson here is that BS sat upon never goes away, it only gets worse. I also learned along the way that his job basically existed to deflect BS from his own boss, and so on up the chain. I still, today, consider this a major part of my current position.

2) You need to figure out how to answer questions for yourself. My first boss used to give me an allotment of 4 questions a week. Now, in reality, I asked a lot more than that, but whenever I was asking a question that he knew I had asked before, or he knew I should already know the answer for, he would ask me: "Do you really want to use one of your questions on that?" Which effectively meant: "You should already know this." My default answer was almost always "No," and then I would start thinking creatively about where I had learned this or could start learning more about it. Unless I was feeling lucky, because sometimes it was something I genuinely didn't know - he was a smart boss so he peppered those ones in there just to keep me on my toes.

My next few bosses were not nearly as good as the first one. They weren't good at delegating, they weren't good at teaching, they were too passive aggressive and some of them even appeared afraid to let me do too much of their work for fear of their own jobs (I worked in fairly flat organizational structures). Towards the end of that string of 3-4 managers, I was doing more and more of their jobs for them, so perhaps the fears weren't unsubstantiated. I was young and single and living in a new city and spent a lot of my free time putting in the extra hours to get my job done, but pick up pieces of other people's jobs and learn how to do them in addition to my own. It was a lot of thankless work, but knowledge was the payoff.

What I learned during that time was to work hard but not be a show-off, and to find other things outside of your job description that you could deliver value on in your spare time. Pretty soon I was creating workarounds and atomization of reports that saved hours of the analysts' time they previously spent every week on said reports, and my boss' boss' were noticing and pulling me into other divisions to do the same things for their analysts.

Not long after that a friend pointed out that I wasn't getting much credit or promotion for all of the value I was bringing to the organization, and I should start using my leverage against it. Eventually that meant leaving the retail industry core and moving into management consulting. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was when I jumped from being one of the "managed" to being one of the managers. I had interns and assistants before that point, but this is when I really started managing my own teams, effectively delivering the same kind of value-add projects to clients that I had previously been doing internally with my former employer. I even ended up working back with my former employer as a consultant - ironically, it would have been cheaper for them to double my salary and keep me internal than hiring our consulting firm. All of a sudden I was getting off the corporate elevator at the C-level floor while my former bosses watched and gossiped.

By this point I was working just plain insane hours. Not quite at the level that my friends down on Wall Street were, I didn't need drugs to keep me going, but I'm talking 75-hour week minimums, much higher than that in the busy periods. Multiple clients, trying to sell new clients, improving on the old work, trying to find new work opportunities with current clients, you name it. When you were delivering projects directly to C-level company leaders, they expected that you were in the office before them and left after them. There isn't a lot of sympathy in the shark tank.

And then somewhere between the first class upgrades and the rental car bonuses and the free hotel nights earned and all of that, I read a book about the lost boys of Sudan and realized there I wanted more to my life than constantly driving Shareholder Value for guys in thousands-dollar suits. So, that's kind of where my advice stops, for now. My story arc continues a bit, but I'm still learning a lot right now and I kind of think you need to be a phase or two out before you can look back and comment.

What you won't notice a lot of, above, is networking or even applying for internal positions. In my experience as a young employee, as well as my current estimation as a manager of multiple international teams, the people who are enthusiastic about the work and bust their ass to do their own share and then some, stand out. If I see someone deflecting BS and figuring out some problems on their own, that person isn't going to need too much networking or internal applying, because if I'm a good manager I'm going to be figuring out how to throw more responsibility at them as fast as they can take it, even if that means grooming them for my own job. That's just what a good manager does. And if I'm a bad manager, some good manager somewhere else is going to poach those people.

There are definitely some smarter, more well-off people than me out there who can probably go further without really trying as hard as I have to. These people make me think of a seminal childhood experience - a music camp I was in where awards were given out at the end of the summer and I won the "trying hardest" award, immediately after which another kid won the "best overall" award. It was around that time that I realized that life isn't fair, and some of us have to try harder to make it. But I think you can still do pretty damn well even if you're not the smartest or best connected.

They say that one joy that the wealthy never get to experience is paying off the last student loan check. I like to think of trying harder as kind of something like that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:28 AM on May 24, 2012 [43 favorites]


What you are describing is called the United States Civil Service.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:31 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


One big lesson here is that BS sat upon never goes away, it only gets worse.

I think that depends on the BS. I've had people come to me with projects that I'll have to contribute to and I can see from a mile away that the project will never be done (for whatever reason). So I just nod and smile and agree to do my part...when the time comes.

You can save a lot of time and effort by working on things before they are due but only if they will REALLY ever be due.
posted by DU at 5:37 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


From what I have seen.

1. work tons of overtime. Like 80 hours a week.
2. be quiet and reiterate how valuable your boss' ideas are.
3. hang with the right people.
4. don't have your own ideas. Expand on senior managements'.

Sad but true.

I tried internal positions and so have others. They have always hired within unless they are the boss' favorite. And you know, I realized after 6 years, I don't want that role. Do what I can, have ideas, be creative, oppose where opposition is needed, and go home on time. I don't care if they like me enough to be their right hand gal.
posted by stormpooper at 6:59 AM on May 24, 2012


What you are describing is called the United States Civil Service.

I should add that, in practice, it seems to work out that the LESS qualified and experienced you are, the more meteorically you are likely to rise throught the GS ranks!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:01 AM on May 24, 2012


You can rise through the ranks a lot faster in consulting than internally. That's because consulting companies get to charge a lot more for you the higher up you are so it's in their best interest to promote you. Internally it's the opposite - it's in their interest to keep you down so they can pay you the least possible.
posted by hazyjane at 8:13 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Faze's comment was the one I was thinking of. (of which I was thinking?)

allkindsoftime's comment is super extra bonus gravy.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2012


Oh, wow, faze.
posted by box at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2012


allkindsoftime's comment is EXCELLENT
posted by growabrain at 11:10 AM on May 24, 2012


Also, given the length, eponysterical.
posted by maryr at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2012


If I see someone deflecting BS and figuring out some problems on their own, that person isn't going to need too much networking or internal applying, because if I'm a good manager I'm going to be figuring out how to throw more responsibility at them as fast as they can take it, even if that means grooming them for my own job. That's just what a good manager does. And if I'm a bad manager, some good manager somewhere else is going to poach those people.

So true. It's not about big company vs. small. It's about good managers. allkindsoftime's line about throwing "more responsibility at them as fast as they can take it" is so apt and exactly what's wrong with most managers.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 7:27 AM on May 25, 2012


« Older MeFi's own...   |   +1 or Thumbs Up buttons Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments