Next on my reading list is Charles Murray’s The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. On the tips for transitioning from college to the working world, he writes:
I’m thinking especially of tip No. 1, “Don’t suck up.” How can I say that with a straight face to someone working on the Hill? There’s a reason Mark Leibovich called Washington “Suck-Up City” in This Town. Sucking up is part of a politician’s job description. Some people will tell you that sucking up and networking are not just the best ways to get ahead in This Town, but the only ways.
I disagree, as does Murray. He has some good advice in his essay in Politico magazine that all interns and new workers should read and follow.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd and make a curmudgeon fall in love with you, sucking up and networking won’t do it. What will? You’ll probably think I’m a starry-eyed idealist, but listen up: Contrary to the way it may look to you from the bottom, bosses don’t have a wide selection of wonderful potential employees. Good help is hard to find. Really hard to find. Sure, there are lots of people with the right degrees and résumés, but the kind of employee curmudgeons yearn for sticks out almost immediately.
If you are that person, the sure-fire way to identify yourself is by working long hours. I don’t mean that you cheerfully say “yes” when your boss asks you to work late. You don’t lose points by doing so (whereas saying “no” amounts to self-immolation), but what we curmudgeons treasure are employees who figure out for themselves that the task of the moment requires extra effort to complete, stay as long as necessary without having to be asked, and don’t complain about not having a life. If you’re young, single and ambitious, what’s the point of “a life” anyway?
Working hard will get you noticed, assuming you are also competent. Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead: Hardly anyone works nearly as hard as he or she could. The few who do have it made.