The Way To Work

Here are five basic rules for a plan that won't fail you, no matter what the future workplace may hold.

reimbursement programs. Make a commitment to lifelong learning. You won’t get along — or ahead — in your career without it.

Find your motivation — and stick to it. Your personal motivation — the reason why you do what you do — will push you on happily when the excitement of your position inevitably wanes and when your colleagues work your nerves. But more important, that self-generated zeal will help you maintain two traits critical to success in your career: integrity and self-respect.

When you experience “desire downtime,” you may find yourself operating like one of the 50% of workers who admit that they do just enough to keep their jobs. When that happens, especially if you have a manager who uses what Joshua Halberstam refers to as “the game show approach to management . . . thinking that without payment, nothing would get done,” you may be tempted to forget about what really pushes you to deliver excellence and fall prey to the money trap. Don’t.

“Each time you bribe yourself to get to work, you chip away at your self-respect,” writes Halberstam in his book Work: Making a Living and Making a Life (Perigee, $14). “These mind games are thin devices that don’t address the core question of how seriously you take yourself and your responsibilities.”

Knowing what drives you to perform on the job is important. Having the courage not to waver from it, however, is crucial. You’ll work in many companies in several different positions throughout your career. And, naturally, your desire to carry out professional tasks will go through highs and lows. But you must never lose sight of your sense of purpose or sell it to the highest bidder. Your credibility as a professional may be called into question if you do. And at the end of the day, your reputation is all you have.

Brand yourself. There are hundreds and thousands, if not millions, of people who do exactly what you do for a living. In addition, four out of five companies already make use of nontraditional, “contingent” staff — and that doesn’t include part-time workers — to get their work done every day. So where will that leave you? In two words, invisible and unnecessary.

What is the point of refining your skills and updating your knowledge bank (Rule #1) if no one will ever know how talented and brilliant you are? The average worker holds nine jobs by the time he or she turns 32 years old, which is not surprising considering that the hot high-tech sector trades workers like cards in a game. With all that movement, you need to have a clearly recognizable identity that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Fail to actively promote yourself and your services, and you’ll be at the mercy of your employer. Needless to say, that’s not a good place to be. To remain “sell-able,” you must go beyond basic networking (see our three-part Powerplay series, June through August 2000, Making Connections) and make every effort to get your name and face in as many places as

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