Office Politics and Networking

Cat fights are petty and mean. Stay in the game, and build a network instead

Office drama: it’s like high school, but with smarter people and thousands of dollars on the line.

There’s someone in the office (say, Joe) that you need to stay on his good side if you want your projects to go through. Joe has connections beyond what you have, and that enables him to do a lot.

Important people have lots of connections

Joe can be frustrating, especially if he doesn’t like you. His boss gave him the power to make these decisions. The CEO of a company can’t make every decision, so he finds good people to make decisions. When they get overwhelmed, they get someone they trust to make some decisions for them. Each layer must trust the lower layer to make good choices.

Joe knows enough people to delay the project. He either directly controls the project or has the influence to get it delayed, or to push certain projects through.  People like him know the most people, the most projects and information, and the priorities of the higher-ups. That’s how they got into that position.

Their boss believes they will try and do what’s best for the company

Doesn’t always work out like that. Other times, either decision is equally good, so the deal breaker is whether they like you.

Anyone in a position like Joe is has a powerful network. They know the right people in the company, and those people like him well enough. Generally, they also control a limited resource. There isn’t enough of something, so they have to make decisions on what does or doesn’t make the cut.

Not enough sales space? Not enough programmers? Money? Lack creates critical people because they have control over something essential and have to make decisions on what gets cut.

Important people control limited resources like money or workers

Everyone in the business needs what Joe has because there isn’t enough to go around. Joe ends up as the center of the network.

There are several things to learn from these people.

  1. Controlling scarce resources gives you power
  2. Dealing with that power can get you entrenched, promoted or fired
  3. You always control one scarce resource, your time

Your time might be the scarce resource. If it is, use it wisely. The system changes wherever you work, what department you work in, and more. Create a network and it can enable you to get your projects done better and faster.

As you learn the politics, it you can learn who you need to worry about and avoid. Networks and politics are nearly the same, but politics is where personal grudges get involved. Stay out of the mess and build a network. Get to know the important people. Ask what you can do for them, so they will trust you.

Something To Do Today

If you dare, ask around about politics in your current job. Who runs the show? Who’s really in charge, even if they don’t have a title to show? Ask if you can speak to them over lunch and how they got where they are.

There’s a lot you can learn, and it can take you on your next step to a promotion.

Sorry for the late post! Got busy rebuilding the PC. I’ll be posting again tomorrow, back on schedule.

Reading for –dummies– people with too little time

My tagline is “the more I work on me, the better my life gets” and the best way to work on yourself is reading books.

In school, I’d always feel guilty if I skipped part of the reading. Summaries are all online nowadays to make things worse. Teachers always tell you to read the whole book. Often, they’re wrong.

In a college class I only needed to get two answers right on an extra credit test about a book to convert my grade to a solid “A”. There were 10 questions.

I picked up the book and looked at the cover.
That was everything I needed to read.

I realized I had heard a review of the book and its contrarian theme the week before. I decided to take the test without ever opening the book. I got 6 questions right. It was an easy “A”.

Did I cheat? No! I knew the important part: the author’s bias. I knew his opinion in advance of reading anything. There wasn’t much I needed to know from the book. Only two questions and I got what I wanted. I didn’t even need the “Cliff Notes” version.

You’re out of school. You don’t need to get a perfect score on every test. I’ve heard that you only use 10% of what you learn in college, but you don’t know what that 10% is going to be. That’s why you read the whole book in college.

In the real world, read that 10% (maybe 15% if you want to make sure) and barely skim the rest so you can find it in the future if needed.

Easy 1-2-3-4 to read as much of a book as you actually need

  1. Start with the front and back cover. Is this in an area you really need to learn more about? Read the intro if the book has one. It’ll give you a better idea of what you’d be diving into.
  2. Onto the table of contents. What chapters are useful, especially for the current situation?
  3. Try reading the first and last page (or even paragraph) of every chapter that you’re unsure is useful. Look at any charts, graphs, or other images.
  4. Only read the short list of chapters that you’ll learn the most from. Cutting out half a book is common, especially if you’re well versed in the larger subject area.

“But Bryan, I just don’t have time! Even for that!”

 Me either. So, buy audiobook versions of your books. Then listen to them in the car while you drive. You can’t trim out as much but hearing it in passing isn’t going to hurt if you weren’t using that time already. There is so much time available! Get reading in while you’re driving.

Train yourself. Over the decades, I’ve spent well over $15,000 on training books and videos. That’s before the at least $50,000 I’ve spent on live training. I have no doubt they’re the only reason I’m still in business as a recruiter.

You don’t need a lot from a book. One page, one line. One little idea is all it takes for you to learn enough for a raise or a new job. If you run your own business, one idea can make you millions. You only need to find that one idea.

Admittedly, sometimes that idea is to read the whole book! And maybe several more. It can take a lot to learn a new skill, but it can make you a lot of money in return.

Something To Do Today

 Go find a book related to something you’ve wanted to learn more about. Scan through it like I said. If it’s the one you want, get it as an audiobook and listen to it every day as you travel to and from work.

Working doesn’t make you successful. Working on yourself makes you successful.

Quit or be fired?

“You can’t fire me, I quit!” Why yes, you did just quit. You also just quit your chances at unemployment checks while searching for a job.

Get fired with enthusiasm instead.

People have this idea in their head that by quitting, it will look better for potential future employers. They will still call up your old company and hear about why you got fired (or rather, were going to get fired). No one’s going to say “He resigned right before we fired him” and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

 NO ONE cares if you quit instead of getting fired.

Between jobs, most people end up strapped for cash. It ends up pushing them to accept a worse job than they want. Quitting removes their chance at getting an unemployment check without going to a hearing to explain why they deserve them. A little extra cash can go a long way. No one cares if you quit. It only keeps you from getting unemployment.

Get fired with enthusiasm. It pays better than quitting with enthusiasm.
There is no real benefit to quitting. None!

 Quick exception: if you can get a sweet severance package, do it. Try to get in writing that you’ll receive a big fat wad of cash with benefits. In this case, get a lawyer. A few hundred dollars will go a long way to make sure you’re getting what you’re promised. It will be money well spent.

Get fired with enthusiasm. Please.

To get past all of this, get a job lined up before quitting. “I’m good enough, I’ll find a job right away” said everyone who quit. And 6 months later, they’re hired by the local McDonald’s. Check out your non-compete if you have one, first (hint: avoid one at your next job!). Try contacting people you know who could help you find an opening. Get your resume out there, and contact a recruiter.

Something To Do Today

Do you expect to be fired or laid off?  Start searching for a job now.

Short one today, hope you have a great weekend!

How to get stuck at your AWFUL job

Ball And Chain, Restrain, Heavy, Icon, Symbol, Prisoner

Counteroffer! You quit your awful job, but your old boss suddenly tells you about plans for future promotions, glory, and fame! The actual President (not of the 

United States, but close enough) came to ask you to stay. It makes so much sense to stay, right?

In the words of the world-famous Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”

90% of people who take a counteroffer are
looking for a new job in 6 months.

The rate approaches 100% after a year. Counteroffers are forced. They desperately need someone in your position.

You quitting is a “Fear Factor” moment for your old boss. They are scared and desperate. For the next three months, you have an excellent job! Then they ignore their promises. Even worse, you get canned. They were using the time to find a replacement for you.

You’ve been eating cockroach puree for years at that job. Their compensation to get you to stay is a 20% raise and an office. Will that make the cockroach puree taste better? Nope. There is a point where money can’t pay you to keep your job.

A few weeks ago, I had someone working in a large city say they were making well over 500k per year. They also said they’d accept a job offer as low as 120k. This guy had been eating cockroaches for so long that he was willing to cut his pay to a fifth of what he was earning before.

Recognize your limit. Money doesn’t make you happy,
but your job can make you miserable.

He probably wouldn’t accept any counteroffer from that company because it’s just not worth it, and he recognized that. On the other hand, I’ve had many, many people stay because of fabulous counteroffers when they were just about to leave. Absolutely amazing, just like I said before: promotions, fame, glory! Not to mention a hefty raise.

And… they quit. Again. At the new job, the pay was lower, less vacation, all with more boring responsibilities. The real issue was the company. The company didn’t change. Opportunities stayed the same.

They were only treated well when they were
(accidentally) blackmailing their boss.

As you read a few posts back, you don’t want to work at a place where you must threaten your boss to get what you deserve. Don’t take a counteroffer if you’re seriously underpaid or underappreciated. They won’t change. If you go back to them, they’ll treat you as poorly as before, assuming they even give you what they promised.

I must admit, I see some counteroffers and say, “How can they refuse to stay?” Inevitably that person is soon gone. Why? Their job was so bad that it took a huge bribe to get them to stay. The size of the bribe indicates the true foulness of the position.

Think about it. If you are offered a huge reward to stay, you were robbed for the previous year. Will they also offer a year’s back pay as an immediate bonus? If they do, how about for the year before that? How guilty is their conscience?

Don’t accept a counteroffer. The chances are less than 1 in 30 that it will work out. No matter how much they pay you, a cockroach milkshake is still a cockroach milkshake. Whipped cream with a cherry on top doesn’t fix the problem.

Something To Do Today

Put together a portfolio and ask your boss for a raise or promotion if that’s what would keep you there. If they won’t give it to you freely, don’t accept it as the fruits of a counteroffer.

Beat Resume Scanners

Computers reject 2,000,000 resumes in less than a second.

Make sure your resume is not rejected

How to get your resume seen online could be a book.  That book hasn’t changed in the last 5 years.  Here are the basics:

  1. Include every keyword that is in the job listing
  2. Figure out a way to repeat the most important keywords
  3. Resubmit your changed resume occasionally

 Keywords are critical

Computerized filters are being used more often as they improve.  Every platform has them available for all employers.  If your resume does not have every important keyword or acronym, the computer eats it and spits out a form letter saying, “Thank you for your time”. No human sees your resume.

Put a list of certifications, education, software used, tools mastered, and techniques employed at the end of the resume.  Include every abbreviation or keyword in the ad.  If you are missing a minor keyword, consider saying at the end of your resume, “I understand CDF and JCL but have never used them.”  It may get you past the computer filter.  If you are submitting your resume directly to the hiring manager, you might take the list off.

 Repeat important keywords

Your resume will be ranked by keyword usage.  When my query brings back 300 hits, I want to see the most likely resumes first.  I sort on “relevance” and cherry pick the top resumes.  The best way to be ranked highly is to intelligently use the keywords multiple times.

 Resubmit your resume

Job boards usually show the most recently submitted resumes first.  If your resume has not been submitted for 3 months, it is at the bottom.  Worse, recruiters may assume you have a job if your resume is that old.  They won’t call you.

Just these three changes may change your invisible resume to a real interview magnet.

Did you make it this far? If so, re-read this article and only look
at the bold words. This is what your resume looks like to a computer.
To a computer, you want the most keywords.

 That’s a lot of keywords!  As I mentioned above, use lists. Lists and summaries are the easiest way to reuse keywords without looking repetitive to a real person once it makes it past the computer.

On a job description, keywords may be listed as skills, proficiencies, aptitudes, or something else.  Periodically, you’ll see an awful job description that’s exclusively in brick sized paragraphs. Try and pick out the most important words. What skills, abilities, and personality features are they looking for?

Then rewrite your resume for each job you REALLY want!

Write each keyword down before writing your resume. Your resume should be personalized for the job you’re applying to.

Something To Do Today

Go read the job description of the last job you submitted your resume for.  Did your resume have all the keywords?  Did it repeat the most important keywords?

Get the raise you deserve

Blackmail your boss?

While I worked at EDS, a man quit three different times. He entirely left the building and briefly worked for another company for a few weeks. He’d walk out with a clear message to his (previous) manager that he didn’t want to leave the job and could be enticed to stay or return. Each time, that man got the raise and promotion.

Blackmail? I think so! And, it worked! It didn’t backfire… at least not directly.

Morale in the company tanked. Every worker realized “If I want to get that raise, I have to quit”. That’s not the sort of place that most people want to work at. People did leave, and for many of them, permanently.

Blackmail DOES work! That is, if you want to work for a company where you have to threaten your boss.

Don’t ask for a raise. PROVE you deserve one!

You shouldn’t need to threaten to leave to get a raise. Put together your resume like you were looking for a job. Collect your accomplishments in a portfolio. Get recommendations from friends and coworkers. Show them to your boss.

 When you can prove you deserve a raise, go get one. Talk to your boss. Show them that they would have to pay more to hire an equal level replacement, so they should be paying you more. Right now. Don’t threaten to quit. Give them your portfolio and the time to make the right decision.

^^There’s nothing more convincing than simple proof^^

At least one month down the road, ask them what they’re planning on doing (if you haven’t gotten the raise, of course!). Just ask. Don’t threaten, don’t demand, don’t beg like a dog. Ask.

Your boss might not give it to you. Maybe they can’t. Perchance they think you don’t deserve it. Don’t blackmail your boss. Let them have the opportunity to make the right choice and be heroes. If you don’t get what you deserve, go look for a new job and don’t look back.

Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

Something To Do Today

Upgrade your resume. Look for new accomplishments and skills to add.

Show me the gold – your portfolio

As a recruiter, I had recommended Ben for a job as a programmer. He’d been programming constantly for 6 years. He could prove his skills with C++. He had produced a video game that was more complex than many in the stores at the time.

I was enthusiastic and said he was a junior, which is perfect for a simple 3 month programming job. The hiring manager agreed to interview him. I forgot (seriously just forgot) to mention that he was a high school junior, not a junior in college. Out of courtesy, the manager let the interview go on anyways.

Ben’s portfolio (the game), enthusiasm, and knowledge
were so great that the 16 year old kid got hired.

Let’s not forget he was cheap, too.

How can a high school junior get a job meant for a college junior? An enthusiastic mistake and a portfolio. You create your own enthusiasm. Don’t try to make mistakes, but do capitalize on them. The portfolio is not as easy as it looks.

Your portfolio is separate from your resume. Your resume is a list of accomplishments. It says what happened while you were at a job, a list of improvements.

A portfolio is proof. Graphic artists will take a folder (nowadays, probably electronic) full of the best examples of their work. Programmers can share websites they’ve built, or other programs that actually run, like Ben’s game. A portfolio is demonstratable. Use your portfolio to prove that you have amazing abilities.

Collect your best examples and put them together on a thumb drive, a folder, online, or somewhere else. Show people your portfolio! When I talked previously about building enthusiasm so people recommend you, this is how to do it! Talk about how awesome and fun building your favorite project was!

Take your favorite thing you’ve ever worked on, what brings
a smile on your face just to think about, and share it.

Employers have interviews to make sure that you can do the job. If you lack the qualifications that they “require” they won’t hire you. You don’t fit the job description. But here’s a secret:

If you can prove to them you can do that job,
they WILL hire you anyway.

 Years later, Ben ended up using his portfolio to get a previous high-level Google executive to co-found a business with him. His portfolio this time wasn’t a game. It was LucidChart. How good was his portfolio? Take a look here.

Ben had a college level programming job in high school.
Then he had a man from Google asking to start a business with him.

 This all happened before he graduated from college. There is an amazing amount that can be done with a portfolio that can’t be done with a resume.

Something To Do Today

 Ask your boss what you could put in your portfolio that absolutely proves you deserve a raise. Put together that portfolio and see if he gives you that raise. If he doesn’t, show that portfolio to other employers. Maybe they will give you the raise (or rather, a job) when your boss wouldn’t.

Prove you deserve it and they will give it to you.

Getting everyone to recommend you (without having to ask!)

Do you want to work with someone who is unhappy being there to work?

Would you recommend someone who is grumpy about their job for a different job in that field? Who is only working for the money even though they despise their job with a passion?

No one else would either.

Love to work

People love to waste their passion hating their job instead of loving their work. There is a big difference that is noticeable to everyone when someone is excited to work. Painful drudgery for money is too common. These people stay stay stuck where they are and no one wants to recommend them. Ever.

I suppose I shouldn’t say never. Their co-workers might recommend them… to get that person out of their office.

These people drain energy worse than incandescent light bulbs.

Who you are at work

At AGI, we place a lot of people. There are a few groups that everyone tends to fall into: excited kids, total grumps, or average Johnsons.

You know how kids are. They’re excited by all the new stuff around them. They love what they get to do. Life is an exciting adventure, and they can’t stop finding new things to do even if its on the exact same playset for years and years.

People like this do their job off the clock, not getting paid for it. They love what they do, and they are happy to do it outside of work. They have so much energy that is infectious, and these are the people that come to mind whenever a job opportunity gets mentioned. They talk about their job with love, and their friends share that passion because they care.

These people get recommendations for jobs. And a lot of them. These are the people that come to mind when a hole in an organization comes up. These are the people that get called about a new job instead of having to do the calling themselves.

Average Johnsons are average. They use their skills whenever it’s useful. They don’t hate their job but they are far from excited about it. If you ask them about work, you get a “it’s not bad” from them. They might get recommended every now and then, but they aren’t the first person who comes to mind.

Everyone knows a grump when they meet them. They hate their job and everything about it. They avoid it whenever possible. They make the worst workers because they don’t want to be there. A grump goes off like a bomb about how awful their job is. They whine and complain, and no one ever wants to work with them. Maybe they drudged through their classes, got their degree, but there is no person willing to hire them.

There is a huge difference between each of these groups. The biggest difference is excitement, but another is how much they use their job outside of work.

People who are excited get jobs.


 Do your job for free or for charity

 Use your job and work to help someone! Decide, and act. Helping people will help you become more energetic about your job. It will make you happy about it like you’ve never been before.

Are you a computer technician? Rip apart electronics in your spare time. Offer to help a local church or charity with issues. They might not have a job for you, but give them your number to let them call you if something comes up. Offer to teach at a library, a school, or nursing home.

Are you a salesperson? Do what my partner did, become a charity “hit woman”. Get the job of calling on businesses for donations. You will talk to a lot of leaders of industry. And guess what? If you do a good job, they’ll be impressed.

Your friends, family, and acquaintances will see what you are doing. They’ll tell other people. Your friends, family and everyone you meet and help will recommend you if they ever have the opportunity.

Be excited. Love your job and do it for free. Help others and show them how you love your job, or what you want your job to be. Your excitement will get everyone to help you get a job.

Something To Do Today

 Sit down and seriously evaluate how you’ve been acting. Are you a member of the “beef and whine club”? Find something you enjoy that is related to the job you want. Do it with enthusiasm, for free.

Experience and recommendation get you a job where a degree won’t. Job and work recommendations are great, but also getting them from the community will make you stand out.

Standing out in your resume

Any of these tools can get the job done. Which would you choose?

If a resume gets you an interview, it is a great resume. That is the only measure of success. It cannot get you a job. It can get you an interview.

Applicants want their resume to stand out. It used to be done by using extra nice paper. Sometimes the resume was sent with a single crisp fold or in a flat envelope so that it was just slightly different.

Electronically, it is harder to stand out. Content, readability and accomplishments are critical. Content is king. Anything that distracts from content shouldn’t be there. What gets attention? What  stands out, but not distract?


You may have heard that you should not be including a photo in your resume at any cost. Over the years, lawsuits have been filed charging race discrimination against companies that kept photos of applicants. The idea was that if you had a photo, you COULD discriminate. This is no longer an issue as most interviewers will check your social media profiles. Having a photo included on your resume may help you stand out to an employer.

LinkedIn profiles

The easiest resume is to go to LinkedIn and copy your profile to a PDF and send it in. I’m not sure there is a more boring way to make a resume! If an interviewer wants your LinkedIn profile, they will find it. Send something new, not what is easily available online. A unique resume that isn’t online will get you farther than a resume spammed to a thousand companies.


If you have a certification (cert) that is highly sought after, use it. If there is a well known logo associated with the cert, use it at the top of your resume. Don’t go nuts. For example, the gold standard for PC programmers is Microsoft certs or Sun Java certs. Use those logos. If you are a CPA, attach those letters to your name. Don’t add your dog training certification unless you are applying as a dog trainer.

Fancy fonts

Fonts should make your resume easy to read. Don’t mix 3 or 4 fonts on your resume. It distracts, not enhances. Please don’t use brightly colored fonts. Sometimes a resume looks okay with one other color in addition to black. Usually 3 or more font colors look terrible. Don’t distract.

Content is king. Bullets and bolding are usually all you need to attract attention to the most important parts of your resume. First work on content, form will follow.

Something To Do Today

Look at your resume. Is there anything distracting? Hand it to someone else and ask them.

How to get your resume noticed online

get noticed online to get a job

How to get your resume noticed.

How to get your resume seen online could be a book. That book hasn’t changed in the last 5 years. Here are the basics:

  1. Include every keyword that is in the job listing
  2. Figure out a way to repeat the most important key words
  3. Resubmit your changed resume occasionally

Keywords are critical

Computerized filters are being used more often. CareerBuilder, Ladders, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and all the others have them. If your resume does not have every important keyword or acronym, the computer eats it and spits out a form letter. No human sees your resume.

Put a list of certifications, education, software used, tools mastered and techniques employed at the end of the resume. Include every abbreviation or keyword in the ad. If you are missing a minor keyword, consider saying at the end of your resume, “I understand CDF and JCL but have never used them. It may get you past the computer filter. If you are submitting your resume directly to the hiring manager, you might take the list off.

Repeat important keywords

Your resume will be ranked by keyword usage. When my query brings back 300 hits, I want to see the most likely resumes first. I sort on “relevance” and cherry pick the top resumes. The best way to be ranked highly is to intelligently use the keywords multiple times.

Resubmit your resume

Job boards usually show the most recently submitted resumes first. If your resume has not been submitted for 3 months, it is at the bottom. Worse, recruiters may assume you have a job if your resume is that old. They won’t call you. Refresh your resume every week or two with a minor change.

Just these three things may change your invisible resume to a real interview magnet.

Something To Do Today

Go read the job description of the last job you submitted your resume for. Did your resume have all the keywords? Did it repeat the most important keywords?