Regardless of your personal opinion of the Occupy movement that has dominated global headlines this fall, you have to give its members credit for knowing how to attract attention and get their issues a lot of free press. Those of you in the professional world, even if your salary puts you in the dreaded “1%” range, could actually learn a few things about how to better manage your career from the Occupiers. So without further ado, I offer three career tips gleaned from the Occupy movement.
1. Put Time in the Office. This tip may be a little hypocritical coming from a self-employed freelancer whose “office” is a laptop, but notice that the Occupy movement is setting up shop in high-profile, real-world locations rather than conducting protests virtually. The Occupiers are planting themselves where everyone can see who they are and what they’re doing, and staying put. This unwavering dedication to remaining on site, regardless of personal inconvenience or bad weather, is one of the key reasons the Occupy movement has received so much attention.
You should approach your job in the same way. It is tempting to avoid going to the office with help from the vast array of mobile technologies which can turn anywhere (even a tent in a public park) into a workspace, but there is still a lot to be said for showing up at work early and staying late. Even if your quality of work is the same as that of a colleague who prefers to work in their PJs, your effort will receive more notice.
2. Speak Up. The modern workplace is no place for the meek or shy. The Occupiers are pretty vocal about how they view the current socioeconomic environment, and what may at one time have been fringe beliefs are now integrated into mainstream discussion. You must be just as forthright and direct about the value your contributions are adding to your workplace. Nobody likes a braggart, and self-promotion should never include belittling coworkers (or worse, superiors), but don’t assume that a good job speaks for itself.
Find ways to inject general news of your successes into broader company discussions, and be ready to specifically describe them in smaller discussions within your department or with your superiors. Outline all your positive contributions in detail ahead of any kind of performance review so you’re ready to explain exactly why you deserve a raise and/or promotion in a stagnant economy. Some people are spending months outdoors and braving arrest and pepper spray to make themselves heard, you can handle speaking up to your boss once in a while.
3. Have Clear Goals. After citing two positive examples of what to do based on the Occupy movement, it’s only fair to include one negative example of what NOT to do. The Achilles heel of the Occupy movement is that nobody, including its “non-leaders,” really seems to know what the ultimate goal is. Awareness of economic inequities has been raised, but what next? Only the most naïve protestor really thinks there will be massive socioeconomic change based on the past few months of “occupation,” and it isn’t clear how long the occupation will last, especially in light of increased police action against the encampments.
So take a step away from the mindset of the Occupy movement and establish some clear goals in your job and your career, beyond simple ones like earning enough money to survive in a field that at least vaguely interests you. Where do you want to be professionally next year, in five years, in 10 years, and what steps do you need to take to get you there? Camping out can be fun, but there’s a reason humans started moving indoors several thousand years ago. Get your career out of the tent and into a secure structure built on a foundation of planning and direction.