The Fast Track is a column focused on leadership and healthy living by Strauss Zelnick, the co-founder of ZMC, a leading media-focused investment firm, and the chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, one of the world’s largest video game companies. Zelnick is also an avid participant in #TheProgram, a New York-based fitness group. If you have any questions for him, Tweet them at @BestLifeOnline—or send us a message on Facebook—using the hashtag #AskStrauss.
When we decide we want to get ahead, it’s a fundamental truth that most of us begin by thinking that we need a new job. You know, maybe we want to enjoy our work more, to learn more, to make money, or to have more power. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re human, after all. But the truth is that you can usually achieve many of those things in your current role. You just have to give more than you get to succeed.
At the end of the day, thinking more about the value you can add to an organization, as opposed to what it can give you, is probably the most important—and oddly ironic—leading indicator of success. With that in mind, I’ve outlined all of my favorite attributes in employees. (Well, at least the ones who do get ahead.) And for more career tips, here’s my advice for Doubling Your Productivity Every Day.
Get in earlier and stay later than your boss.
Yes, even if she says you don’t need to. There’s no substitute for hard work and commitment. I like to get up at 5am, exercise with my buddies, get coffee, and be at my first meeting by 7.30am. Ben Franklin was right: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Yes, Be Presentable.
I hope this goes without saying. But dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Show up well groomed, and, unless you’re wearing sneakers or suede shoes, make sure your shoes are cleaned and polished. And, for what it’s worth, I’d advise you to never wear sneakers to work. I don’t care how old you are.
Smile. And Stay out of Office Politics.
Be a friend to everyone. It’s human nature to gossip now and then. But it’s also a really bad career move. If you can drive it out of your system altogether in the workplace, that would be great. If not, leave it at one for the day.
Never Say, “That’s Not My Job.”
Say yes—always. Volunteer for more. There is no job that is beneath you. I’ve been at this job stuff for a while now and I’ve done reasonably well, and it’s my pleasure to get a colleague coffee or pick up trash that’s on the floor. (Oh, and pick up trash that’s on the floor, by the way.)
Listen. Never Interrupt.
You’d be amazed by what you will learn, and from everyone. If you talk infrequently and only after listening, odds are you’ll add more value—and be more respected—than if you aim at being the smartest person in the room.
This is hugely important: Keep a calendar of all of your work meetings and events and key activities. Be sure to review it before the week starts, at the beginning of every day, and at the end of every week to determine what you actually achieved and what value you actually brought to your enterprise. Not every moment will be productive, but if weeks go by that are consumed with work that doesn’t really move the ball forward for the company, rethink your approach.
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