No, this isn’t SDN-related, I mean the soft skills. The interpersonal skills. The skills that will help you get ahead in your career.
This is my opinion on the matter, so take it all with a huge grain of salt.
The biggest thing that a lot of people forget is that there’s more to advancement than the technical skills you know. While companies value technical abilities, they’re also evaluating you on your soft skills: your interpersonal skills, your ‘human networking’ skills. You can be the smartest networking person in the room, but without the soft skills most people will hit a glass ceiling and not progress above that. They may not even be aware that ceiling exists, and if they do may not understand how to break through it.
The way I see it is there are a few essential skills you need to pick up and be comfortable with, in order to succeed:
Getting out of your office (cave) and going out and talking to people
That’s right! Even in this day and age, you still need to go out and actually talk to others. (Yes, that even includes the NOC monkeys!). You need to get out there and do the small-talk; talk to them about their day, their family, etc. The curmudgeon that sits in the back corner ignoring the rest of the organization will lose out in promotions to the outgoing charismatic person, each and every time. The outgoing person projects an image that they care about the organization and the people that are part of it (even if they really don’t think it internally). The brilliant curmudgeon that sits back there and acts anti-social will be looked over for promotions every time. It would be nice if technical skills was the major factor in promotions, but sadly in today’s corporate politics that’s still not the case for the most part.
Mentoring those with lower skillsets
This is a skill that seems to have been lost over the years. It used to be you’d start an apprenticeship at a place and a grizzled old veteran would take him/her under their wing and show them the ropes. Those days seem to have past us by. Now you have the grizzled veteran that hordes the information, and the new recruit that gets all the ‘junk’ jobs. That might free up *some* of your time, but when a promotion would become available if you’re the only one that has the necessary knowledge to do a job, then in the company’s eyes you’re too valuable in that position to promote. Take a NOC-ling or lackey under your wing and start showing them the ropes! It’s not a threat to your job to mentor those below you. In fact it’s seen as a positive thing! You mentor that lackey and give them the skills they need to replace you, and you can move further up the chain to bigger and more interesting things. The old saying “If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted” still rings true to this day.
Bringing a positive attitude to work
I know this is difficult, but for the most part work should stay at work, home should stay at home. Don’t let problems/challenges at home interfere with your work, and don’t let work problems interfere with your home life. It used to be (back in the days of pensions and such) that you could start working for a company, and as long as you worked hard you’d have a job as long as you wanted it. These days it’s changed. Now the way I see this is as a business relationship between you and the company. The company pays me to do a job, and I do it to the best of my abilities. I understand that at any time the company could decide to let me go (it’s not personal, it’s business), and by the same token, I can also decide that the business relationship isn’t working for me either. Fuzzy words like ‘loyalty’ are bantered about to try and tip that balance towards the company, but at the end of the day if the company thought it was good for them financially, don’t think you won’t get a pink slip. (Which also ties back above, the curmudgeon will get the boot long before the outgoing person). Understanding the business relationship with your company un-complicates your employment decisions, and lets you stress less about your employment.
I know most people will read this and ignore it, but I hope that it gives some of you some insight into the corporate politics games that go on, that you might not even be aware of. The more you know. (And knowing is half the battle!)