I just read Sonja Fisher's new chapter about women in business that is coming out this fall I believe, and I will give you the exact title when I find out and help her promote it. I loved what she wrote, and while I don't want to use her advice verbatim, I thought I would put it through my own experiences. So, here are some tips if you're working in Corporate America or just want to create success. These tips are political steps to help you succeed in business.
Always dress better than your boss -- this one really surprised me. First, I don't think I've ever not dressed better than the people I have worked for, but it had more to do with my zest for fashion than any strategic maneuvering I was attempting to make. What Sonja says is that you should dress for the position you aspire to. Now given that I saw some people show up for work in their sweatpants (p.s., sweatpants are never a good fashion statement either personally or professionally), I suppose this is good advice.
Always support your boss and try to make him/her look good. This is very good advice. First, your boss is the one who will support you as your rise up the food chain. Outwardly acting insubordinate only creates tension in the relationship. An executive is in the position he or she is in because of their experience and ability to make grounded, informed decisions (a-hem, most of the time). When juniors take a stand against their superior it under minds their superior's authority -- and no matter how you slice that one, it doesn't come out well. In other words, no executive wants their authority under-minded. Be very careful with insubordination even when you think you're right. Some companies outwardly do not support junior personnel and do not weigh out the who's-right-or-wrong factor. Their executive position is to support the other executive right or wrong. In all honesty, I have never once seen the junior professionals prevail over their executive leader. Not once. And I have to tell you, I always agreed with the juniors' viewpoints. Your position on the food chain will put you in a negative light. I have a friend who had a boss come in front the outside and despite the entire group's protests against the boss, they all got reported and put under negative scrutiny. So play the game and play along -- or just play nice if you want to be promoted.
Solutions not problems. Also, I've seen this on numerous occasions, young professionals don't understand that you bring solutions to your manager not problems. Managers have so many stresses pulling at them. They don't want the person in their office who does nothing but load them up with problems. Smart young professionals will face a problem head-on, solve it, and then offer the problem-solution equation to their managers. This approach makes you look like you're smart and know how to take initiative. I can tell you when I managed a department of 10 people back in my corporate days, the person I didn't want to see in my office was the one sure to heap my plate full with problems. Don't be that person.