Are You Executive Level Material?

The following is the first in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

Any successful executive will tell you that there’s a game in business. If you’re not willing to play the game, you can’t win at it. So while many people aspire to reach the executive level in their company, they won’t. In fact, most people don’t make it past the $80,000 per year income level simply because they don’t play the game.

Why won’t they play? “I hate business politics,” they say. But who said “business politics” had to be a negative thing? For example, if your boss does something commendable in the company, invents something new, or makes a great speech, it’s okay to congratulate him or her. That’s not being political or a “kiss up”; it’s called being gracious and having decorum – two things that will help you climb the corporate ladder.

Aside from your technical skills or job-specific abilities, other big components of the game include your comportment, how you look, how you speak, your attitude, and your daily habits.

1. Claim your space.

When you’re walking in the office, you need to look purposeful and centered. Scurrying, looking harried, or trying to blend into the background will make you appear as though you lack confidence. Instead, walk with your full height and claim the space around you. People need to view you as someone on a mission – a mission to the top.

No Travel, Please

Dear Jean,

I’m in line for a position that is not only a better job, it also pays more.  There is one problem.  I will have to do some traveling – too much, really.  Could I try to stipulate “no travel” when my boss offers me the new job?  How would you handle this, Jean?


In most cases, there are legitimate reasons for specific requirements on job descriptions.  When travel is required, it is because the business to be conducted requires you to be in the city where the transaction will take place.  To request “no travel” on a position which requires travel is like requesting, “no keyboarding” on a position which requires computer savvy.

Looking For a Job

There are many ways to look for a job.  Networking, online posting sites, newspapers, temporary employment services, outplacement firms, private employment agencies, and state employment agencies are just a few.

In a tough job market, don’t stick with only one avenue.  Use every source you can think of.  The only exception would be if you are working and your search is confidential.  In this case, you will have to be careful not to answer blind ads in the paper, because your boss might have submitted them.  Some bosses are so sneaky; they will run an ad or post a job online that might appeal to you just to see if you are looking for a new job.  When your search is confidential, it is best to contact a reputable employment service; one that has been referred by people you trust.  Make sure the employment service knows your search is confidential.  Print “Confidential Resume of ….” at the top of your resume and also mention the confidentiality of your search in your cover letter.  If you live in Oklahoma, Jacobi Kelley Personnel has an office in OKC and in Tulsa.  Their website is

If your search is not confidential, you can take advantage of every possible method of finding your new job.  Be sure to explore all your options.

You Don’t Have to Lie

Dear Jean,

One of my co-workers always wants me to lie when certain people call her on the phone.  Is this right?  Should I continue to lie?


You don’t have to lie for anyone, and if the “certain people” you spoke of in your question happen to be supervisors, you could be in serious trouble.  Before another day goes by, meet with her in private and explain your feelings.  Avoid judging her behavior.  Just say something such as, “When I mislead your callers, I feel uncomfortable, and I’m not willing to put myself in that position any longer.”  This will reduce your stress and make it clear to your co-worker that lying for her crosses your value system and you won’t continue to do it.

Kids in the Office

Dear Jean,

The guy in the office down the hall invites his wife and kids to the office several times a week.  Now my assistant has started to allow her kid to pop in after school once in awhile.  I don’t think spouses and children belong in a working office.  How should I handle this problem, or is it a problem?  Am I simply behind the times?


Probably not.  I wonder how we would feel if our dentist allowed his/her children to hang out in the office during a sensitive procedure, or any procedure?  I know this example is a bit dramatic, but it makes the point, doesn’t it?

Because you have no control over the guy down the hall, your best bet is to ignore his wife and children.  Where your assistant is concerned, ask her to stop allowing her child to hang around in the office.  Do it in a straightforward manner.

Please avoid the urge to be self-righteous.  Explain that this behavior is not in her best interest.  It is up to you to set the tone for your own office.  Explain that in most offices, you can go up the ladder a lot faster with the more traditional approach when it comes to visitors.

I’m Shy at Social Gatherings

Dear Jean,

I have a real problem in social gatherings.  I’m really outgoing until I get to a big party.  I seem to do better at small gatherings.  I’m extremely comfortable in a one-on-one situation.  Is there anything I can do to relieve this nervousness in groups?


I feel the same way in groups of people I don’t know.  Once in awhile, I still end up in a corner talking to people I know rather than meeting new people.  A party at my own office is a breeze.  On my own territory, I know exactly what I want to gain from having the party.

The answer to your question lies in your reason for being at the party.  Be clear with yourself.  What is your goal? Are there people you want to meet?  Is this purely networking for business, or are you networking for social reasons as well?  Having a goal will help you walk into a room of mostly strangers.

My goal for a business party is usually quite simple – to make contact with two new people.  After I’ve reached my goal, it’s time to relax.  It’s important to me that the people I’ve met remember who I am and what I do, so when I return to my office, I send them a handwritten note with my business card.

Postcards Are Not Rude

Dear Jean,

I find postcards easy to write, send and receive.  Another salesperson who works with me says I’m being rude to contact my clients with “cheap postcards.”  He uses a first-class letter.  Tell me, Jean, do you think I’m being rude?


Gee, I hope not.  I still send postcards. With the decline of the written word and the acceleration of e-communication, I think a postcard is a very nice touch. It’s unusual these days and you’re more likely to be remembered by a post card or hand written note.

Unless a customer complains, keep up the good work!

Change My Personality?

Dear Jean,

My boss would like me to be more of a people person.  Because I supervise five people, this has come up on every review.  It’s not that I don’t like people, but I find many people extremely annoying.  How can I change my personality?


I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to change your personality.  It sounds like all you need to do is add some people skills.  And believe me, they can be acquired.  The best training for this in the nation is the Dale Carnegie course.  I have seen a 10-week course dramatically alter a person’s career opportunities.  These skills are crucial.  You will learn such things as how to be a good listener and how to get others to talk about themselves; how to show genuine interest in other people; how to supervise without criticizing, condemning, or complaining; and how just smiling can make people around you feel differently.  As a bonus, Dale Carnegie training (at will enhance your family relationships as well.

There are also life coaches and business coaches that can help. Be sure to get a referral if you go this route.  It can be a waste of time and money if you get a mediocre coach.

I too had to change the way I dealt with people.  To do this, I first made a solemn vow to myself to change, and then I listened to educational tapes night and day.  I listened to them when I got ready for work; I listened to them as I drove to and from work.  It’s amazing how much motivation and education you can get in your car.

This became a lifelong habit, and even though the subject matter of the tapes I listen to changes, I always take along 6 to 12 hours of listening on any road trip.  Head for the public library; see what it has to offer.  My largest source of business education tapes is Nightingale Conant.  You can find them on the web at

Make it a goal to turn on a tape the minute you get in the car.  Before too long, you will have an education equivalent to a master’s degree just from your commute and your driving around town.

Tattoo or No Tattoo?

Dear Jean,

I want to get a tattoo on my ankle.  I think they look great and several of my friends have them.  My parents told me that I’ll never get a job if I get a tattoo.  Is that really true?


No, that is not true.  Having a tattoo on your ankle does not mean that you will never get a job.  A tattoo on your face, neck or hands, though, may restrict you.  It changes from company to company.  The difference depends on many things, such as customer contact, the age of the company owner, and the type of company.

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would have people working in my office who have tattoos, I would have told them that they were wacko.  The picture I had in my mind of women with tattoos was very different from the reality of two very professional women I once hired who had roses on their ankles.  Over time, everyone changes.  I know I have.

How To Be The Star

Dear Jean,

I’m a salesperson with a national firm.  I do pretty well, but the woman they call their “star” salesperson is making me crazy.  She gets all kind of privileges and she looks trashy.  Jean, I always wear a stylish suit or dress and I am careful about my makeup, hair, nails, etc.  For some reason, I sure don’t get a trip to Bermuda.  What should I do?  Shorten my skirts and lower my neckline?


I’m assuming that she earned those trips to Bermuda by winning contests.  Something I read recently said that we all wear a pair of magic magnifying glasses.  When we look at something, whatever we focus on increases.  If we look at the problem, the problem increases.  If we look at the solution, the solution increases.

My best advice to you is to look at the solution.  What is it you could be doing to increase your personal production?  Do you need to make more calls?  Do you need a refresher on closing the sale?  Do you qualify your prospects properly?  Do you have excellent time-management skills?  If she can be the national sales star, so can you.  Don’t spend any more time thinking about her.  She is living in your head rent-free.