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Rex Huppke: Smart people offer workplace advice for 2015

As another year comes to a close, I once again turn the reins of I Just Work Here over to some of the kind and quite-a-bit-smarter-than-me folks who appeared in this year's columns..

As another year comes to a close, I once again turn the reins of I Just Work Here over to some of the kind and quite-a-bit-smarter-than-me folks who appeared in this year's columns..

I asked them to share some advice for workers, bosses and managers as they head into 2015.

A happy and successful new year to all of you. I will now turn the floor over to the aforementioned smart people.

Liz Wiseman, president of The Wiseman Group and author of "Rookie Smarts":

Instead of looking for a career ladder to climb, look for an opportunity with a steep learning curve to ascend. When we're new to a task, we're open and hopeful, yet hungry and focused. In knowledge industries, my research showed that rookies tend to outperform experienced professionals – especially in innovation and speed. Not only do we tend to do the best work when we are rookies, it is also our happy place – where we experience our greatest job satisfaction and even joy.

So, say yes to a job that is a size or two too big! And if one isn't readily offered to you, show that you've got a track record of success in rookie assignments (or build one fast). The most rewarding careers are those where we don't linger too long in jobs we are qualified for.

Adam Grant, management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success":

The greatest source of meaning at work is making a difference in the lives of others. Sadly, many people miss out because they're worried that helping others will sacrifice their success. In 2015, helping doesn't need to be personally costly. Look for ways to make your colleagues' lives better that don't make your life worse.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and author of "Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career":

A sponsor, a senior-level champion who believes in your potential, provides air cover and stretch assignments that translate into career mobility. Find sponsors by selecting from your pool of supporters who are aware of your strengths, stand to benefit from your help, and have the clout to move you forward toward your goals. Once you've homed in on potential sponsors, make yourself visible by asking for stretch assignments and coming through on two obvious fronts: performance and loyalty. Delivering outstanding results, hitting targets and deadlines, and displaying great work ethic will lead to more golden opportunities and rewarding experiences.

However, it's not just important to be sponsored. Leaders who take on the responsibility of sponsoring a protege will see measurable benefits to their own careers.

Ford Myers, career coach and author of "Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring":

If you're a job seeker, you should spend almost all of your time networking with people who can help you reach hiring managers inside the companies you've targeted. Research consistently shows that up to 80 percent of good jobs are secured through networking. It's not worth risking those odds to NOT be continually networking! It should be the primary focus of everything you do.

When it's done properly, networking is NOT about "taking," but rather about "giving." You must always come from an attitude of generosity during the networking process. When a networking conversation has been concluded, the other person should be genuinely glad that you contacted them, and feel enriched by the experience. So always seek to offer something of value to the networking partner.

Never let up on your networking efforts. Remember: If you're in career transition, networking IS your job. You should be spending at least 80 percent of your time networking ... and 20 percent on everything else!

Pamela Slim, author of "Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together":

We do our best work when we leverage our natural strengths and abilities. Even if you are in a role that is not ideal, you can still approach your work from your natural strengths. Are you not sure what your strengths are? Two great assessment tools are the Clifton StrengthsFinder and the Fascinate Advantage from Sally Hogshead. StrengthsFinder will help you identify how you see the world, and Fascinate will help you understand how the world sees you when you are at your best.

You also want to expand or deepen the network of people around you. Do that by building and nurturing three key layers of your network.

Peer mentors: high performing, supportive and collaborative peers, inside and outside your organization, who will help you accomplish your goals.

Technical mentors: experts in your field who will help you deepen your skill sets.

High Council of Jedi Knights members: highly admired, ethical leaders who you aspire to model in your life and work.



Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at or on Twitter @RexWorksHere.


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