Jocelyn Greenky is the hilarious, smart, cool big sister you probably wish you had at work to turn to for honest advice on how to navigate those endlessly confusing office politics. She learned herself by working at big companies like Hachette Filipacchi and Wenner Media, where she held top leadership titles such as corporate editorial director.
Jocelyn also co-wrote The Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work: The Inside Rules Every Working Girl Should Know after word spread of her rule-skirting career wisdom through the corporate grape vine. Literally hundreds of women would call her to get her tell-it-like-it-is take on their workplace dilemmas (think: My boss hates my guts. What should I do?). We caught up with Jocelyn at a recent Art of Being Salon in Manhattan to get her advice on how to maximize your time at work.
Know you don't have to just "pay your dues." Jocelyn started out at a lackluster job working as an assistant at an advertising agency--and hating it. "I was brainwashed into believing that I was stuck, that I had no options, that I had to 'pay my dues,' instead of looking for alternatives," she says. The idea of "paying your dues" isn't all that uncommon in the workplace, and many women simply end up putting their heads down and working harder and harder, waiting for the promotion that never comes.
Create options for yourself. Jocelyn reminds us not to forget that we have options. (And if you don't have options, you better go out and make some.) She suggests always having an exit strategy, and points out that many men have one on hand before they've even gotten the job they're applying for. Women, Jocelyn argues, tend to be pretty monogamous about their jobs, often feeling disloyal if they're out there actively looking for opportunity. But The Big Sister's Guide describes options as "an absolute necessity for the life and health of [your] career and [your] sanity."
Cultivate your work relationships. You probably hear this one a lot, but according to Jocelyn, having a positive attitude really does matter. In order to make those important options for yourself, you've got to build some strong relationships. Jocelyn's advice to her younger self "would be to stop bitching so much about being stressed at work because it only drove my friends, family, and co-workers away." And driving your coworkers away isn't going to get you that promotion. So say hi to the newbie down the hall or drop a handwritten "Thank You" note to your coworker after they help you out--it'll pay off.
Boost your score with strategic favors. "The thing I think women could really learn from men is that getting ahead isn't just about being productive," Jocelyn says. Doing favors for other people who have the power to help you (or "back scratching" as she calls it) is one of the best ways to get them to help you out later on. Women are naturally hard workers who try to make everyone happy. Seems like a good thing, right? Not when the modern workplace is dominated by "guylogic--" which is all about keeping score. If a higher up wants something done, men do that before anything else because they know it's going to make them look good. And you should, too.
Spend 40 percent of your time not doing your job description. At this point, you're probably wondering how the heck you're supposed to have time for all of this. But don't worry--Jocelyn's got you covered. "One way to be more productive is to practice the 60/40 rule, where you spend 60 percent of you work day doing what's in your actual job description, and the other 40 percent making connections, building your reputation, and practicing that strategic 'back scratching' that guys are so good at," she explains. You might feel guilty about not "working" while you're at work, but the truth is that this kind of networking will actually make you more valuable and, in turn, help your company. The more you know about your industry and the more contacts you have, the better--for both you, and for your employer.
Take inventory of what you do. So even though it may feel like you're slacking, taking these little steps to change your workday routine might actually be the key to your success. Jocelyn--and all of those women who've taken her advice over the years--are proof of that. And if this all feels a bit overwhelming, start small. "Try writing down everything you do and who it benefits for one week," Jocelyn suggests. "Organizing your actions on paper helps you become conscious of what tasks and relationships have the biggest career payoffs."
*Additional reporting by Jessica Demarest