Advance Your Career Like a Ninja!

ninja_march2013_webLong ago, in ancient feudal Japan, there was an elite group of mercenaries who specialized in unorthodox combat known as the ninja. These covert agents were used as a strong contrast to the traditional samurai warrior, who observed strict rules about honor and combat.

Unlike a samurai, a ninja would be involved in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and other underhanded activities. They were the ancient James Bonds of Asia, and were highly regarded and feared because of their effectiveness. To this day, western culture has built the image of the ninja as having supernatural powers like running on water or stopping swords with their bare hands.

The modern workplace can seem like the samurai – there are strict rules, codes of conduct, and cultures to adhere to. With so many expectations and understood behaviors, you may feel like your career is in a rut. You could be looking for the next step, but unsure how to cut through the clutter. Maybe you should consider these traits of a ninja to find unorthodox methods to advance your career.

Know Their Weaknesses
The chief role of a ninja was espionage. They gathered information on enemy terrain, building specifications, and obtaining information. It was very important for a ninja to know everything about their enemy and the area they had to infiltrate. The more they knew, the easier it was to find weaknesses and get the job done.

As an employee ninja, you should learn as much about your industry, and competition as possible, not to exploit or blackmail, but to be aware of their shortcomings so you can find ways of using your talents for innovation in advance of others.

Know Your Own Weaknesses
Nobody tried to fight samurai unless he was a trained warrior. Most martial arts weapons were actually farming equipment repurposed to fight the dangerous soldiers. That’s why the ninja specialized in stealth and disguise, because they knew full frontal combat wouldn’t be as effective.  Ninja weren’t warriors, they were covert.

In business, you need to be aware of how others perceive you and how your personality interacts with them. Narrowing down the commonalities you have when in conflict with others will help you identify your weaknesses so you can be aware of them when doing business with new people or when working with co-workers and managers.

Find the Value in Being Alone
While the ninja did have teamwork techniques, most of their missions were solo. They worked best when disguised as monks or merchants so they could spy in enemy buildings without arousing suspicion. One person could infiltrate and maneuver through a crowded place much easier than a team of people. The fewer people, the fewer chances of getting caught.

It’s difficult to be a solo worker in such a team-minded, extroverted culture in the U.S., but some people have no desire to manage large groups or be a part of a team. That’s why it’s important to demonstrate how you can be a superstar employee on your own right. Work with your managers to look for promotion opportunities on the basis of your solo work and your great results.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
The weapons and tools used by the ninja weren’t large or cumbersome, they were small and easy to conceal. The whole point was to look innocent until there was an opportunity to strike. That’s why monks were a favorite choice among the ninja because the robes could hide a plethora of weapons and tools. The key was having them ready, but not using them until the opportunity was presented.

When interviewing, you may feel the urge to present as much information as possible about your various skills and talents that could benefit the employer. Consider holding a few abilities that aren’t completely relevant to the job description until you’ve been hired. It’s the classic case of “under promising and over delivering.” When you demonstrate that you are more valuable than previously believed, that will place you in a much better position when promotions are being considered.

Hook ‘em
To get close to the target, sometimes a ninja would have to find ways of interacting with them and earn their trust. They would have to formulate “hooks” to get the attention of their enemy. It allowed them to establish a relationship quickly and lead to another meeting where the ninja could finish their mission.

The important factors to making a good hook are to find a reason to meet once, connect, and continue to meet. If you want to meet someone in your industry to look for better opportunities, find a reason for them to want to take the time to meet you. Approach the relationship with what you can do for them before asking for favors.

Now, young grasshopper, is the chance for you to use the ancient skills passed down from generation to generation. You too can become an office ninja master by using these tips to further your career. What ways have you gone beyond conventional methods to succeed at work? Let us know in the comments section below.

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