Laurie Swanson Blog

Does Smoking Improve Your Chances of Career Advancement?

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately on leadership, leadership training and what gets in the way of women being in leadership roles in corporate America. 
There are factors like: 
  • Lack of role models at the top 
  • Lack of business financial acumen 
  • Lack of training in strategy over tactics 
  • Lack of training on how to impact the business bottom line
  • Lack of ongoing organizational training around biased hiring, diversity and inclusion.
  • Lack of inclusion in the right circles of influence
 Which made me think of a woman I used to work with-she was in the role I took over.
I watched as she was promoted more than once after I joined. 
She was being fast-tracked. 
It was a bit of a mystery to me why this was happening.
I thought-why her over other qualified candidates? 
She was good at what she did for sure but she was not the top sales rep. 
Others were better at selling our products. 
She managed teams but was never the highest rated supervisor.

The Secret to Her Success:  She Was a Smoker

I did not know her well but I used to see her during my lunch break. 
She’d be outside with 4-5 other men, often including the CEO, having a smoke. 

By being with the smokers, who happened to be people who had influence over her career trajectory, she was top of mind when a new position or opportunity came available.
She hung where they hung. 
And they happened to smoke. 

You Don’t Have To Smoke To Be Smokin’ In Your Career

Getting ahead means looking for and/or creating circumstances that put you in a position to succeed.

Being part of a circle of smokers happened to be a way for this woman to make herself known.
But smoking isn’t the only thing that people who make decisions on who might be best to lead that next global project, attend that exclusive leadership training or represent the company at the next conference do. 
Some were part of a company co-rec softball league. 
Others met for a beer every Friday night at a local pub. 

Of course, I did not realize the importance of this type of relationship-building at the time. 
Maybe because I suck at softball and have never liked beer. Maybe if there had been a weekly Texas Hold ‘em tournament or foreign movie outing then I would have rubbed elbows with some of the upper brass but that is a blog for another day.
I thought that the fact I was the number one sales rep for the three years I was there spoke for me. 
Being good at what you do is VERY important but only one piece to the puzzle of advancing your career.

Try This

The important thing you need to think about is where the circles of influence in your company hang out. 

Join an extracurricular, company-sponsored team
  • Attend social functions offered by your company
  • Volunteer to be part of special projects that give you visibility
  • Write for your company newsletter or social media
  • Start or join an employee resource group 
  • Attend company-sponsored conferences or networking events 
The good news is you don’t have to take up smoking to move your career forward. 
Are you ready to light up your career? Let’s schedule a chat.
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