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8 Things You Need to Do if You Were Hired Today
      Author:James Altucher     Source: http://cn.wsj.com     Release Time:5/9/2011 9:48:12 AM     View Times:17584
The woman right next to me, on 42nd Street, was alive one second, and dead the next. A taxi had come up on the sidewalk, hit her and veered off. It was the first or second day of work for me at HBO. I tried to call 911 in the payphone (there were still payphones in August, 1994) , and then I had to go.

The woman was dead. And I had to go to work.

I loved HBO like I would love a parent. I wanted them to approve of me. And kiss me as I went to sleep at night.

Before I got the job offer I would watch HBO all day long. My friend Peter and I would watch HBO or MTV for 10 hours straight. I'd go over his house around 1:00 in the afternoon and by 10:00 at night we would look at each other and say, 'What the hell did we just do?' Everything from the 'the Larry Sanders Show' on HBO to 'Beavis & Butthead' on MTV. We couldn't stop. I loved it. I wanted to work there.

8 Rules If You Are Hired Today:

Rule #1: Love the product. You have to love what your company makes or does. If you work at HBO, love the shows. Watch every single one. No excuses. If you work at WD-40, know every use of WD-40 and make up a few more that nobody ever thought of. If you work at Goldman Sachs, study every deal they've done (and know Lloyd Blankfein's favorite hobbies). You have to love the product the way Andre Agassi loves playing tennis or Derek Jeter loves playing baseball.

When I started at HBO I would every day borrow VHS tapes from their library. I watched every show going ten years back. In my spare time I'd stay late and watch. I'd watch all the comedians. I even watched the boxing matches that initially made HBO famous. Which leads me to…

Rule #2: Know the History. When my first company, Reset, was acquired by a company called Xceed, I learned the history of the mini-conglomerate that Xceed was created out of. There was a travel agency for corporations. I visited them in California. There was a burn gel company. I visited them and met all the executives and learned the technical details how the gel was invented. There was a corporate incentives company. I met with them to see if any of their clients could become my clients.

At HBO, I learned how Michael Fuchs (the head of HBO Sports at the time. Later CEO of HBO) in 1975 aired the first boxing match that went out on satellite. And how Jerry Levin (the CEO of HBO, later CEO of Time Warner) used satellites to send the signal out to the cable providers. The first time that had ever happened. Ted Turner had been so inspired by that he turned his local TV affiliate, TBS, into a national TV station, and the rest became history.

I WAS HBO. That was my mantra. I never said, 'I think this,' I said, 'We should do this'. HBO and I were a 'we,' inseparable. Until you have that feeling of unity with the company you work for, you can't rise up.

Rule #3: Make your boss look good. You want your boss to get promotions, raises, etc. Remember, you can never make more than your boss. The better he does, the better you will do. Work hard, give him full credit for everything you do. Don't take an ounce of credit. At the end of the day, everyone knows where credit belongs.

Rule #4: Know all the secretaries. It's a cliché, but the secretaries really do run the company. They control all of the schedules. They dish out all of the favors. Take as many out to lunch as possible. Not just in your department but in every department. Particularly HR, which knows all of the gossip. It's not so hard to do this. HR gives you all of your intro material when you join the company, so ask those people out to lunch after you've settled in for a few weeks. If someone writes an internal company newsletter, ask that person to lunch. Ask your boss's boss's boss's boss's secretary out to lunch. Nobody will think you are going over their head. You're asking to lunch 'just' a secretary.

By the way, the same is true to 'know all of your colleagues'. Help them out whenever they need help. Give them credit whenever you can. They will return the favor tenfold.

Rule #5: Test your value on the market. Do this constantly. The job market is like any other market. There's supply and demand. And you're just an item for sale at the great bazaar. Every year you need to find out what your value is. For one thing, the best way to get an increase in salary and status is to move horizontally, not vertically.

When I was at HBO I was constantly talking to people at other companies. I had lunch with top people at Showtime. I knew people from all the other divisions of Time Warner. I was always asking people to breakfast or lunch. I would get offers from outside, from the banking industry. I also would try to work within different divisions of HBO. Everytime I got another offer, I got another raise and promotion at HBO. Sometimes substantial, up to 35%. My bosses would resent me for it, but then go back to 'Rule #4' and often they would get raises also.

Rule #6: Study all the marketing campaigns. In 1996 they switched their slogan to 'It's not TV. It's HBO'. That slogan lasted for 13 years. Before that it was 'Simply the Best', then 'Something Special's On'. When they switched to 'It's not TV', Eric Kessler, the head of marketing, gave a talk on how they came up with the slogan. All his employees were in the auditorium. And me from the IT department. Nobody else would go with me.

Rule #7: Study the industry. What made HBO different from Showtime? From Cinemax? From non-pay cable? From broadcasting? I knew the answers to those questions. I read every book about the history of TV I could find. I would go to lectures at the Museum of Radio and Television on 52nd Street. Jessica Reif Cohen was the Merrill analyst covering media. I knew nothing about stocks. But I read everything she wrote and would scan the Wall Street Journal for mentions of her name. It was fascinating to me that, at one point, the CEOs of Showtime, Time Warner, Universal, Viacom and Fox Sports were all former executives at HBO.

Rule #8. LEAVE. All good things must come to an end. From the day you start, you need to plan your exit. This is different from Rule #6. This isn't knowing your value. It means you're going to say goodbye. If you master Rules #1-9 at a company, then you'll know enough about the company and industry to start your own company. To either become a competitor or a service provider. And you will have built-in customers because your Rolodex will be filled with people from the industry. If you think like an entrepreneur from the instant you walk into your cubicle on day one, then you will constantly looking for those missing gaps you can fill. This is how you jump into the abyss. You make sure the abyss has a customer waiting for you.

I did everything wrong my first few months at HBO. I didn't know NYC. I didn't know corporate culture at all. I wore the same suit five days in a row until I realized nobody else was wearing a suit and I never wore one again. I didn't have the requisite skill set to survive at my job (they had to send me to a remedial programming school despite the fact that I had majored in programming AND went to graduate school for computer science).

I was obsessed with the Internet and HBO didn't even own HBO.com at the time. My boss's boss's boss would say to my boss, 'Get him away from that Internet stuff and onto some real work.' One time, my boss came into my cubicle and with everyone listening from every other cubicle said to me, 'We want you to succeed here, but you need to know more or else it's not going to work out.' It was very embarrassing and nobody around me would meet my eyes for the next week or so. I was the walking dead.

But I survived then. And I've survived every day since.
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