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Breaking bamboo-finding your keys to success

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

  • Why is it important to know my boss’s boss?

Every company has a hierarchy and it is imperative that you know who works for whom – especially your boss. Why? Because the key to getting ahead is by serving your boss well.  To do that effectively, you need to know their motivations and, oftentimes, your boss is motivated to please one person – their boss. 

Sometimes your goal is as simple as doing a good job so your boss looks good to their boss. On occasion, it might be more complicated and the only way you can ferret this out is by discovering the secret goals of your boss’s master. Learn what they are telling your boss to do so that you know how you fit in the grand scheme. Only then will you have the opportunity to be the best underling possible by helping your boss shine. If you don’t do this, you could get caught flat-footed or, even worse, completely blindsided.

If you don’t know the identity of your boss’s boss, don’t despair. Every well-structured company has a limit on direct reports, usually less than a dozen, so by working from the top down, you can figure out who lords over whom. 

  • What are the keys to finding a good mentor?

There are lots of ways to find a good mentor but I think the most effective way is to treat it like finding a doting parent. Find someone who wants to take you under their wing and teach you the ropes. This mentor may not be your direct boss but likes you and understands your work. Many noble heroes have had a guru on their way to greatness just like Luke had Yoda.

Finding your own Yoda may be the single most important decision you make early in your career. Pledge allegiance to that person. For Yoda, give up that business class seat, the last space on the elevator down, or the last dumpling on the tray. Volunteer to help them on their pet projects and show appreciation for their guidance and mentorship.

Think of your quest to find your Jedi master the same way you would get someone to fall in love with you. If that same person was involved in hiring you, be extra careful not to let them down. Make them proud. That way you’ll be taking advantage of choice-supportive bias. This is where you think positive things about a choice you’ve made, even if that choice has flaws.

One final note is to make sure you are a great mentee. Nothing pleases a mentor more than feeling they have a vested interest in your success. Keep them apprised of your career and praise them for helping you. Even if you didn’t take their advice, update them on your rationale and final decision. We all want to be appreciated and doing so with your mentor will go a long way in maintaining that relationship.

  • How do I prevent others from taking credit for my work?

You know why the saying, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” became a cliché? Because it’s true. The city of Success is overcrowded but Failure is a ghost town because we believe that the former is the path up the corporate ladder. The latter is an exit path.

Assuming your work is good, you will find others taking credit for your work. Co-workers will claim they had a hand in your success. If you don’t stop this, they are effectively diminishing your accomplishments by diluting your effort and stealing your thunder. They are saying to your organization that you are less critical and less valuable. This is why you need to prevent others from stealing credit.

My go-to method for doing it has two parts:

  • First document everything. Every single piece of raw material that led to the creation of your work. This will come in handy if you ever need to prove you created the work and others did not.
  • The second is to get others to vouch for you. Have clients or supervisors write testimonials attesting to your work. Validate your side of the story. And while you are at it, have them invalidate other’s roles in your work. This way you kill two birds with one stone!

About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees.  Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF).  He rose from the entry-level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history.  As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game. 

Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America.  He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.

If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior, at TheWallStreetWarrior.com.

You can follow Dave at Facebook@Liucrative, Twitter@Liucrative, Instagram@LiucrativeEndeavors, LinkedIn@DaveLiu, or TikTok@dave-liu

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story, or making a contribution.


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