Q: I just landed a new job. How can I make my work space look professional, like it belongs to someone who's worthy of climbing the ladder?
A: The easiest strategy is to look at how the movers and shakers have set up their offices. If the person you report to has a neat desk with everything put away each night, follow that model. If he has contemporary decor, mimic that feel with things like stainless-steel accessories or a modern poster. It's OK if your desk looks different from everyone else's at your level. Just make sure it resembles the desk of your boss -- he's your gatekeeper.
The goal is for you to emulate the people who are in the positions you want to attain. That means no troll dolls and no Megan Fox pinups. Nor should you display photos from your last vacation: These send the message that you'd rather be on holiday than at work.
For men, a picture of your family makes you look responsible. (I advise women not to display pictures of their family, because it makes them appear as though they'd rather be with their spouse and children.)
For some people, being an individual is their No. 1 priority. If that's more important to you than getting a promotion, go for it, but understand what you might be sacrificing. At what point can you stop emulating? Not until you've emulated all the way to the top.
Cynthia Shapiro is a career coach and author based in Woodland Hills, California. Her client list includes employees, management teams and executives ranging from small start-ups to the corporations of the Fortune 100.
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