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Robert Greene is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, Mastery, The[…]

Even during the recession, employees don’t have to be at the mercy of managers.

uestion: What would you advise people trying to find or maintain jobs in the recession?


Robert Greene: Well I’m a big believer in being an entrepreneur. It’s easy for me to say because I work for myself and I am someone who likes that process, but I think most people in the world today understand that working for a company is a very insecure position to be in. You have no control over your destiny and things are changing so quickly in the world where a promising field five years ago doesn’t exist anymore, so it’s very complicated. You’ve got to play a double game. On the one hand you have to be aware of putting food on your table, of making a living in the here and now and you have to be smart about it and you have to choose the right field for you, but on the other hand you have to juggle your longer terms goals, particularly if you’re younger, where you want to be in ten years. I always tell people that it sounds hokey, but I believe it, that everybody was born with a kind of uniqueness. There is never going to be somebody else with the same DNA as you, with the same experiences. There is something that you were meant to do as an individual. You have some kind of creative skill. It can either be creating your own business in some level, creating your own project, being a writer, an artist, whatever, or it can even be working within a company itself because some people like that security, but from within that company you’re creating something. You’re doing something from within that makes you excited that fills you with passion because we all know when you’re doing something that you like everything changes. You have an energy that you don’t have and so you’ve got to juggle these two things. If you’re consumed only with the big dream you’re going to die because you won’t be able to feed yourself or you’re going to be losing your job, so you’ll just be sitting in your room dreaming, but if you’re only thinking of that job now and holding onto these crap jobs that keep you just above of the water you’re going to be unhappy. In 15 years you’re going to be burnt out, washed out. Life goes by very fast, so you have to think of the two things at the same time. If you’re in a job that’s not exactly what you want in life you can mix the two together. You can try finding things that you can do from within there where you’re learning about that business, taking on more responsibility, taking on a project that nobody else wanted to handle and then learning some self reliance, learning some skills as an executive or as an entrepreneur from within that company and getting more responsibility so it’s not a drudge work. The worst thing in life that you can have is a job that you hate, that you have no energy in that you’re not creative with and you’re not thinking of the future. To me might as well be dead. I’m sorry to say that. So even if you’re forced now to get a job at a Starbucks or whatever there is something within Starbucks I hate to say that you can learn about that business, get a sense, always be observing and learning and not allowing I call it in The 50th Law I call it dead time or alive time. If you’re just letting the time pass at your job it’s just dead time and you’ll never get it back. If at that job you’re learning and you’re observing and you’re seeing about people and connections and how the business is run it’s suddenly alive time and it’s all up to you and how you approach it.


Question: How can employees negotiate the power dynamic of asking for a raise?


Robert Greene: Well you know we can talk for several hours about all of these things here, but it’s all about timing and the amount of importance you put on things. If you’re in your early twenties don’t think of… don’t put so much importance on the money, on the raise. You know getting an extra thousand dollars a year, if it’s that important, okay, I don’t want to deny that for you, but the real thing is the responsibility and the power and the experience that you’re learning, the larger picture that I was talking about. When you want to ask for a raise you don’t want to be seen as someone who is asking for it for the wrong reason. It has to be necessary. It has to be right. You have to have proven that you are essential to this place, that they can’t get rid of you, that they need you, that you’re necessary and you have to have a track record and then it’s logical and it fits and then you can ask for it and it makes sense. You don’t have to wait three years. You could go a little bit early. I’m all for boldness in that area, but the worst thing is to sit there and whine and complain and obsess about money as if that were the only sign of your worth. If people are giving you positions of responsibility, that’s worth $5,000 that you may not be getting right away because you’re learning something, and if you’re able to stop being so impatient because people… We’re impatient creatures by nature, but my God, people now don’t have the patience for like three months to go by, you know. Just calm yourself down and say the best the thing you can do in a workplace is to impress your boss and show him or her that they need you, that you’ve created… You know in The 48 Laws of Power I have a chapter about learn to keep people dependent on you, a very important chapter because the idea is people will get rid of you the moment they don’t need you. You create this thing where they need you. You have a skill that no one else can. You’ve impressed them. You’ve got a track record. Then go for that raise and get as much as you can, but be patient and be willing to let that build through a process.

Recorded on December 14, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen