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11 Ways You Can Use Humor to Help Your Career

Who says work has to be all seriousness all the time? Actually, no one really says it, but most of us kind of assume. But just like today's enlightened companies are challenging traditional beliefs about employee dress codes, work spaces, schedules, and conduct, it's time we rethink the "check your humor at the door" mentality. When asked, 91% of CEOs say a sense of humor is important for career advancement. Take that as your cue to use any and all of our suggestions for knocking 'em dead at work.

  1. Lighten up a job interview

    It's entirely possible that you are the 10th or 20th candidate for a job opening an interviewer has seen. By now he's heard all the rote answers people give to "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Why not toss in a witty remark or joke before giving the real answer? It's like subtly showing off your qualifications — being funny requires intelligence, creativity, and being able to think on your feet, all qualities that will help you land the job. And a job is the start of a career.

  2. Be the butt of your jokes

    Obviously, making jokes at a coworker's expense will not get you the kind of attention you're after. Also verboten are blonde jokes and "a priest walks into a bar" jokes, for obvious reasons. The only completely safe person to rib at work is yourself. You can poke fun at your own taste in music or how you always screw up on first dates, just don't make light of your ability to do your job. Some folks say there's a grain of truth in every joke, and you don't want to invite that thought into anyone's mind.

  3. Make your blog a must-read

    Companies and individual businesspeople have caught on to how important social media can be for successful business. A dry, straightforward blog about IT, or accounting, or whatever your industry is, will appeal to people in your industry, and that's pretty much it. But industry-specific blogs and Twitter feeds that are truly funny rope in people who wouldn't normally be interested in what you're talking about, simply because funny is funny. A wider audience means a better chance of a random contact offering you a better job, or simply making a name for yourself that you can bank on later.

  4. Liven up a presentation

    Unless you work at NASA and your presentation is about the aliens you've found living on Mars, you'll need a way to jazz up the lecture and keep people engaged. Humor is the perfect way to do that, and it can also help deflect awkward or hostile questions from your audience. To make the funny fit properly in a presentation, the humor needs to integrate seamlessly into the theme of the speech. Also, if the joke lands, great; if it doesn't, just move on to the next one.

  5. Pick coworkers up

    A great way to further your career is to show your boss(es) that you can step up and be a leader. You can do this by taking advantage of your sense of humor. Become the guy or gal in the office who sends out the funniest emails or who makes a point of brightening someone's mood who is obviously down. This one is harder than it sounds; come on too strong or send emails that are actually lame and people will be laughing, just not with you, if you catch our drift.

  1. Foster a humor-friendly work environment

    If you are a CEO of a startup or otherwise have a way of influencing the company culture, keeping the business thriving is important for your career. Humor is an excellent means of not just keeping employees, but keeping them happy. Happy people work harder, the company benefits, and you as the manager have a success to add to your résumé. Make it clear to employees that humor is encouraged. You could set up a bulletin board for posting funny things or bring in a comedian for a special event.

  2. Laugh off your mistakes

    Goofs. Foibles. Faux pas. Everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are going to happen between the hours of 9 and 5. Instead of stewing over them, consider them an opportunity to prove you have a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously. When you own up to a work mistake instead of trying to cover your butt, people will appreciate your honesty and self-confidence if you make light of it. And when you get your promotion, you will be able to think back on your big slip-up and it will keep you humble.

  3. Laugh with others

    Staffing firm Robert Half International suggests an easy way to help you get ahead at work: just laugh. Laughter puts people at ease and helps you get along with them. People – even bosses — gravitate towards people who laugh easily and often. It shows you have a positive attitude and are good with clients and customers, who also happen to be people.

  4. Make witty references

    When you're around your boss, making a clever, humorous allusion at just the right moment is an easy way to stand out and show off your knowledge. Obviously this requires staying up on the news, especially business and economic news. Keep it classy, but hey, if you know your boss loves Seinfeld or Office Space, drop some quotes in once in a while.

  5. Break the ice with potential clients

    In many industries, everyone you meet is a potential client, which means when you fly on a plane, go to a ball game, go to church, or go pretty much anywhere people sit next to each other, you are sitting next to a potential customer. What better way to advance your career than to bring in their business? Of course, social norms being what they are, you typically can't just ask people out of the blue for their business. Humor is the perfect lubricant to grease the tracks for a smooth introduction, then a conversation, then a date for a business meeting.

  6. Roast your boss

    Getting up on stage in front of a crowd of people and publicly making fun of a superior is a guaranteed way to get fired … unless it's all part of the show. Roasts for members of senior management are a common way for companies to honor them. It's also considered an honor to be one of the roasters. The person being roasted will have a sense of humor (or he wouldn't have agreed to it), and it's a perfect time for you to display yours. Everyone of influence at your company will be there, and it's a good opportunity to show some clever wit, get in a few light jabs, then close with a big finish about what a great guy the roastee is.

May 9th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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