When I was in my early to mid-twenties, I was often sarcastic, dismissive of manager opinions, and expecting to advance by people naturally recognizing how brilliant I was. In short, I was a smart-@$$, entitled, pain in the neck. I was not good at what my parents called “playing the game.” They might call it something different now, but however you describe it, I know that I didn’t start making any serious progress in my career until I stopped railing against everything I hated about “the system” and started trying to understand the system as it was and make it work for me.
What does “playing the game” mean, anyway?
Simply put, it’s this: you have to be willing to do your job cheerfully, as requested/ordered by the managers above you, even if you aren’t thrilled about doing it. If that sounds like brown-nosing or sucking up, I don’t know what to tell you. I do know that once I stopped copping an attitude with every manager I reported to and started following directions, they were a lot more willing to help me pursue my goals.
If you’re in a corporate environment and can’t find it in yourself to get along with your managers or peers because you’d rather be elsewhere, that attitude will become quite clear to everyone around you, and it won’t help you get anywhere.
If you’re happier reporting to yourself, great. Find a way to make entrepreneurship work for you. But even if you go it alone, you’ll still have to deal with customers. And here’s a little extra unsolicited advice: you’d better like what you’re doing as a freelancer because if you do that work begrudgingly or half-heartedly, your customers can and will go elsewhere.
So if “playing the game” means getting along with your managers and peers and you can figure out how to do that, then by all means, play ball.