I had a pretty short career in Corporate America. I landed my first real job in my late twenties. And by the time I retired, less than 10 years later, I enjoyed multiple promotions and increased my salary by over 450%. And during my tenure, I coached dozens of new hires, managers and executives on how to propel their careers to higher levels.
I thought it was only fair to share some general advice to all of you. My hope is that each of you have a fulfilling career and earn healthy salaries. My philosophy in life is that we should have the opportunity to enjoy all our heart's desires. Earning a decent living can certainly help make that happen.
So here are my sure fire tips to supercharge your careers
Small Fish, Large Pond.
Prior to landing my first job, I took on two unpaid internships at different companies. Although both were great opportunities, I would never have taken a permanent assignment at either location because of the size of the organization. Both companies were small and only had a few employees in my department. This is a NO-NO! A small company means limited opportunities. Not to mention that smaller companies might pay less than similar positions in larger organizations.
My strategy was simple, get in with a large company and bust my tail. When the opportunity presented itself, it paid much less that I imagined. But I had a choice, stay where I was and earn $10.00 an hour or take on a similar position at the hospital and make a few dollars more an hour. I opted for the lower paid position because, at the very least, the company name alone would be enough to increase the value of my resume. Sometimes when we're on the hunt for a job, we accept the first offer that lands in our lap. I invite you to think a bit more strategically. Ask yourself, "will working here add value to my overall career?"
I made it a point to only work for companies that were household names. It's like an athlete playing for a championship team. My perception was that the next employer would value the fact that I performed well at a place that was successful and well established. If I did well at an unknown employer, I don't think people would give me the same level of respect for my accomplishments.
WORK HARDER....FOR FREE
Once you're in the door, you should have in mind your desired GOAL SALARY. My goal salary was around six figures a year. Even though I was earning $10.00 an hour, I knew that I couldn't rest until my goal was met. So what did I do? I sought out every opportunity to take on additional responsibilities. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard someone say "they're making me work harder without paying me" or "I'm doing the manager's job with no raise." In my mind, I'm thinking, that's the best thing ever! It's like getting free management training. People would pay for this type of experience.
About a year into my first position, my supervisor left for another opportunity. In her absence, I gladly did everything they allowed me to do. Did they promote me in her absence? Nope. But when they found a replacement, the new manager appreciated how I was running the entire operation on my own. She immediately gave me a small raise and then another, larger increase after my performance review. Did I ask for it? Nope. Did I feel unappreciated? Not at all. I knew that even if I didn't receive a dime raise, I'd have lots of experience to talk about at my next interview.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO STRETCH
What gave me the greatest opportunity was taking on challenges that others didn't want. I worked in a building with different divisions under one roof. My division was calm, stable and pretty self sufficient. On the other side of the building was a department known for all of its issues. They couldn't keep employees, or management and would often have to call law enforcement to handle the craziness that happened there. When a management opportunity opened up, no one wanted it....but me. Actually, I had the option of two positions, one for a department upstairs and the one across the way. The department upstairs was stable, across the building was a mess. I knew taking on the challenging role would raise my stock 10 fold.
Keep in mind that when you interview for a job, your value comes in what you accomplished in the last position. If I would have moved into a stable role, my success stories would have been limited. But man, oh man, two years in that challenging environment and I was able to take on anything!
I've seen it happen in others as well. Those that can take on a tough team and turn it around are those that get promoted the fastest.
DEVELOP YOURSELF CONSTANTLY
I went from being an entry level assistant to a high level manager running several departments in less than 4 years. The biggest secret to my success was in my personal development. Jim Rohn challenged us to work harder on ourselves than we do on our jobs. I did just that. There was never a moment when I wasn't reading a personal development book on leadership, goals, management, productivity, mental focus, financial excellence, etc. I learned how present to myself professionally even though I looked younger than a lot of my employees. I learned how to appear confident even when I was afraid of being challenged for my input. I learned everything necessary to transform myself into a leader that can overcome any challenge. My personal development journey made everything so much easier. I felt like I had a team of coaches on my side sharing the secrets of success. And it all paid off.
If you just go to work, then go home and surf the web, you are allowing atrophy to have its way. Set the intention of being better three months from now than you are today. Doing so will make you stand out from your competition.
OUTGROW YOUR POSITION
The most important factor that determines if you'll get that promotion is if you've essentially outgrown your position. This means that you achieved great results at your current role (high performance review scores) and you're stretching yourself by taking on challenges outside of your job scope.
Most importantly! The earlier you take on a "leadership mentality" the sooner you get that promotion. What's a leader's mentality? It's when you always think and act from the standpoint of what's best for the company and what's best for the employees. When you operate from this higher level, you don't concern yourself with your individual needs, but in the needs of others. When people around you complain about the things that suck about the job, you gear the conversation towards finding solutions. Instead of challenging your managers, you offer ideas. Instead of just offering ideas, you enlist yourself as someone who can spear head the initiative. Act and think like a leader and you'll become one.
Lastly, let it be known that you'd love to take on additional challenges and you'd like to contribute to the team at a higher level. Don't be one of those people that says "I wanna get promoted." See yourself as someone who wants to contribute at a higher level. Once you make your request known, get feedback and get lots of it. Be open to criticism and, most importantly, implement their suggestions. And if you do all this and still don't get promoted. Keep doing it anyway and take all of your experience to the next employer who will gladly compensate you.
Side note: Please don't stay at a company more than 3 years without receiving a significant increase in compensation. Annual raises are a joke, especially if your base wage isn't that high. Go big! If you're gonna be giving them 8-10 hours of your time every day, you should be compensated well for it.
Now go out there and get 'em!
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