You’ve heard it a million times: to accumulate money, you must spend less than you make. It’s excellent advice, and one of my personal favourites. However, far too frequently, individuals interpret this as merely “managing your expenditures.”
While your spending is undoubtedly significant, there is another factor to consider: your earnings.
What I believe many people overlook is that it is simpler to spend less than you make when you earn more. It is also simpler to achieve your financial objectives. Growing one’s profession, in my opinion, is the greatest approach for most individuals to make more money. Today, I’d want to teach you five techniques to advance your career so that you may earn more money and have more job happiness.
The Case for Professional Advancement
I can almost hear the collective moan.
Many people detest job development advice for a variety of reasons. It’s probably because so many people despise their jobs.
I understand. I’ve been there before.
But I also recognize that there is a conflict between disliking your job and reaching your financial objectives. If you despise your job so much that you don’t want to spend another second on it, you will increase the amount of time you need to work — the exact thing you despise!
Instead, if you put in some time and effort to advance your career, you’ll end up making millions more (literally), reaching your financial goals sooner, and (very likely) enjoying your job more.
How Can I Be So Certain?
Before we get to the advice, let’s address the elephant in the room: how can you be certain that the Bozo who wrote this post is capable of delivering?
You can’t, in all honesty. But I do have a few successes that could inspire you:
Personal knowledge. Throughout my career, I was able to increase my salary by 8.16% every year. People have done far better, but 8%+ over almost 30 years isn’t bad. If you don’t trust me, choose a beginning wage and increase it by 8% per year for the next 28 years.
Corporate knowledge. Along with managing my career, I witnessed innumerable colleagues and subordinates managing (or, more often, not managing) theirs. I finally rose to the position of president of a $100 million corporation, overseeing the careers of hundreds of employees. So I learnt a little about advancing your career, how to move ahead, and how organizations regard people along the road.
Education. Career management is the subject of thousands of publications (and millions of web pages). I’ve read several of them and experimented with various ways. I’ll admit that most of them are essentially worthless, but there are a few pearls of wisdom that I’ve implemented and learnt from.
It is done by millionaires. I’ve spoken with over 30 millionaires (and more on the way.) Almost all of them have made a good living by employing the abilities listed below, which have contributed significantly to their success.
The good news is that you are capable of outperforming me. It took me decades to develop the advice I’m going to provide. The majority of them were found via trial and error at the school of hard knocks. You may avoid the agony of failure and go directly to work on what matters.
You can also avoid gathering thousands of tips from various sources. Simply follow the five steps below to get the majority of the impact for a fraction of the effort.
With that stated, here are five career-development ideas for 2018…
First and foremost, be proactive.
This may not appear to be a tip, but it is a crucial first step. Proactivity is necessary for professional success. (If you read J.D.’s post last week, you surely know that being proactive is the key to success in almost every part of your life.)
According to my findings, the world is divided into three sorts of workers:
The “go-with-the-flow” kind. These individuals perform their work and keep to themselves. They accept whatever comes their way at work, good or bad. Of sure, these are wonderful individuals, but their jobs will suffer as a result of their “whatever happens” mentality. Employees that go with the flow receive go-with-the-flow increases and promotions. And believe me, those are not high. Even if these employees are strong achievers, many organizations will exploit them with low pay until they speak up – which they will not do since they are going with the flow!
The “hard workers.” Simply put, these people “work hard and let their efforts speak for themselves.” This method has the potential to produce a positive outcome since firms may occasionally reward good performance. However, it is hit or miss for two reasons:
Often, these workers labour hard on tasks for which the corporation would not compensate them. They are making an attempt, but it is misguided, and the firm could care less.
Companies aim to pay their employees as little as possible. As a result, even those who work hard and perform well frequently receive modest raises. Why pay them extra if they would continue to work hard no matter what?
What exactly does being proactive entail?
First and foremost, it’s a mindset. You must understand that no one is more concerned with your career (and its financial impact) than you are. So, if you want something good to happen, you must take action. Nobody else will do it for you.
Second, once you’ve established your mindset, you must take action. The next step on our list is to determine what action you should take…
Step 2: Talk about (and document) your expectations.
Assume you hire someone to mow your lawn. For the service, he charges $30. He expects you to pay what you promised in exchange for his work. You have certain expectations of him in exchange for payment.
You certainly anticipate him mowing the lawn. You might also anticipate him bagging or cleaning up the clippings. You might also anticipate him edging the lawn.
You feel comfortable giving him $30 if he does these things. You expected certain things from him, and he delivered. You anticipated paying him $30, and you did. All expectations have been met, and the payment has been made. Everyone is happy.
Let’s say he does more than just cut the grass, clean up the clippings, and edge the lawn. He always goes above and beyond. Assume he also prunes your bushes, fertilizes your lawn, and pulls weeds.
In this case, you appreciate what he’s done because he went above and beyond your expectations. You are willing to pay him $30. If he wanted more (i.e., raised his rates later), you’d probably pay it because he went above and beyond.
Let’s say, on the other hand, the lawn guy didn’t do what you expected. He mowed the grass but left a mess of clippings and didn’t even attempt to edge it. Maybe he did something else that he thought you’d appreciate, like rearranging your gnome family’s yard decorations.
In this case, you feel as if your $30 was squandered — at least in part. He did not live up to your expectations (or even come close). Will you rehire him? If you have to, maybe. But you’re not going to pay him more. You could request a discount the next time.
The same performance expectations you have for the lawn guy (and how you evaluate him) apply to the relationship your company has with you.
They hired you at a certain salary and expect you to do certain things in exchange for that salary. They are willing to pay you more if you do more. They certainly do not want to pay if you do less or the wrong things.
- So, what should workers do? It’s as simple as asking their boss what she expects.
- I won’t go through the process step by step because I’ve already covered it elsewhere, but here are the highlights:
- Make an appointment to speak with your boss. It’s a great time to do it during an annual review.
- Tell her you’d like to know more about what she expects from you.
- Tell her you to want to know these things because 1) you want to work on what she thinks is most important and 2) you want to make sure you’re delivering the results she wants.
- Next, talk to her about her expectations. Encourage her to be as specific and quantifiable as possible. “Grow sales” is meaningless because you don’t know what you’re aiming for. “Grow sales by 5% over last year” is specific and useful.
- As you discuss the details, write them down and agree on expectations. This is a back-and-forth discussion, and your input should be included. For example, if your boss expects you to “grow sales by 50%,” which is unreasonable, you must manage the conversation and agree on an attainable (even if difficult) goal.
- Tell her you’ll record these in an email and send it to her for review to ensure everything is correct.
- Before I go any further, let me say that your boss will appreciate it. Your willingness to ask and listen to her will most likely astound her. She’ll be impressed that you want to know what the company wants so you can give it to them. I know that the few times this happened to me, I was thrilled to work with them and to follow up later.
- You now know exactly what is expected of you as a result of the conversation. You also have it written down. At this point, there is no room for error or misunderstanding.
- Then it’s time to get things done.
Step Three: Outperform.
Is this what you strive for now that you know what to expect? Nope. You always strive for more! Why? Because the company already pays you to perform the expected tasks! If you want to be paid more, you must work harder.
Return to the lawn service provider. Would you be willing to pay him $50 if he simply followed your instructions? Certainly not! You were only willing to pay more if he did more.
Those who do the bare minimum get basic raises — and they’re lucky to get them. They are already paid to do their jobs, so why pay more for them?
- But it’s time for you, the proactive career manager, to get to work. You will require
- How do you exceed expectations? Here are a couple of examples:
- If you want to “grow sales 5% over last year,” aim for 8% growth.
- If your goal is to “cut costs by $100,000 this year,” cut them by $125,000 instead.
- Sign up 75 new customers if your goal is to “sign up 50 new customers.”
- You get the picture. Simply go above and beyond what you and your boss agreed upon.
- Don’t assume your boss is aware of how well you’re doing as you achieve these objectives. She, too, is a busy person with her own goals to achieve, so she may not be closely monitoring your progress. That is why you must remind her regularly.
- This can be done in a variety of ways, including regular reports, one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and so on. I used to send out a weekly email update outlining my expectations (the ones we agreed on) and what I was doing to meet them. I included numbers and data to demonstrate that I was going above and beyond the call of duty. I was aware of it, as was my boss.
- This way, you’ll both be on the same page — you’ll remind her of what’s expected as well as how you’re going above and beyond.
- Once you’ve over-delivered (which usually takes months or years), it’s time to schedule a meeting, demonstrate that you’ve accomplished more than expected (this shouldn’t be news to her), tell her you can do even more, and ask for a raise.
- Whether or not you deserve a raise should be obvious by now. You are deserving of one! The only remaining questions should be how much of a raise you’ll get and when you’ll get it. Asking for more during a convenient time, such as the annual budget planning process, works best because it can be baked into the numbers from the start. Mid-year raises are not uncommon, but they can be more difficult to obtain because budgets are often rigid.
Step 4: Be Likeable
Here’s some breaking news: Nobody gets ahead on their own. You require assistance from those above, below, and on your level. And the truth is that people help those they like. (By the way, people give raises to people they like.)
According to some studies, being liked at work has a greater impact on the success (and earning more) than actual job performance.
Penelope Trunk, the author of Brazen Careerist, explains the problem as follows:
People would rather work with someone inept but likeable than competent but unlikable. When most people read this, they nod in agreement. Unlikable people create arguments in their heads.
But wait, there’s more. People begin to think you are less competent at work if you are unlikeable. So stop thinking that you can get by on your genius IQ; you can’t. Emotional intelligence is also required. This problem is so severe that there are special-education classrooms full of children who could read when they were three. When it comes to long-term success, social skills are just as important as intelligence, even for geniuses.
The truth is that both performance (over-delivery) and likeability are essential. You don’t want to have to choose between the two — you want to be both a high achiever and a likeable person.
How can you improve your likeability?
There is no clear science on how to make people like you, but here’s a simple guide that I’ve seen work for the vast majority of people in most cases: People should be treated the way they want to be treated.
People will like you if you do this and put others first — if you’re nice, helpful, considerate, and simply a pleasant person to be around — and your career will benefit as a result.
I also recommend the following books:
- How to Make Friends and Influence People People is brimming with tried-and-true advice on how to become more likeable and benefit as a result.
- The emotional bank account is discussed in J.D.’s favourite book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Make sure that your deposits outnumber your withdrawals.
- Don’t worry, all you introverts out there. This does not require you to be the life of the party or a social butterfly. You don’t have to be Mary Poppins or a back-slapping good ol’ boy to be successful. Simply be pleasant and considerate. It will help you become more likeable.
- Step 5: Sharpen Your Skills
- It’s a fact of life that certain skills can significantly boost your earning potential. It’s also a given that you won’t be world-class at any of them. Only a small percentage of people can be world-class at everything.
However, with a unique combination of valuable skills, you can develop a high level of competence. This set of skills distinguishes you — and makes you valuable.
For example, you are unlikely to be the best salesperson in the world. Or the most skilled negotiator. Or the most effective public speaker. Or the most knowledgeable analyst.
However, you could become an executive if you have strong sales, negotiation, public speaking, and analysis skills. Most people do not have this skill set, so having it makes you extremely valuable.
Combining skills like this is referred to by Dilbert creator Scott Adams as “building a talent stack.” Adams explains what he means by a “talent stack” as follows:
It’s the idea that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough to be extraordinary.
It is critical to understand how a talent stack works. People commonly believe that developing talent in one skill leads to success. This works well in some situations. The natural progression in medicine is to choose a speciality. In sports, you train to be the best in your field, as Tiger Woods (golf) and Michael Jordan (basketball) have done (basketball). You develop the best acting chops in acting, like Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman.
Talent can come from having a unique set of skills that no one else has, in addition to becoming world-class in one skill. You can use various skills to create value in ways that no one else can, so
This idea is completely correct. It’s happened time and again in my career and the careers of countless others.
As a result, you must work on developing your talent stack. But how do you go about doing this? How do you become proficient in a particular skill?
- You must educate yourself and practice the necessary skills. Here are some suggestions:
- Attend classes. You can either pay for useful college courses yourself or have them covered by your employer.
- Seminars/workshops. Again, on your own or with company funding. My employers paid for time management, sales, and public speaking classes that I attended during work hours. These abilities served me well both professionally and personally.
- Read. Books are fantastic (and free at the library). My preference is to find credible sources online and learn from them.
- Listen. Podcasts are free and can be borrowed from the library. Both can be listened to in downtime, such as while driving to and from work.
- Volunteer. Charitable organizations will frequently allow you to take on projects that your company may believe you are unqualified for. These can be excellent learning opportunities.
Cross-functional groups Volunteer at work to be part of a multidisciplinary team. You can learn everything there is to know about marketing, sales, finance, operations, and more.
Take on a unique project. Request a one-of-a-kind assignment from your boss. I’ve done this a few times and learned a lot each time.
Proactively develop your talent pool. Concentrate on the skills that are most closely related to higher pay. You will become more valuable as a result of your ability to do and accomplish more. And, as we’ve seen, those who go above and beyond are rewarded.
That appears to be a lot of work.
You may be thinking at this point that these five “simple” steps seem like a lot of work — perhaps more than you’re willing to put in.
If that’s the case, I’d like you to consider the following before dismissing them:
- To achieve anything meaningful, you must put forth the effort. If you refuse to do so, you will most likely be limited in several aspects of your life.
- Much of the preceding work can be completed while you are at work, requiring no additional time commitment on your part.
- Some of the work (such as listening to podcasts and audiobooks) can be done while doing something else, such as driving, exercising, or mowing the lawn. There is no additional time commitment on this.
- The financial benefits can be enormous. As previously stated, the math clearly shows that by proactively managing your career, you can earn millions more over your working lifetime.
- The time results can also be astounding. Earning more allows you to save more, which leads to financial independence sooner. When you combine a good income with even a small side hustle, you can retire in ten years — at least a decade or two sooner than you would otherwise.
- In terms of expenses, investing in your career provides one of the best returns available anywhere. Who wouldn’t put up a few thousand dollars in exchange for hundreds of thousands in returns?
- Even with such compelling evidence, some will find reasons why they cannot (or should not) act. There’s not much I can do about them; no matter how great the opportunity, they’re unlikely to take advantage of it.
- But don’t let a few minor difficulties deter the rest of you. The time and effort required are insignificant in comparison to the reward.
The Stone Wall
It’s worth noting that you can follow all of the steps outlined above and still end up nowhere. Even if you do everything correctly, you may encounter a stumbling block, such as a company that fails to recognize achievements or an unsupportive boss. There’s no denying that this is a frustrating situation. (Fortunately, most bosses and businesses aren’t like this.)
Don’t give up if you hit a brick wall. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. However, you must return to step one and be proactive in managing your career.
If you’ve tried everything and still aren’t getting anywhere, you have two options:
- Stay put and work hard at your current job/company.
- Look for other opportunities within the company or with a different company.
- Because this is a personal decision, the best course of action is up to you.
On several occasions, I had to make a similar choice.
I had to choose whether to accept it or move on four times during my career. In each case, I eventually decided to move on. In two of those cases, I had to stay for another two years before finding a better opportunity. But it paid off in the end because I discovered much better
While waiting, I completed career-related work that prepared me to perform at an even higher level in my next job. As a result, I was able to start the new company at a much higher salary and deliver results that exceeded expectations for years to come.
However, in nine out of ten cases, there will be no issues. If you follow the steps in this article, your pay will rise and you will enjoy your job more.
And the results will undoubtedly benefit your net worth.