How to get the title, the money, the corner office...and, yes, even the cell phone
Ever wonder why some people get ahead and others don't? Many of us read the same books and articles on how to dress for success and how to make the boss happy. So why do some people who do a really good job stay where they are, while others who may seem mediocre rise to the top and get all those company quirks that spell success? Maybe they're doing more of the things that bosses and employers notice.
Perhaps the most important ingredient for a getting-ahead recipe is to increase your visibility. Consider these suggestions:
- Increase your visibility throughout the company and its industry. Attend professional and civic events outside your job. Speak at seminars or local business clubs. Write for industry publications and local papers, which often accept opinion pieces on vital topics.
- Read what the people at top management levels are reading. If you see an article that relates to someone else's area of responsibility, circle it and send it to that person. Suddenly you'll be viewed in a different light. You'll be seen as an overall manager rather than someone with a narrow area of responsibility.
- Become the person others rely on. Volunteer to accept additional assignments that make others' jobs easier.
- Cite trends that could have an impact on your organization. By being recognized as one who reads in the field and can identify directions that the company should pursue, you will be seen as an important colleague.
- Join the right associations and organizations. When others see you do a good job making a presentation or serving on a key committee, they'll look your way the next time they have an opening in their organization.
- Volunteer for company committees that will gain you access to the movers and shakers. The committees may be dull, but if you do a good job, you will impress some people who just might be making decisions on promotions. A simple key to success: Do a good job and be sure the right people know about it.
Invest in yourself
To be successful, you've got to invest in yourself. It's disappointing to see people who have completed four years of college, and paid thousands of dollars to prepare for the job they have, refuse to spend money to get better at what they are doing.
To be a leader in your field and to move up the ladder, you must know the latest thinking in your area of responsibility and related areas. That means that when the company's budget is cut, you should pay your own dues to continue membership in an organization that's designed to help you. And you need to come up with the money to purchase subscriptions to key publications.
Maybe it means taking a less expensive vacation or going to that fancy restaurant less frequently. But if you want to get ahead, you must decide what's important. One of the most important things is keeping on top of your field.
Work with your boss
Another key way to enhance your promotion opportunities is to work effectively with your boss. Here are some ways to improve your relationship:
- Treat your boss like a client. Cater to the boss's needs and go out of your way to make him or her look good.
- Keep your boss's boss off your boss's back.
- Anticipate your boss's needs. If you notice that your boss is becoming interested in some new technology, investigate how it will promote the effectiveness of your department, and do enough homework to be able to make recommendations.
- Invest key time in those things that are important to your boss. Know your boss's goals and be sure you do everything possible to help the boss reach them.
- Don't share personal problems. Bosses may feel that you won't be able to handle a special project if under personal stress.
- Know how your boss likes to communicate. If he or she prefers choices that allow saying "no" to one idea and "yes" to another, provide choices. If the boss is a morning person, come in early and work with the boss before others get in. If the boss likes to make decisions over lunch, try to get to lunch when you need that special decision. Build a relationship with the boss' secretary so you know the right time to approach the boss when you need something special.
- Learn to take prudent risks and generate ideas that will increase profits. Know when to be impatient with busy bosses to be sure key projects are moving along properly. Also: Remind bosses of new ideas that may be lost on the bottom of a pile. Most bosses appreciate gentle prods that help keep them on target.
- Know how to ask for a raise. Many future employers use your present salary as the negotiating base when considering you for a position. When seeking an increase, send your boss a short note requesting a performance review at a convenient time. At the review, seek positive feedback regarding your progress. If you receive it, ask directly for a specific, reasonable raise. Emphasize added responsibilities you have assumed.
- Make the boss look good. By doing so, you enhance the chance that the boss will be promoted. That can have all kinds of positive ramifications for you too.
Other tips on how to get ahead
- Smile. People who smile are perceived to be more intelligent that people who don't.
- Walk at least 10 percent faster than you normally do. It may sound funny, but people who walk more briskly are perceived to get more done.
- Make yourself the CEO of your career. Develop both short- and long-term goals. And come up with a way to measure and evaluate these goals.
- Watch your "packaging." Dress properly and make sure your non-verbal language projects a successful image.
- Always under promise, but over-deliver. Set objectives that make sense for your job and that you know you can reach with existing resources.
- Do some homework on proper etiquette for eating lunch and taking clients to dinner. Know which fork to use and be sure you don't salt your food before you taste it. Some executives evaluating people for jobs will eliminate the candidate who adds salt to food before tasting it, because that person isn't evaluating the data before making the decision.
- Everybody wants people around who work hard and get the job done. Gain that reputation by doing those things that the boss asks for and by communicating as succinctly and thoroughly as possible with others in the organization.
- Become a good memo writer. Take a look at the memos that you think work best in your organization and emulate them.
- Don't spend a lot of time on things that aren't important just because you're good at those things. People who get ahead establish priorities and designate time to work on them.
- Become as versatile as possible. If economy measures or mergers dictate that positions be redefined, your range of abilities will serve you well.
- Don't "bad-mouth" anyone. You never know who is related to someone or having a relationship with someone. That someone might be the person who approves trips to The Bahamas.
- Learn to make effective presentations. If you're not a good speaker, become one.
- Be polite. Use "Please" and "Thank you." It's a simple thing to do, but too many people forget to do so. If someone does you a favor, be sure to follow up with a "Thank you."
- Be at least two minutes early for any important meeting.
- Do your homework before any meeting. Looking surprised is not a confidence builder. If you don't know an answer, admit it and try to get the answer as quickly as possible.
- Make yourself a comfortable person to be around. Everyone enjoys working with nice people.
Many of these ideas are common sense; unfortunately, they're not commonly used. Select those that might work for you and establish them as goals to move you up the ladder. Good luck!
AccountingWEB would like to thank Ajilon Finance for allowing us to reprint this article.