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By Cliff Garrin
Career & Professional Development Specialist
Have you ever been passed over for a promotion that you knew in the depths of your soul you had earned? Have you ever looked at your annual raise and cried/died a little inside? Have you felt overwhelmed and unappreciated at the same time? Work at any business long enough, and you've probably felt all three. The thing is, you might be the best person in your company at doing exactly what you are required to do, but if you aren't going above and beyond your basic job requirements (and getting noticed doing it) then chances are you are going to stay exactly where you are while getting paid almost exactly what you are currently making. Here are five tips on how you can kick it up a notch and get the promotion, raise, or recognition you are after.
Good ideas are worth about as much as the whiteboards they're written on during brainstorm sessions. In fact, they're worth less. Whiteboards are kind of expensive. Have you ever sat in a meeting where everyone pats each other on the back about the great idea they're coming up with, only to leave the meeting and not see a single one of them implemented? A brainstorm is a dust flurry if no one does anything after. Take one idea from every meeting you're in, build a workable plan around it, and take it to your supervisor to ask permission to take charge on it. They may say no. You may be too busy with other projects. But you just got face time with your boss showing your interest in stepping outside your job description on something creative. You showed initiative. AND if she says yes, you get the chance to shine.
Sure, management wants people who are personable and a joy to work with, but at the end of the day they want someone who knows how to move the needle. If you know what moves said needle, you're ahead of the game. Learn the big picture. If you work for a shipping company moving boxes from the belt to the truck, know how a quarter turn and pivot instead of a full turn reduces your single box load time by a full second. Know that in a four-hour shift when you used to load 1,200 boxes, using your new technique allows you to load 1,309 boxes. When your manager notices this because you point it out to them, explain how you did it. They will be impressed, and it will help them improve everyone on the team. Needle moved. You = Awesome.
This is one of the simplest things you can do in an office, and it is so important. Be the person who offers to help, not the person who always asks for it. Sure, ask for help when you need it. There's no shame in that. But when you hear someone complaining about being overloaded with an impending deadline, offer to help—even if you don't know their job. Offer to take their menial tasks off their hands until they finish. Don't just offer to help management. Offer to help everyone. If you are known as the person in the office who is always willing to help everyone, you will have obtained the ultimate in workplace karma. Your boss won't just want to promote you; everyone will want you to get promoted.
This one can be difficult. Sometimes complaining feels SOOO good. Coworkers bond over complaining. They feel united in their misery. In most offices the break room should be called the vent room. And jobs are FRUSTRATING. Clients can be difficult. Bosses can be horrible. Coworkers can be oblivious. One of the hardest parts of being a manager is knowing that all of this unrest exists and finding a way to deal with it without making everybody hate you. The technique most good managers rely on is working incredibly hard to keep people positive. Happy is impossible. Positive is somewhat achievable, but not easy. It involves being a mentor, friend, and complaint recipient, all while maintaining discipline, increasing revenue, meeting goals, etc. Managers know who the positive and negative influences are on their teams, even if they're not in the break room during the complain-fest. Being a positive force is going above and beyond in the eyes of your boss, especially during the busier times of the year.
You can do amazing things in the dark, and no one will see them. If a tree staples a cover sheet on all of its TPS reports in a forest, and no one is around to see, did it actually happen? No. Trees don't have hands, and even if they did they couldn't operate a stapler. That is silly talk. But really…
If you have accomplishments, great ideas, good news, and a positive influence on your office, and if that is being communicated via electronic media, CC YOUR BOSS. So many people use cc as a passive-aggressive way of letting their boss know that someone else messed up. You can also use it as a passive-aggrandizing way of tooting your own horn. With the bitter brew of reports and complaints your manager or supervisor gets in their inbox in a day, being included in your good-news e-mail will be a delicious cherry on top of their gross, melted, boring e-mail sundae.
Which degree? Well, preferably be working toward one in the field in which you are currently employed. Bosses like it if you have a degree, or if you are at least working toward getting one.
If you don't have time to commute back and forth to a brick-and-mortar university, you can attend an online university like WGU, the university whose blog you are currently reading this article on. WGU has flexible, credible online degree programs in business, nursing, education, and information technology. They are accredited in the same way as your local state university—which means if you have some previous college credits, they could transfer and decrease your time to graduation. If WGU and its competency-based education model aren't a good fit for you, there are other schools that might be. Find one and get that degree!
Western Governors University is a nonprofit, accredited, online university. Find out more about WGU's online bachelor's and master's degree programs.
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