On your journey to financial independence, there will be some hurdles to clear. As you know (I hope), the path to financial independence starts with making your income greater than your expenses. If you are not satisfied with how quickly you are accumulating wealth, there are two ways to improve this: spending less and earning more. In my experience, earning a promotion is the safest and, in most cases, easiest way to increase your income. I have received many promotions using these guidelines, you can learn how to get promoted as well.
My Humble Beginnings
My first job out of college was basically given to me. I skated through college with the “C’s get degrees” mentality and hoped for the best. 10/10 successful people do not recommend this strategy. I had little work ethic, no experience, and no job prospects. Lucky for me, I knew someone who worked there, and they were willing to take a chance on me. I will never forget that generosity.
When I started working and saw my first paycheck come in, my whole perspective changed. I became hooked on money (this was before I discovered scotch). I just wanted more and more money, and I would do anything to get it. Money became my heroin, and my job was my drug dealer. After operating like this for a while, I came to a sudden realization. I had the agency to determine what work I did.
After this “a-ha!” moment, my life completely changed. In less than five years, I was promoted four times and received a raise five times. My income more than doubled in that time, and I was investing a large portion of my income. I was five years out of college, and I was at the same level as people 10-15 years older than me. At only 27 years old, I was hiring people fresh out of college to work under me.
Here’s the kicker. I did all of this while working no more than 45 hours per week. To be completely honest, most of my weeks were probably closer to 35 hours.
I did all of this with a simple change in mindset. Using the principles below, you can do the same.
How to Get Promoted
Think Like Your Boss
This may be the single best way to get promoted. Many times, employees will refuse to do anything outside of their job. If you don’t want to do anything that isn’t technically your job, that’s totally fine. Just don’t expect to see any raises or promotions in your future. If you want to get paid more, give your bosses what they want.
Do something for me right now. Imagine yourself in your boss’s shoes. Imagine you’re sitting at her desk, doing her work, and getting screamed at by her boss. What becomes important to you now? What would you want your employees to be doing? Your answer to these questions becomes your golden ticket to getting promoted. Bosses love it when you can provide exactly what they were thinking.
Communication is key here. I highly recommend that employees ask more questions to get a better understanding of their expectations. Talk to your boss, and see if there is anything you could be doing differently. This feedback part can be scary, but the result is oh-so-sweet. Once you’ve done this a few times, you begin to see the value in this feedback, and you may even seek out more of it.
My first boss was reluctant to give and receive feedback other than the yearly reviews. Yes, yearly. Both he and I would store up all of our constructive criticisms throughout the year, and pile them all on in one day. Not a great way to operate. I insisted on more consistent and clear communication, and from it, I learned more about his expectations. Once I started listening, not to the words he was saying, but to the meaning behind them, I started noticing things that I could be doing. Making my boss’s life easier became my new goal.
I imagined myself in his position and thought about his biggest stresses. Once this became clear, the work followed. Within a few months of this practice, I was promoted to a senior position with a 10% raise.
Look for Missed Opportunities
Do you ever find yourself wondering why your company doesn’t do certain things? Maybe there’s a role or process missing that would help the company. If there is, good news, you just found someone to do those things: you! Step up and make your company better, and you will be handsomely rewarded down the road.
At one of my previous jobs, our team was responsible for creating the yearly budgets. We usually used Excel to do this, but this year was different. This time, we were to use a newly implemented system. This system could make things faster and easier, but no one knew how to use it. At first, we relied on outside consultants that didn’t understand our processes and were doing the work as slowly as possible (or so it seemed).
After a few weeks passed, I decided to take it upon myself to take over the consultant’s role and learn the system myself. Within no time, I was up and running. We cut our contract with the consultants short and saved the company a ton of money. A couple weeks after the budget season ended, I was promoted again. This time it came with an 11% raise!
Take It One Step Further
Most of the time, when bosses give you a project to do, they don’t have the time or the desire to go into every little detail. It’s your job to figure out the details. If you only do exactly what your boss says, you might not get fired, but you definitely won’t get promoted. Think of little improvements you could add instead.
I consider this to be different than “going the extra mile.” Going the extra mile implies working much harder and longer. I’m suggesting, instead, that you make small improvements. Put in just a bit more effort than expected, and your boss will start recognizing this in no time. I started doing this with our monthly and quarterly reports. I started adding little features and additional analysis to each report. Some were approved, and some weren’t. The important thing is that my boss noticed my initiative and rewarded me for that.
At this point, you might be thinking that these steps sound like more work, and it is. You’re not going to escape work altogether, but there is a way to make your current job take less time. That’s where this next step comes in.
Be Lazy… While Getting Results
When managers complain about their lazy employees, they are not complaining about how little their employees are working. They are really complaining about their lack of results. People are so proud to say how busy they are, but are reluctant to mention results in the conversation. Avoid this trap, be lazy, and steer for results instead.
Being lazy enables you to avoid working for the sake of work. Find purpose in all of your work, and work to work less. Changing your focus to results over time spent allows you to do the same amount of work in less time. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can help tremendously.
I use this concept at work all the time, especially if the work is routine. For the longest time, all of our monthly and quarterly reports were done manually in Excel. I would export certain reports, format them correctly, then upload them into the main template to aggregate the information. This would take countless hours to complete, and the reports would only be analyzed for an hour or so. That didn’t make sense to me, so I searched for another way.
As it turns out, we had a direct connection to this information already set up. I learned some programming and automated all of my reports. From then on, I could complete each report with the press of a button. This took roughly 30 hours to learn and set up, but it continues to save upwards of 20 hours every month! My efforts took time, but the returns were compounding. In addition to impressing my boss and learning a new skill, I now had much more free time to do whatever I pleased. Imagine what you’d be able to accomplish with an extra 20 hours.
Managers and supervisors are only workers. In the end, what they’re really looking for is (1) to have an easier job themselves, and (2) to look good for their boss. These methods can help with both of these goals. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. You’re going to have to work for it. However, if you focus on the right kinds of work, that doesn’t have to mean working more.