Are you tired of getting passed by for promotions and raises? Maybe you do get a raise but it is only a miniscule 2% cost of living adjustment every year? Do you want to get bigger raises, have a fatter paycheck and swim in a vault of money like Scrooge McDuck? If so, here’s how to get ahead at work and become filthy rich in the process.
How To Get Ahead At Work: 4 Tips
Tip #1: Become Invaluable
The #1 way for how to get ahead at work is to become invaluable. What does this mean? By doing things for your boss that no one else will do. Put another way, make his or her life easier. The next time you are in your boss’s office, take note of something you can take on. Maybe it’s the TPS reports. Maybe it’s the quarterly newsletter. Whatever it might be there is something they hate doing. Your job is to take ownership of it.
Some of you might be thinking, “I have no idea how to complete the TPS report or write the quarterly newsletter.” If this is the case, then you need to learn how to do these things. Ask questions. I’m sure there is someone at your office that has an understanding of how to complete the reports.
In the event where no one does, then tell your boss you’d love to take them off their hands, you only need 20 minutes of their time to be shown how to ensure they are done correctly. My boss was more than happy to take 20 minutes to show me how to complete a certain spreadsheet because he knew after that, he wouldn’t have to deal with it again.
Of course, there are some things that no matter how much your boss dislikes doing them, you are not qualified to take it off their hands. Luckily, there are other ways to become invaluable at work as well. A close second to taking work off of your boss’s hands is to find ways to save the company money. The best way to do this is to pay attention and ask questions.
Many times you will find cutting waste to be your best route. Can you switch to better yielding ink cartridges for your printer/copier? Can you find a lower cost paper to use? Maybe start printing double-sided more often, scan versus print, or even print in black more than color? Change the settings on the fax machine so that you stop receiving spam? Maybe you can set up everyone’s computer to go into sleep mode or have them turn of their computers at night?
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cutting costs. Maybe you found a software program that will make certain things more efficient. While it does cost money, figure out how much time it will free up for everything. The idea is to show that you have an ownership mentality in the company and that you are also looking at ways to increase the bottom line.
The more things you do to show your value to the company, the better off you will be.
Tip #2: Constantly Look For More Ways To Be More Efficient
If you are taking on your bosses work and finding ways to save the company money, you might be thinking that you are going to have to come in early and stay late every day. This is only the case if you can’t find ways to work smarter. Put some effort into seeing if there are smarter ways to get certain jobs done. Don’t fall by the old idea that something is done that way for a reason. Most times things are done certain way because it worked at the time and no one has questioned it since.
At my old firm, every quarter end we each had duties assigned to us. My most important duty couldn’t be completed until I had the information from my colleague. The problem was that her job of getting me that information was the least important thing for her to complete. So, I took it from her. It wasn’t a ton of work, but it allowed me to get my quarterly duties completed much quicker. In fact, before the change, I would turn in my assignments around the 15th of the month. After the change, I had my work done on the 6th, all because I didn’t have to wait around. With my duties done earlier, the next person was able to get his work completed sooner as well.
In another instance, we would scan documents on the copier and they would go into a file folder. We would then have to go back to our desk and copy the scanned file into an email message before sending out. A colleague took 15 minutes and changed a setting on the copier so that scanned documents would go right into our emails. It sounds small, but it saved us a few minutes every time we send an email with a scanned document.
Always look for ways to be more efficient, either processes for yourself or your company. You don’t have to be the first one in every morning and the last one to leave. Just don’t leave early or show up late everyday, otherwise people will think you don’t have enough work to do!
Tip #3: Document, Document, Document
All of the work you take off of your boss’s hands and all of the new solutions you identify to work smarter and not harder needs to be documented. Take detailed notes and records. Don’t just list the things that you did, but elaborate on the impact they had. Write down how much time was saved by doing the process differently. Write down all of the benefits you can think of. This will help you in tip #4 below.
If you have trouble coming up with ways the solution helped out, ask your co-workers how the change helped them. If you can quantify into numbers how much the changes saved the company in dollar terms, make note of this as well.
The reason you need to document things is because no one else is doing it and in fact, most times, people quickly forget. Don’t assume that your boss remembers everything you did for her, she may not have even been aware of the change you implemented. Be certain that she will know with the detailed notes you keep. This is a key point in how to get ahead at work.
Tip #4: Schedule A Meeting Before Your Review
The best offense is a good defense. The biggest mistake most employees make is that they wait for their annual review to find out their raise. When they get into the meeting and hear they are only getting 2%, they try to justify why they deserve more. Unfortunately, this rarely works out for them. This is because by the time their annual review comes, the next year’s budget is already set. There is very little your boss can do to change the numbers.
The solution to this is to schedule a meeting 6 months before your annual review. In this review, ask for feedback on your performance. This gives you a better idea on how you are doing and where you need to still improve. Also, ask what the company is thinking in terms of raises for the year. Try your best to get a number from your boss, but don’t be a pest. After you get a number, even if it is a rough estimate, bring up what you think is a fair raise for yourself and show your documentation as back up. Show them how important you are to the firm. You can’t just say I deserve a 10% raise without any reason why.
With that said, you also have to ask for a number within reason. You can’t walk in and ask for 50%. Be reasonable and be fair. I usually shoot for something in the 5-10% range. The goal here isn’t to get a confirmation from your boss. It is simply to show him or her how much you bring to the table and why you should get a larger raise.
One more thing about asking for a higher raise, make sure you have a good idea how the company is doing in general. If they just laid-off a bunch of employees or are struggling financially, you will have a tough time getting a larger raise.
Your Annual Review
This is the moment of truth, whether or not you got your higher raise or not. If you did, great! This doesn’t mean you can slack off though. You have to keep up the hard work and keep showing your firm that you are invaluable. If you don’t keep up the hard work, then the next time you go in asking for a higher raise, they will call you out on how you slacked off the last time you received a large raise.
In the event you didn’t get your higher raise, ask why. Does the company not see the value you bring? Is the company in a hardship and cannot afford to give a higher raise? You need to know the answer so that you can come up with a plan.
That plan could include everything from working just as hard the following year and then getting the raise because the company is stronger financially, to looking for employment elsewhere because your firm just doesn’t value employees. Whatever you do, make it a point to take notes as to the reason why and then sit on it for a week or two. We never make a good decision when we are emotional. Let everything calm down before you create your plan for your next step.
If that next step turns out to be you staying with the firm, then schedule another meeting with your boss and talk about how you worked hard and were disappointed at your raise. Then ask what more you can do.
If, on the other hand the next step turns out to be looking elsewhere, now is the time to dust off your resume. Luckily, you have documented all of the ways you increased savings for the firm so you can include them on your resume as tangible things you accomplished.
The Case For Hard Work To Become Filthy Rich
Now we get to the good part – showing you how your hard work will pay off and you being mistaken for Scrooge McDuck, minus the beak and feathers.
Let’s say you are earning $35,000 and you do just enough work to get by and secure a 2% cost of living raise every year. Over the course of 30 years, your salary will increase to $62,155. Not too shabby.
If on the other hand, you secure a 6% raise every year, over the next 30 years your salary will increase to $189,644. That is over $100,000 more. Now we are talking! Below is the difference of your annual salaries below.
But those numbers are just your ending salary amounts. What is the cumulative amount of your annual raises combined?
For a 2% annual raise, your total lifetime earnings are $1,419,883. If you get a 6% annual raise instead, your total lifetime earnings are $2,767,037. If you can secure a 6% raise, which is not out of the question, you come close to doubling your lifetime earnings. If this doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.
Some of you might be thinking that getting just a 2% raise isn’t so bad if you end up making a total of $1.5 million dollars. You have to remember 2 things though:
- First, this is over 30 years. So if you are 35 or older, you need to work past age 65 to accumulate this amount of money.
- Second, this example is your total earnings. Taxes aren’t factored in. Neither is your savings. Seeing that the average American only saves 5%, your nest egg won’t be $1.5 million, it will more like $259,000. Not so great.
What if you secure the 6% raise? Even if you still only save 5%, you are looking at a nest egg of over $400,000. Not great, but better than the above. Here is what your nest egg will look like for various saving amounts for a 2% and 6% raise:
The focus point should be the $2 million savings rate. To get there with just a 2% annual raise, you need to save 40% of your income. But with a 6% annual raise, you only need to save 25% of your income. If you are used to saving just 5% of your income, trying to save 40% is going to be very difficult.
At the end of the day, getting a 6% raise makes a huge difference and could be the deciding factor in you retiring at 50 or working until 65 or longer.
Some readers might mention that each job has a ceiling as to how much you can earn. There is no way a $30,000 job is going to let you earn close to $200,000 a year. I understand this point but wanted to show how getting a higher than normal annual raise pays off. If anything, I hope to motivate you to see the role you play in what your raise is, and how you can influence that each year through your efforts.
Odds are you won’t be in the same position in 30 years. Odds are you will be at another firm or will have been promoted into a position that does allow for a higher salary. In both cases, those are opportunities for raises. The money is out there; you just have to show that you are worth giving it to. Step outside of your comfort zone, start thinking outside the box and make the effort to show how invaluable you are. You may be surprised at the outcome.
Readers, what are your plans for how to get ahead at work?