I started working full time when I was 16 years old. I was literally “in the trenches” working on a pipe crew for a construction company. After nearly two years of back-breaking work, I made the decision to change jobs. I took a pay cut from $12 per hour to $11.50 per hour to work at a manufacturing company that had just opened an operation in my hometown. This was a basic warehouse job that consisted of pulling and stocking inventory, unloading trucks, loading them and packaging materials. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to open my eyes to a unique opportunity that was before me. I quickly realized that I could make a career here — and not just a $21,000 per year career. I saw something bigger: something more. Fast forward eight years and I’m an executive at that same company. A calculated game of chess led to me dropping out of my community college classes, moving twice and making strategic decisions that led to me becoming an executive at the company I came to making under 12 bucks an hour less than a decade earlier. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do this. Some people would say I’m just lucky. Maybe. But the more I follow the steps I’ve taken over the last eight years, the “luckier” I become. I contend that if you put these principles into practice, you too could find yourself becoming the “lucky” person at your company within the next several months or years. Here are three things you should avoid in order to stand out among your peers.
#1: Show Up Late
“Hey, I hit traffic and I’m running a few minutes behind.” Don’t get me wrong: I understand that people have a life outside of work and that things happen from time to time. However, when the same team member presents excuses like this regularly, they can throw up a serious red flag. Why? Because being consistently absent or tardy does more than just put your other team members or manager in a bad spot if they have to cover for you: It can also speak to your inability to self-govern. If you’re always late because you “hit traffic,” then your manager may wonder why you don’t choose to wake up 30 minutes earlier to ensure you don’t hit traffic. Why are you okay with consistently being late for work instead of solving the problem that is making you tardy? Of course, many people use this excuse legitimately, and others use it as just that: an excuse. Some hide behind excuses like “I hit traffic” when what they really mean to say is “I didn’t get out of bed early enough to make it to work on time.” One of the biggest ways you can set yourself apart from your co-workers is to consistently show up on time (or even follow the mantra that “early is on time and on time is late”). Some managers may wonder: If you can’t be trusted to figure out how to beat morning traffic, why should you be trusted with the additional responsibilities that come with career advancements? Being a dependable member of your team is a crucial step that I cannot emphasize enough.
#2: Be Replaceable
If you’re the same as everyone else, then you’re as replaceable as everyone else. This is perhaps one of the most important points in this post. If you ever want to move up in your company, then you should find ways to create value beyond just doing the job you’re hired to do.
Start thinking like you own the business.
How could you do your job more efficiently? What are your company’s goals? If you can find ways to align your personal goals with the goals of your company, you could be placing yourself in a very powerful position. Identify the next viable opportunity in your company and start blazing a path to get to it. That might include getting to work early, staying late or doing things that aren’t directly related to the position you’ve been hired for when the situation calls for it. Don’t get me wrong: There is a fine line between going the extra mile and allowing yourself to be used and abused, but it’s time to stop playing checkers and start playing chess. If everyone else has the “that’s not my job” and “I don’t get paid enough for that” mentality, you can set yourself up as an outlier. You can be someone who understands that your success hinges on the company’s success and growth. With growth comes opportunity.
#3: Ask For A Raise
This is a controversial one, but hear me out. Again, I’m not suggesting that you should allow your employer to abuse your time and talent without ever expecting them to properly compensate you for it. In contrast, I’m suggesting a better way to ask for a compensation increase — without asking for a compensation increase. Remember that the goal is to find ways to create value. Perhaps you feel you’ve maximized the efficiency of your current position or you’ve identified what you believe to be the next opportunity in your company. That is what I recommend asking for. Don’t ask for “more money”: Ask for the responsibility that would merit more money. Outline the steps you’ve taken to create value in your current position for your employer and then demonstrate how you could continue to create value like this through a bigger role at your company.