In my 20s I used to think that the harder I work, the quicker I would rise to the top because my manager would see and promote me.
Well - this wasn’t the case.
In fact, in my first job with Birds Eye, we were 3 Assistant Managers - all females, all very ambitious, all very hard working.
The GM had a thing where he would come in at 7.30pm when he left the office to check who of the juniors is still there. Whilst the Brand and Senior Brand Managers had gone home by 6pm or 6.30pm at the latest, if one of us juniors weren’t there when he left, we had another chance to prove ourselves to belong there. Or ‘pursue a more suitable career’.
Given all I wanted to do was FMCG marketing and even without international experience during my studies (which was a big requirement for all other FMCG companies I applied for) and no actual marketing experience either (even though the job ad said 2-3 years required) I was successful in between 327 other applicants.
At the interview, the GM told me he was curious to meet me after seeing all my extracurricular activities until the age I was back then - 22:
I worked since I was 16 years as Group Fitness Instructor part time to finance my studies
I also delivered workshops to high 14-16 year old school kids from when I was 19-21 years through a Consulting company (who sent me all over Austria to deliver those workshops)
I also managed to get a 20h part time job - initially as Executive Assistant to the MD to then eventually a full-time role as Junior Marketing Manager with a Mobile Marketing Company - all before I graduated.
Me … back in the day … 👉👉👉
It wasn’t until a long time later that I realised nobody cared how hard I work.
I was known as someone who is reliable and get things done without making a noise or complaint.
I was usually the one who asked for more projects to take on and when someone said we have xxx to do, I would have never said no.
In one of my last roles, I realised that - whilst I have progressed in my career quickly - there was another person in the team, 2 years younger than me, quite a bit of attitude but she got promoted to Senior Manager whereas I still had the same role even though my manager had left and I’d have loved to step into it.
Well - funnily enough - it was a deja vu to 6 years earlier - my very first role, when my manager went on maternity leave and I was sure I will be able to take on her role. ‘You are not ready for it yet’ was the answer … again.
How on this earth is that possible? Whilst I had so much more experience and progressed in my career, I still got the same response, from someone in another country.
Where did it all go wrong?
It was my behaviour.
I realised nothing much has changed. I was still the hard working bee who gets things done and the one people can rely on to make them look good because I also didn’t know how I could communicate what I did to make the project, the launch, the whatever I worked on - a success.
You cannot continue doing - just more of - what you've done to get here to get where you want to be.
It wasn't until I started working with a coach and his mastermind that I realised that I did exactly that - more and more of what I was already doing a lot of, without getting anywhere.
Given we all just have 24h in a day and limited energy, how much more can you really do when you already do a ton before you burn the candle on both ends?
Exactly ... not much more so the key to success in any aspect - may it be progressing financially, professionally, personally ... - is to do things differently.
To save you the hardship of working yourself to the ground without getting anywhere, here are the tips that I got from this coach and ever since implemented:
1.) Spend time with people who you want to be(come) like
The more you surround yourself with people who already live your ultimate dream
- may it be from a business or a career perspective, from a monetary perspective, from a body or relationship perspective -
the more their behaviour and thinking becomes your normal too.
If you want to have a successful career - whatever that means for you - surround yourself with those you aspire to be and are career driven too.
If you want to become a marathon runner, join clubs where long-distance is focus ... you get the gist.
Spending the time with the same people you have spent time with keeps you where you are now because they want you to be the same person you have always been and you don't get ahead.
2.) BE CLEAR ABOUT THE VALUE YOU HAVE ALREADY ADDED
What specific results have you delivered? What new skills have you added and how does that help? Key is to document it in writing, not just knowing it in your head because it will stay there.
You only get a promotion or pay rise by doing more than you were hired to do. Key is not just knowing what it is to have the confidence and supporting facts to ask for more in return but also being able to communicate it. Simply saying you have been there for 2 years does NOT entitle you for more money.
3.) PLANT THE SEEDS
Asking out of the blue for more money or a higher role in a random meeting ... no no! I did it once and it totally backfired.
Instead meet with your manager a few months before you ask for what you want and start the conversation with something like:
I want to be one of your top performers [insert title if more appropriate] - what do I need to do to get there?
Don't take responses like be a leader, be pro-active, work hard etc as an answer.
Ask for specifics that are measurable like reduce annual costs by 10%, increase profit by 20%, improve communication skills to be a confident public speaker ...
4.) DO THE WORK
Now you know what you have to work towards, it's time to get the work done and enjoy the process.
Whilst goals like 'reduce costs by 20% or increase revenue by $xx is easy to measure, if soft skills are on your list, think outside the box and take initiative!
In my 2nd role in Australia when my English was still quite broken and slow (some argue nothing has changed ...:)) improving communication skills were top on my 'to improve list'.
In order to make something soft measurable, I started a project:
I developed a training program for the product portfolio as the company was still a start up in Australia back then and nothing like that was available to the staff.
I started to deliver trainings to the State Sales Team and eventually to the national Team when they saw what we did here in QLD. They loved it because the Sales Teams got tools to make more money without costing the Leadership team a dimp.
Eventually I delivered those programs for 6+ months and had tangible outcomes and results to demonstrate how I improved my communication skills.
5.) GET PROMOTED
Sounds simple but don't forget it!
Now you have done the work and improved those agreed areas, set up another meeting and start the conversation, this time with something like:
I'm excited to talk to you because xx months ago we talked about how I can add more value and changing responsibilities and compensation.
Spend a few minutes to talk about what you have done and another couple of minutes what you are about to do.
Then ask for the promotion (don't assume it will be handed to you) and be prepared with knowing similar compensations for those roles and what you suggest and wait for them to respond.
If they push back on it - because there is no budget or you are already in the middle of the salary range for an average employee - list the achievements you have been able to accomplish and ensure you will continue to go above and beyond.
If you have done everything right, there should be no problem to get what you want.
Every good manager knows it's less expensive to keep top performers than to hire new people.
If you want to learn how you can prepare for your next step - inside or outside your current environment - quicker and more effective, get in touch for a free 30-min Consultation.
Petra Zink is a Coach, Speaker and Educator on all things Career & Personal Development, Branding, High Performance and Innovation.
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