Many young workers come to a conclusion that's often hard to swallow: Working hard doesn't mean you get ahead.
Just because you show up on time, meet all your deadlines and don't gossip, well, that's not enough to get a bigger paycheck or title. In fact, you may wonder why the dunderhead in the cubicle next to you got a supervisory role, when you know more and do more.
But here's the thing: Dunderhead is working smarter. He knows that it's not enough to want the new title and new office -- he's let it be known that he does. He's mentioned it in his yearly review, talked about it when he and the boss had coffee (Dunderhead had coffee with the boss???) and asked what he needed to do to get on track for that management role.
And you? Well, you sat at your little workstation and just figured that someone had to know how hard you worked. Right?
The biggest mistake young workers make is thinking that their accomplishments -- no matter how big or small -- will garner them rewards. Nope. It doesn't work that way. What garners you the bigger gains in your career is being strategic -- like a coach plotting out the game-winning plan.
Sit down and figure out:
- Your strengths and weaknesses. These don't come just from you -- take a hard look at what past performance evaluations have noted and the feedback you get from bosses and colleagues. Go through your emails or texts -- is there a familiar compliment such as "Your work is always so thorough" or a complaint such as "your writing is unclear"? Find ways to improve your deficiencies, such as through online classes, seminars or even going back to school. Instead of a vacation this year to Tahiti, use that money to invest in yourself and your future by earning a new certification or more education that is valued by your company.
- Weigh in. The next time a new worker needs help or your colleague is stuck (again) when using the new software, pitch in. This time, however, make sure that others know about it -- tell your boss you enjoy being a mentor and would be happy to help others, or offer to write up a short cheat sheet for others to follow when they get lost using the new software. You don't want to take on too much extra work, but you want to be able to show your expertise.
- Keep a log. Sort of like Captain Kirk on Star Trek, you need to keep a record of daily happenings or you'll forget -- and so will your boss. Make note of when make the company money or save it money. For example, if you solve a customer complaint that results in new sales or figure out a cheaper way to ship items, then those are the kinds of things you need to make sure your boss knows about. Being able to demonstrate your contribution if one of the best ways to climb the ladder of any career.