Author Topic: What actions have had the highest impact in advancing your career (and salary)?  (Read 16221 times)

dividendsplease

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The sort of right answer...working hard, no excuses, being a team player, not calling out sick, getting the work done.

The really right answer...moving jobs. I've found once they know you are good and churning out great work, more work comes slowly but surely the little raises to keep you motivated will stop. Atleast this is in my line of work. I've moved 3 times in 11 years and each time for 33% pay bumps because companies Ive found dont like to pay what the market commands.

Chris22

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A lot of you won't like it, but it's all about learning how to play the game:

-Choose to work on high-visibility projects where possible.  It can be as simple as finding out about a new initiative and saying "hey boss, I heard about XXX, can I help out or tag along to meetings to learn?"

-Make sure your work is visible.  Take meeting notes or create a scorecard to track projects and circulate them widely.  Make sure your boss knows what you are working on, and when you have hit a milestone or a roadblock.  Keep him/her in the loop and away from surprises.  Err on the side of giving more people credit rather than less "We worked on..." even when it was just "I worked on."  If your boss is good he/she will admit it was mostly you, but will appreciate the credit anyways.

-Volunteer for BS stuff like planning committees or round tables or whatever.  Put yourself in positions where senior people get to know your face and name.

-When you get invited to a meeting with high level people, ask a question.  "Hey, I may be off topic, but I know XXX group is working on YYY, will that affect this project?"  Something like that.  Don't present yourself as an expert, just offer up something related.  Worst case is you get the answer "no that doesn't really apply here" or something, but now you're the person in the meeting, paying attention, and trying to connect the dots.

-Network network network.  Attend the networking events.  Go to town hall/leadership meetings instead of calling in.  Ask a senior person to go to lunch to talk about your career or his/her role or career advice or whatever.  Try to take advantage of cross-functional teams to connect with other people in the org you don't work with every day. 

-Have something on your resume that tells people you are interested in your career and moving it forward.  Advanced degree is the usual option here, but could be professional certification, membership in professional group, etc etc.  Doesn't really matter what it is, but it tells people "I'm doing more than just the bare minimum to further my career"

-MOST IMPORTANTLY, make sure people know you are interested in moving up/around.  Bring up next steps in performance reviews.  Ask a manager about a role open on his/her team, or apply for it.  You never want to be in a spot where you are told "oh, we never thought of you for that role, I didn't think you were interested."  Even if you aren't interested, think about poking around and tell those involved "I'm just trying to understand if this is a good next step for me." Just the fact that you're thinking about a next step and letting people know it puts you ahead of the game.

-Finally, know when to cut your losses and bolt for the next company.  Know what your potential next opportunities are and the timeline for when they will come available and how you rank against those competing for them.  If they aren't obvious, ask.  If they aren't there, GTFO.  The grass isn't always greener, but it usually comes with more money and nothing has to be permanent. 

golfreak12

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For us it was doing something OUTSIDE our careers that boosted us quickly to FIRE.

We were both teachers, and made very little, but loved it.  So we did real estate on the side, and that got us to FIRE.

So it wasn't advancing our career/salary, but doing the career for fun, while going elsewhere to earn our FIRE funds.  Something maybe a little different than most the replies here, but something to consider.  :)

Im in the same boat. It was my fun/secondary job that got me to where I am now. In NO wildest dream of mine that I thought I would be making well pass $100K/yearly in my secondary job for the past 3 years.

saijoe

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Being in the military.  There is a certain camaraderie especially if the interviewer was in the same branch as you.  They immediately have a connection with you.  Also, the military is a good place to gain some work ethic.   

dreams_and_discoveries

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In my experience, it's been as follows:

  • Really connect with a manager who gets your role reclassified into a higher grade (+£4k) and recommends you for further promotions (+£6k)
  • Move company (+£14k)
  • And the best by far is to go freelance - I basically tripled my income for the exact same work


Northwestie

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1 -do good work
2 - network

Your reputation follows you.

CanuckExpat

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stuff

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_careerism

Good take on one specific example:
"
I am thrilled to make friends who have similar interests and motivations. But by labeling something as a ďnetworking eventĒ I am robbed of that opportunity. I am no longer a human, pondering the issues of our time and making connections with people who have similar passions. But rather, the entire interaction becomes one of opportunity and ulterior motives...
Networking events takes the formerly detestable practices of sycophants and psychopaths and holds them up on a pedestal as something successful people have to do to get an edge. It preaches to people that the purpose of a relationship with your colleague is to use him for what he might be able to do for you. It makes a mockery of sincerity and genuine friendship...
I donít deny that a lot of job offers come out of personal connections, but hereís a thought: If you are genuinely interested in what you are doing, you wonít be able to help but to have engaging conversations with people about it when you are at talks, seminars or conferences about related issues. Inevitably some friendships will form among those contacts and inevitably career opportunities will come out of those friendships. If you arenít going to these events because you are genuinely interested in the topic, maybe you are in the wrong field. If your only motivation for going is to try to form some shallow friendships that you can one day take advantage of, you might want to have a second thought about it, rather than just accept the admonition from career-advisers that it is something everybody does and has to do.
"

Chris22

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stuff

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_careerism

Good take on one specific example:
"
I am thrilled to make friends who have similar interests and motivations. But by labeling something as a ďnetworking eventĒ I am robbed of that opportunity. I am no longer a human, pondering the issues of our time and making connections with people who have similar passions. But rather, the entire interaction becomes one of opportunity and ulterior motives...
Networking events takes the formerly detestable practices of sycophants and psychopaths and holds them up on a pedestal as something successful people have to do to get an edge. It preaches to people that the purpose of a relationship with your colleague is to use him for what he might be able to do for you. It makes a mockery of sincerity and genuine friendship...
I donít deny that a lot of job offers come out of personal connections, but hereís a thought: If you are genuinely interested in what you are doing, you wonít be able to help but to have engaging conversations with people about it when you are at talks, seminars or conferences about related issues. Inevitably some friendships will form among those contacts and inevitably career opportunities will come out of those friendships. If you arenít going to these events because you are genuinely interested in the topic, maybe you are in the wrong field. If your only motivation for going is to try to form some shallow friendships that you can one day take advantage of, you might want to have a second thought about it, rather than just accept the admonition from career-advisers that it is something everybody does and has to do.
"

That's an incredibly cynical view. 

Everywhere I've worked, "networking events" are simply an opportunity to get together with people in your company/field/alma mater/whatever to foster friendships and relationships, given that we share at least one interest and likely wouldn't have the time or opportunity to meet up otherwise. 

aschmidt2930

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This is a thread likely doomed to anecdotal examples (i.e. but I'm doing X and am making Y!), but I'll throw out a suggestion that's likely to be controversial:

Go into "value added" fields and not "overhead" fields. Engineering, sales, marketing, product management, in most companies, these are the areas where your contribution can be directly tied to an increase in revenue. It's generally easier to show a "give X get Y" relationship to your individual performance in these fields compared to accounting, HR, support, ect.  That's certainly NOT to say these jobs aren't important, I just think it's a tougher sell.  There's obviously exceptions, i.e. public accounting firms, where the accountants bring in the revenue.

Jschange

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I own the means of production these days. It is more terrifying, more satisfying and more financially rewarding.

Dropbear

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Stick up for yourself - don't be afraid to ask for what you believe to be fair.

aceyou

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1.  Be an overachiever.
2.  Network with the right people by showing them you will outwork everyone. 

Job history (and way that I got the job)

Kid: Farm worker (parents had farm)
18: woodworking factory @ 9/hour (showed up in suit and tie and asked for interview, was hired on the spot)
20: tennis instructor at tennis club @ $15/hour (played d2 tennis and that's where the team practiced, I was one of the only players who was consistently outgoing to the members, and their head pro asked if I'd join the staff)
21: tennis coach at high school @ 2k/season (previous head coach recommended me)
23: social studies teacher at small school @ 36k (AD from tennis coaching job recommended me)
24: math teacher/tennis coach at big D1 high school program @ 47k (the mom of a girl I gave lessons to at the tennis club was the superintendent...who knew!!!)
33: Currently at the same school @ 71k between teaching and coaching boys and girls tennis.  I intend for this to be my last full time job before FIREing. 

Grogounet

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First job in Ozzie: $30k in 2010 - Current $200k (more if commissions :-))

1/ Education - Master - not only because it is needed but also because it took me to a whole new level with...
2/ The power of networking: Countless examples around me of guys that I would consider "average" in their jobs but get the next promotion every time.
Networking, which I use to hate (and still hate), is the number one reason and delivers impressive results.

It's an art. A good book on the subject: "how to make friends and influence people"

SnackDog

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Select a field/career/job that you absolutely love, that so motivates you that you leap from the bed in the morning and can't wait to get started.  After that, your enthusiasm will take you very far and you will enjoy every minute of it.  In some fields this can also be quite lucrative but since you are loving life, the financial aspects should be secondary.

If I could teleport from my bed to my desk every morning, I would do it.  I enjoy my job and find it difficult to retire because I doubt I can make up stuff do on my own which is as interesting.  We're not billionaires or anything, but certainly have more than we can reasonably spend after many years of natural, easy, non-sacrificial frugality.

dr_sassy

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1. Became a medical doctor and chose a specialty that was reasonably-paying.
2. For my writing, I submit short stories to professional markets. The steadiest money has come from freelancing for a medical newspaper. They don't usually compensate online columns, but they opted to pay me after I chose not to write for free.

tmitchell

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Offer to take on your superiors' work--for free. At the least you'll be getting free on the job training. At best, you'll be noticed for being capable of more.

Assume the role of a leader and not an employee. When you actively participate in uplifting and creating the culture you inhabit the rewards will follow.

Last, become a mentor to those coming up behind you. Some day at least one of them will surpass you and may one day offer you a better position.

clarkfan1979

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I constantly apply for other jobs. It forces me to update my resume and interviewing skills. I am always aware of what other options are available to me. If I choose to stay at my current job, I feel good about it. I think too many people become comfortable with their current job and don't switch until they are forced to change for some other reason.

Playing with Fire UK

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The biggest impact for me was when someone left my three person team at the same time as another was seconded 50% time to another project. The 'training time' for my role is over a year.

I said I was looking for work elsewhere as I'd gone from being 33% of the team to 66%. Money appeared.

Identify changes in the business that make your skills more or less valuable. Ask for more money when they can least afford to lose you.

I constantly apply for other jobs. It forces me to update my resume and interviewing skills. I am always aware of what other options are available to me. If I choose to stay at my current job, I feel good about it. I think too many people become comfortable with their current job and don't switch until they are forced to change for some other reason.

When I can't find anything I want to interview for I take a half day off and arrive in the office in my best suit looking super smart. If done too much this would back fire but I want my supervisors knowing I'm not afraid to look elsewhere.

iris lily

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I always moved across several states for the mext step up. Waiting around for a job on my existing area would have 1) taken too long 2) forced me to take jobs that were not exactly on point with my specific area of interest. I had a very narrow career path.

So, the answer is: moving
« Last Edit: November 14, 2016, 07:44:37 AM by iris lily »

onlykelsey

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This is probably not the most helpful answer, but in the spirit of being honest, I think two things explain explain most of why I was earning six figures by 26:

  • going to a big deal recognized university that people respected
  • being personable when I interviewed in a down economy with thousands of other law students.  I had great grades, but so did they, and it seems it was the way my personality clicked with interviewers that got me follow-ups


Dropbear

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So how do you say "I'm looking for work elsewhere"?  Can anyone talk about under what situations they've done it, how they've discussed it, and what has happened afterwards, please?

Greenway52

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So how do you say "I'm looking for work elsewhere"?  Can anyone talk about under what situations they've done it, how they've discussed it, and what has happened afterwards, please?

I've kind of told that to my boss, but not directly. Me, along with several other people at our company's contract will be expiring shortly. The company offered all of us 1 year extensions. Most people signed it immediately. Instead of signing it, I asked my boss, when is the last day I can sign it. At that point she knew I was looking. I didn't go out of my way to tell her, but I didn't hide it either. I think if you mention it point blank, you run the risk of looking like you're threatening that you want something and if you don't get it, you'll leave.

For me, I wasn't really looking, but another company has approached me already and expressed their interest. I have even gone out to coffee and talked with my potential future boss at this company. If I really had nothing lined up, I probably wouldn't have been bold enough to imply to my boss that I'm looking.

The potential new company is willing to offer me a 4 year contract, plus the salary will be about 20%-25% higher than my current one. I like my current boss and my current company, so my hope is that since they know that I'm looking, they would be willing to bump up my salary. But alas, I don't think they will.

I can't tell you how it will end, since it's going on right now. But hopefully I'll know in a couple of months.

Goldielocks

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Networking events takes the formerly detestable practices of sycophants and psychopaths and holds them up on a pedestal as something successful people have to do to get an edge. It preaches to people that the purpose of a relationship with your colleague is to use him for what he might be able to do for you. It makes a mockery of sincerity and genuine friendship...

Networking events have NOTHING to do with friendships, other than creating opportunities to see people face to face to support future work.  It is like assuming a speed dating session is about trying to find lasting and sincere friendships... Not one goes to speed dating or networking events looking for that primarily.

They are an avenue for business-minded people to meet other business minded people, and everyone is looking for the chance to meet people that can further their work interests. 

It is mutual.   Everyone knows why everyone is there.  Some are looking to hire, some want to get the ear of a specific person, and others are looking to build the rolodex in a non-slimy  way, unlike the "I will pretend to be your friend" way...   e.g., that old high school acquaintance that calls you up for lunch and gets all buddy buddy with you then you find out that you are only the means to them accessing your boss or something...

And if you are looking to work relationships to develop sincere friendships, you need to keep looking...   This is unusual, and rare.


hucktard

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Side income and real estate investing have been the biggest boost to my income, and have way more potential to build wealth than my engineering career. I make OK money and I have a "good" job, but I don't see a ton of potential for big raises or promotions with my skill set. And that's OK with me. I am completely over the job thing and I am excited to work at my own investments/ business. I have a decent chance of doubling my overall income this year and speeding up my time to FIRE with a side gig. There is no way I am doubling my salary at my day job anytime in the next 10 years. Investments interest me much more then a career at this point.

BuffaloStache

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The biggest impact for me was when someone left my three person team at the same time as another was seconded 50% time to another project. The 'training time' for my role is over a year.

I said I was looking for work elsewhere as I'd gone from being 33% of the team to 66%. Money appeared.

This happened to me (albeit with a bigger team) recently, except I haven't seen the "money appear" yet. I've made it clear to my management/superiors that I will expect equal compensation for completing excess work. I'm hoping this reflects in an increased salary come end of the year performance appraisals/salary bumps. wish me luck.

Eco_eco

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My biggest actions to grow my career have been:
1. Be a friendly person who is known for helping and supporting others.
2. Be really good at 'working with higher management'. Be confident and look to see what is happening in upper management's world and be ready to talk about the problems they are experiencing with an idea of a solution (but being friendly, not pushy).
3. Change jobs more or less every 24 months.

Playing with Fire UK

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The biggest impact for me was when someone left my three person team at the same time as another was seconded 50% time to another project. The 'training time' for my role is over a year.

I said I was looking for work elsewhere as I'd gone from being 33% of the team to 66%. Money appeared.

This happened to me (albeit with a bigger team) recently, except I haven't seen the "money appear" yet. I've made it clear to my management/superiors that I will expect equal compensation for completing excess work. I'm hoping this reflects in an increased salary come end of the year performance appraisals/salary bumps. wish me luck.

There was a delay between me saying I was looking to leave and money appearing - I knew that this can be the case in my company from other people who have gotten offers elsewhere and then got a raise to stay.

Good luck.

NoVa

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I am/was in IT in the DC metro area, lots of jobs, many require some form of clearance.

I started out as a helpdesk person. Take the tests, Security+, whatever Microsoft desktop operating system you are using.
After 1 to 2 years, look and decide, do you want to be a system admin or a network/router guy? Start in on those line of tests, MCSE or Cisco CCNA. Pass the tests while hanging out with the actual person who is doing your future job at the company. They won't mind, trust me, they want someone who is able to help and is interested in the boring parts. At this point there is a high (but not absolute) probability you will have to switch companies, with the cert in hand and some credible hands-on it won't be an issue. Congratulations you are now out of the helpdesk salary range as a junior sys-admin or network engineer.
Keep up to date with your certifications as you get experience. Things change in the IT world, you want the latest certification. At some point, you will probably graduate to being a team lead, if not an outright project manager on some site with a small team. Get your PMP. Congratulations #2, you are probably now doubling what the top end of a helpdesk person is getting paid!

Sadly, I see many otherwise capable people stop at helpdesk and never get any certifications unless forced to. It really doesn't take that long, the rewards for that week or month of pain and studying far outweigh the cost. And yet most people don't want to be bothered.

jfolsen

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NETWORK! NETWORK!  NETWORK!

People come to me with job offers and I switch jobs every 2-3 years. 

BuffaloStache

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Reviving this old thread because I have an update but also I think there is a lot of good information here.


The biggest impact for me was when someone left my three person team at the same time as another was seconded 50% time to another project. The 'training time' for my role is over a year.

I said I was looking for work elsewhere as I'd gone from being 33% of the team to 66%. Money appeared.

This happened to me (albeit with a bigger team) recently, except I haven't seen the "money appear" yet. I've made it clear to my management/superiors that I will expect equal compensation for completing excess work. I'm hoping this reflects in an increased salary come end of the year performance appraisals/salary bumps. wish me luck.

There was a delay between me saying I was looking to leave and money appearing - I knew that this can be the case in my company from other people who have gotten offers elsewhere and then got a raise to stay.

After over a year of waiting, additional money did not appear. So I switched companies and got a salary bump up to market pay for my position/experience. I'm still not 100% sold on the new company, but it has a lot of good perks and I'm learning new skills that should make me even more marketable in the future.

So maybe an action/thought for this thread: Don't be too fearful of the unknown (other companies, industries, etc.) to switch companies if a lucrative opportunity presents itself. I was scared because I was worried there were things about potential new companies/jobs I wouldn't love. You don't have to love every facet about your job/company, since the whole goal of this forum is to reduce the amount of time you need to be there.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 11:21:37 AM by BuffaloStache »

Gone_Hiking

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First, a bit about my background.  First in the family to go to college, parents never finished high school.  Immigrant to the United States.  College degree in plant breeding and genetics because agriculture was all I knew.

First job, 1998: laboratory technician.  Too dumb to do anything but follow orders. 
Current job, 2019: I was promoted today to systems operations manager role, overseeing a team of four systems administrators and one primary desktop support lead responsible for 200+ servers, system security, provisioning of desktops and laptops for business, maintenance of all software licenses, and user support

Here is how I navigated the transition:
  • I went back to school for a few computer science classes and became a programmer at a genome sequencing center
  • I started a community garden organization which changed my thinking about following orders and helped me realize that I could organize the effort of others
  • I became PMP certified when I landed a job as a project manager
  • I joined Toastmasters to learn to say it in fewer words after someone walked out of meeting with me and I was a complete and utter failure in the eyes of my douchebag boss
  • I learned to negotiate compensation when the big pharma company laid me off and I needed another job
  • I did not say no when my manager asked me to step in and help server administrators and desktop support people get their act together despite the fact that systems administrators require specialized care and feeding, and even software programmers don't willingly enter systems administrator's lair


HBFIRE

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In 2012 I got a job in a newer small division of an internet marketing company where I gained a very valuable niche skillset.  This made me indispensable to the company as it's very difficult to find workers with the same skillset particularly because this company was not based in the Bay area.  I later got a much higher offer (50% increase) from a competitor to start up a new division, but my company countered with an even better offer as they didn't want to compete with me.  Later, I formed my own business with a good friend leveraging my value and became partners with all the competitors in the space (only a handful).  My friend brought the relationship and deep networking skillset (I'm very introverted), and I brought all the operational know how.  Plus he had the funds to get things off the ground.  Was a perfect business match.  I never could have foreseen this development 7 yrs ago and the whole experience has been really eye opening.  My recommendation to young people entering the workforce is 1) Network  2) Find a solid company where you can move into different positions that provide more value 3) Figure out what unique skillset you need to gain which will bring the most value.  Ideally, it will be a skillset that is not common and brings tremendous value.  Surprisingly this is not as hard as it may seem, as most people are lazy.   Sometimes you can turn this into your own business once you have experience, that's where the real money is.  By the way, I did all this without a bachelors degree.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2019, 10:15:45 PM by dustinst22 »

gillstone

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I went from 36k in 2010 to 100k in 2019. My advice:

1. Be ambitious
2. Admit you need help and ask for it
3. Admit when you fail and be honest when asked
4. Learn from above and keep being ambitious

Nothing wrong with biting off more than you can chew, but never be too proud to admit you could have done better or need help. 

MikeBT

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1. Keep good professional friends/mentors/networks. You will pick up on the habits of those you are closest to. Prune the whingers and those who are bad at their job and make friends with those who are as good as you, and form a clique, i.e. an old boys'/girls' club.

2. Try to find a field in which your services are something of a Veblen good. Rather than pricing yourself at what you think you're worth, price yourself 10% higher and pretend you're that good. Sooner rather than later, you'll actually be worth it (presuming you're talented, healthy and incredibly hard working). When you get to that point, raise your hourly fee by another 10%. Always charge like a wounded bull...but tell everyone you're worth it, and they'll believe you (presuming you're smart and capable).

Freedomin5

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So many of the tips ring true for me too. Two years later, Iíve identified a few other actions.

1. Always be open to having a different job. Apply for a new job every year or so. The job should be related to what youíre doing now, but should also stretch you a bit. Applying also keeps your interview skills sharp, and if you get a better offer, you have leverage with which to ask for a raise at your current employer.

2. Keep a good professional network. You donít have to be best buddies with everyone. You do have to be at least somewhat visible.

3. Charge more than you think youíre worth. Act like youíre worth what you charge.

4. Do good work. Be professional and responsible. Strive to be the best in your field.

5. Donít backstab or gossip about other colleagues or people in your network. Stay out of the gossip completely. Keep your head down and do good work.

6. Admit when you donít know something. Then go and learn about it so the next time someone asks, you will know the answer.

7. Become known as being a problem solver. So many people are good at identifying the problem, but not many go the extra mile and solve the problem. People are willing to pay a lot of money to you to make a problem go away.

I guess I should provide some anecdata to back up the above. First job out of college: $23k per year. Eight years later: $280k per year.

I should add that Iím terrible at networking and practically fell off the introversion scale on the Myers Briggs. I have learned how to pretend to be extroverted. That gets me to the point where I can hold a short conversation with others in a social setting, after which I spend a week holed up at home recuperating. I can speak to large crowds though, because Iím basically talking to myself, and I do that all the time anyway. :P
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 06:28:12 AM by Freedomin5 »

MikeBT

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So many of the tips ring true for me too. Two years later, Iíve identified a few other actions.

1. Always be open to having a different job. Apply for a new job every year or so. The job should be related to what youíre doing now, but should also stretch you a bit. Applying also keeps your interview skills sharp, and if you get a better offer, you have leverage with which to ask for a raise at your current employer.

2. Keep a good professional network. You donít have to be best buddies with everyone. You do have to be at least somewhat visible.

3. Charge more than you think youíre worth. Act like youíre worth what you charge.

4. Do good work. Be professional and responsible. Strive to be the best in your field.

5. Donít backstab or gossip about other colleagues or people in your network. Stay out of the gossip completely. Keep your head down and do good work.

6. Admit when you donít know something. Then go and learn about it so the next time someone asks, you will know the answer.

7. Become known as being a problem solver. So many people are good at identifying the problem, but not many go the extra mile and solve the problem. People are willing to pay a lot of money to you to make a problem go away.

I guess I should provide some anecdata to back up the above. First job out of college: $23k per year. Eight years later: $280k per year.

Great post. Top notch tips.

I see we both agree on the fundamental point - charge more than what you think is the 'fair' price for what your services are. Chances are, if you're good at what you do and well-respected, no one will perceive the difference.

A corollary - try to work in a field where you are either self-employed or you have the ability to set your own rate (surgeon, trial lawyer, consultant, IT whiz, engineer etc).

FI-King_Awesome

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Provide greater value than your peers

Say ‘yes’ when challenging assignments are offered

Be mobile

Execute. On time. On target.

Unique User

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Lots of really good answers, but I'd add one more.  If your job is a general type role that translates to many companies like HR, recruiting, etc, choose an industry that pays well for those roles.  I work for a consulting company and most recruiters I know make $90k to $100k which is much higher than the average for recruiters.  Other benefit is that most of the recruiting jobs in consulting are remote. 

sol

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As a counterpoint to the bulk of the advice above, I feel like the most important thing I did was to be born lucky.

Despite being raised poor, I liked school and I read lots of books as a kid, and some of those books taught me that life is an open buffet table to anyone willing to put in the hard work.  I learned to work the system, I got good grades, I aced the high school tests like the SAT, and everything else was automatic from there.  Like clockwork, success just unfolded for me.

The country's best colleges came calling with full ride scholarships for the bright kid from a poor family.  After graduation, grad schools competed for the guy from the top tier school.  After grad school, my academic pedigree opened doors to good jobs, which offered continuous opportunities for self improvement.  At no point between 8th grade and retirement did I feel like I had to make any important decisions that altered the course of my life.  It all unfolded pretty much automatically as soon as I decided to take the reigns in 8th grade.

Of course, being born a tall white guy undoubtedly played some role in my good fortune.  I try not to think about how many equally talented minorities or women I passed on my life's ladder through no fault of my own, because it's depressing.  Part of the danger in privilege is how totally invisible it is to the privileged.  I understand why so many billionaires think "anyone can be rich if they work hard enough" because that's what they did, without recognizing the advantages they had.  Part of it is survivorship bias, certainly, but I suspect a bigger part is that certain types of people are given more opportunities than others without ever understanding why.

The counterpoint to the above argument is that while I consider myself surprisingly successful, some of my more distant acquaintances do not.  I know guys who are worth over twenty million dollars from doing stuff like making countertops, or political advertising, or buying hotels, and they consider my meager fortune to be evidence of a life wasted.  They think I've settled for mediocrity, that retirement is surrender.  I've never chartered a yacht full of models for a trip to the Canary Islands because I'm too poor to enjoy the finer things in life.  My wife and children are uremarkable, the kind of people they only consider as background noise instead of the Kerouac-style flares that make life worthwhile. 

So success is definitely a relative term, and the kind that I have found, while amazing to me, is disappointing to some.  Any job where you worry about "salary" has already relegated you to my world, where at best you aspire to a few mil and a modest home.  No one who is asking questions about their career progression is ever going to be as successful as the person who learns to work for themselves.  Employees are just servants, and servants don't become kings.

exterous

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- Be open (but not annoying) about your goals and ambitions with your manager. Ask what needs to be done to get to the next step and ask where your boss thinks your strengths and weaknesses are.
- Manage up. Find out what pressures, complications, problems your boss is dealing with. See if you can mitigate those. Or at least avoid adding to them. One of my biggest surprises becoming a manager was how needy other people were.
- Ask for salary and raises. Have a well constructed and supported argument as to why.
- Do a good job and be responsible for the resources under your or your companies control.
- Don't just go to people with problems to be solved. Provide potential solutions at the same time

For a specific case I noticed that our organization had an arrangement with a vendor that seemed utterly absurd to me. I needed to complete a large purchase from this vendor for a project I was tasked with. I tried to engage with the internal person responsible for the arrangement but was rebuffed because, supposedly, the vendor wasn't interested in doing better. Instead of just accepting that explanation (like everyone else was) and paying a grossly excessive amount for what we needed I got in contact with the vendor themselves. After finding they were very amenable to much more favorable terms I brought up to management during a project update how I tentatively secured much better pricing from this vendor. The contract I negotiated ended up being used as the basis for a new contract for our rather large organization.

I think a big part of the success in my career progression (3 promotions in 4 years and over people with more time in the position and company) is that I touch base with whoever is my boss a couple times a year to see if we're on the same page about my work performance and I proactively tell them I am interested in whatever job title is next in the promotion progression. This isn't just a "I deserve it" (Which people try and doesn't seem to work out well) but a conversation. "I think I am on track for this in X amount of time because I've done W, Y and Z with these successful results. Are there areas I should focus on improving to make this progression more likely? Are there any suggestions for things I could be doing better?" and then on the next discussion "We talked about me doing\improving on A and B. Here are the results which seem very good. What are your impressions of A and B?" Some people have openly grumbled about my progression but they are much more passive about their career progression. I was actually told by one of them that it was unfair because their manager hasn't lead them through their career progression. I told them that I take responsibility for my own career progression and steer it where I want to go.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 12:14:19 PM by exterous »

MrThatsDifferent

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The action that had the biggest impact on my career was lying on my resume years ago. I was unemployed and having a quarter life crisis, but I knew I had the talent and ability but lacked the experience for the role I really wanted. I wanted interview experience too, so I made up and exaggerated some roles, and then for the interviews I went in with full confidence as if I had done that work. I was young, had nothing to lose and treated it as a game. Lo and behold, it worked. I ended up getting a high paying job, which I initially rejected because I lied and said I had a better offer, so they upped the offer. That job didnít last long, but from that I got an even better job and have continued to build on it. Iíve never had to lie or exaggerate since, and that job put me at a level Iíve never come down from. Sometimes desperation and ambition and youth get in the way of morality and perfectionism.

Fomerly known as something

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Taking the chance when getting a job offer with the stipulation that the job was in New York City. Basically being willing to make a move to a HCOL city when I was born and raised in the Midwest.

whywork

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Keep switching; move to smaller companies taking bigger positions and responsibilities

Be business focused; all your work that doesn't grow the business doesn't grow your career too

HBFIRE

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The action that had the biggest impact on my career was lying on my resume years ago.

Funny, I did the same thing.  Didn't even think about it, but it was also one of the biggest positive impacts on my career.  Not that I recommend anyone else doing the same. "Fake it 'til you make it" worked in my case.  Sometimes talent is more important than experience.

ketchup

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I took my department by the horns when my then-supervisor left last year.  Went from #2 in a department of two to #1 in a department of three, the first order of business being hiring those other two.  It's been interesting; the dynamic of going from two to three has changed a ton about the way we do things.  Near-immediate $8k bump, with more to come at my next review as long as I don't burn the place down before then.

AdrianC

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I was lucky to get some great opportunities, but others had them also and for whatever reasons didnít take them.

Most impact:
1. Working for a small UK company, on very short notice they asked if Iíd be willing to work in their US subsidiary - basically three guys. I took it. Within 2 years Iíd more than tripled my UK salary.

2. Working for a different small US company, a client said they wanted me, and didnít care who I worked through. I started my own shop. Doubled, sometimes quadrupled my previous earnings.

3. Always assumed it would end (imposter syndrome?). Saved like a fiend. Discovered how to invest later on, but it worked out.

WhiteTrashCash

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I realized that I had gotten into a field of employment that was highly competitive and paid very poorly while required high amounts of unappreciated hard work. So I decided to retrain and then enter another kind of employment that was much less competitive and paid better while providing me with less of a workload. That allowed me to take on side hustles and extra paid duties that increased my pay even more. The key is not to "find your passion" but "find something worthwhile that you can live with."

Garrett B.

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For me it was a combination of:

1. Relationships
2. Leverage
3. Timing
4. Competence
5. Education
6. Being consistently professional, not complaining etc.

I'd say I'm a solid performer but not a high flyer by any means. But I'm consistent, reliable, professional, and try to stay positive. It's the soft skills that really help.

big_slacker

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Specialization
Strategic thinking
Beginner's mindset
Focus on things that make the most impact and aggressively cutting out the things that don't.

RyanAtTanagra

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The one thing I always tell people that feel like they're not moving along in their careers is, 'get in over your head'.  All my biggest jumps have been taking positions that, while I was fairly qualified for them, they were such a big step from where I was that it scared me.  A few weeks of severe imposter syndrome and 'holy shit what have I done I can't do this', then it calms down and I can breath again.  If you don't feel like an imposter at least some of the time, you're not pushing yourself enough.  Even if you fail, you'll come out way ahead of when you started in knowledge.