There’s a familiar saying that nice guys finish last. That’s not always true, but it is a reminder that you may not get what you deserve out of life, while others seem to get more than their fair share. We often see this in the workplace. It’s not always the smartest or most qualified person who gets the raise or the promotion or the corner office with a view.
Don’t be discouraged. Early in my career I was dismissed as just another pretty face or the wife of someone famous, and dealt with many who felt that a woman had no place in the executive ranks of the music, film or television industry. I had to work hard to prove myself and eventually achieved successes above and beyond the obstacles I faced. To this day I’m still fighting to prove myself and I’m still winning.
Getting to the next level can be a full-time job in and of itself. There are strategies and skills you need to succeed. Often times knowing and exhibiting those skills will indicate that you are qualified for the position that you seek.
Here are some tips and strategies to make sure that you get not only what you want, but what you deserve out of your career.
Know Your Stuff
Be a master of your craft. If there’s a new product, do the research. If something is discontinued or didn’t work, learn why. Know all there is to know about whatever it is that you want to do. When I first started as a producer, I took film classes and watched EVERY movie on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 films. I also reached out to experts in my field to pick their brains for advice and information and gained a few mentors and contacts that I’ve stayed in touch with throughout my career.
Speak On It
People aren’t mind readers, especially people in leadership positions. You may think you are exhibiting all the qualities of someone who should to be promoted, but you have to let people know that career advancement is part of your plan. Many people are good at their job and want to be “lifers” in their position. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because someone else was willing to ask for it. Make sure you wait for the appropriate time, be patient, and not pushy. But let people in positions of authority know what you want.
The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. It’s an easy way to develop a dialogue, especially with superiors, new clients or colleagues. People love to talk about themselves or the projects they are working on. Do your research. Find out what they’ve got going on, then ask them about it. Even if it’s a question you know the answer to. It will give you an opportunity to start a discussion.
Participation is Mandatory
There are lots of suggested meetings, presentations and research that we tend to blow off if they’re not mandatory. Whenever possible, make the extra effort. Go to that meeting or conference. If someone’s giving a speech, do your best to attend. For even the most seasoned executive, presentations can be daunting. Attendance matters. And there’s nothing like someone who pays attention and shows interest. Make eye contact, contribute, ask questions, take notes (even if you can remember it). If you help put the executive at ease, they may be more inclined to return the favor.
Dress for Success
Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the position you want. You don’t have to go overboard, but make sure those around you can see you in a more senior position. And in the meantime, you’ll present yourself as if you’re on top of your game despite your current status.
Speak Well of Others
Word gets around. Not just good ones, the bad ones. If you’re known for recognizing your colleagues, they will recognize you as well.
There is nothing more cathartic after a hard day’s work than a good gripe session. If you need to vent, do it with your family or friends, not your co-workers. If you find yourself in a situation where others are spoken of in a negative light, do not contribute to the conversation. You may think you’re bonding with your colleagues, but if you cosign on the negative line and word gets around, you may find yourself on the way out as opposed to on the way up.
Remember the Little People
Be nice to everyone and call them by name. The security personnel when you check in. The janitor who cleans the office at night. The guy who waters the plants. The assistant who makes the coffee in the morning. And always say please and thank you. They interact with everyone in the office, including the people who hold your professional future in their hands. And it’s nice to be nice.
Things happen at work. Crazy things. Things go wrong. Things that aren’t your fault. Things you may get blamed for. Try your best not to lose your cool. If you’re having a bad day or something happens in your personal life, call in sick. Don’t run the risk of taking it out on others. If you go off on someone, they will not remember the three hundred eleven days when you were on your best behavior, they will always recall that one time when you lost it.
Do Your Best
Do not play to the lowest common denominator. There will always be someone who does less and makes more. If you want that raise or promotion, make sure your work is of the quality that deserves it. Do not take short cuts. Do not cut corners. Be on time and don’t leave early. There are others who want the position you seek, who may not have the skills you have, but show up on time.