As I’ve mentioned before, making more money is the best way to speed up your journey to financial independence. Frugality has it’s limit, you can only save 100% of what you spend, and that’s a ridiculous goal. Earning on the other hand, is unlimited. I’ve increased my earnings by 700% in the last 12 years, and I’m on track to make that almost 900% in the next two years. Getting promoted is a very solid path to making more money, especially if you work at a larger company where there are multiple job levels above you. I’m a boss. I run a team at a large corporation. I have to hire, fire, promote, and evaluate people all the time. Here are things that someone must demonstrate in order for me to consider them a legitimate candidate for a promotion.

Be Effective

I don’t really care how many hours you spend in the office. I’m much more interested in how effective you are at your job. If you can be a kick ass performer in 30 hours a week, half of which is spent in a remote location, I’m ok with that. As a general rule, you likely can’t do this, but if you can, more power to you! At the end of the day, if you’re a top performer, that’s the most important thing I look at.

On the flip side, if you are at the office 60+ hours a week, but you don’t product high quality work in sufficient quantity, on time, you are not effective and you’re wasting everyone’s time, including mine. Wasting your boss’s time is pretty much the number one cardinal sin, avoid this at all costs!

Don’t just think you are effective either, ask me what my expectations are and how you can improve your performance to meet and surpass them. Too many people go through the motions without ever asking me how they are doing and where they can improve. I get it, it’s an uncomfortable conversation, but wouldn’t you rather be the one initiating the conversation than finding out at review time that you aren’t as awesome as you think you are? I try not to never ever surprise anyone at review time with negative feedback, but not all bosses are like me.

People who seek out feedback and put that feedback to good use are few and far between. I guarantee that your boss will appreciate you for asking, and likely will have areas that you can improve upon. None of us are perfect, and actively trying to identify weak spots and improve upon them is a sign of maturity that will increase the trust your boss has in you.

Fail with dignity, learn from your mistakes

We all fail, every single one of us. As a manager, I expect my team members to fail sometimes. I don’t always know when it will happen, but it’s inevitable that at some point things will not work out as planned and you will mess up.

How you react after failure is absolutely critical to your growth path!

Even when your failure is ultimately not your fault, if you take an objective look at how it went down, you can almost always something that you could have done to mitigate or even prevent it, even if it wasn’t possible to see while it was happening. Be honest with yourself when asking why you failed and identify actions you can take if a similar situation arises in the future. Take responsibility for what you could have done better, vow to never make those mistakes again.

When my employees blame other people for their failures, it shows me a lack of awareness, responsibility, and maturity. I quickly lose trust in people who can’t objectively look at their failures as learning opportunities and try to pawn the blame onto others.

Think of it this way, if you are promoted, you will be put in situations that are new, you will be out of your comfort zone quite a bit in the first few months as you figure things out. I need to know that you are going to be open to learning from your mistakes, and also willing to constantly improve based on feedback from others and your own observations. If you get defensive and blame other people for your failures, you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and miss opportunities to grow.

Try to solve your own problems before you ask me to solve them for you

I hate listening to people complain about their problems, especially when it’s an employee who I’m paying good money to solve those exact problems.

As an Executive, it is definitely part of my job to help people solve problems. That said, if an employee asks for my help solving a problem, I am much more willing to help if I see that they have thought about how to solve the problem themselves and want my input on their ideas. If they haven’t spend their own time trying to solve it, why should I bother spending mine? This is an immediate sign that you are being lazy and wasting my time…which means you have violated the cardinal rule of being an employee.

Once again, if I promote you, there’s a high likelihood that you are going to encounter more unfamiliar situations and problems in your new role than in the roel you’ve been performing for a long time. If you have been proactive at solving your previous problems, it increases my confidence in your ability to do so moving forward, which in turn, means I spend less of my time doing it for you. I like self sufficient employees who can solve problems effectively with minimal guidance.

Now for extra credit, if you can solve my problems or problems that our team is having, this makes you an excellent candidate for a Manager or Sr. Manager. Streamlining processes can have huge impacts on the productivity of an entire team or organization. I’ve heard so many people bitch about bad processes, but it’s rare that anyone takes action and fixes it unprompted. It’s even more rare that they do so by working with the different groups involved to come to a consensus improvement. Those people are first on the list for 100%+ bonuses, pay raises, awards, and the next available promotion. Be that person! This is called leadership, and it’s high on my list of qualities I look for in promotion worthy candidates.

Be likeable and develop strategic relationships

I have a saying, if everybody you deal with is a problem, chances are YOU are the problem. Words to live by. Life is better when your co-workers like you. Being liked should not come at the price of limiting your effectiveness, but learning how to be effective while gaining respect and appreciation from your bosses and co-workers is a ninja level corporate skill that you should focus energy on.

Think about it, would you rather partner with someone who is a jerk, or someone that is friendly and respectful? This is so freaking obvious, yet too many people just don’t get it. Nothing bad will ever come from being well liked at work. Let me say this again slowly. Nothing…bad…will…ever…come…from…being…well…liked…at…work.

Take time for small talk. If you’re sitting in a meeting room waiting for people to arrive, strike up conversations with the people already there, show interest in them, try to find common ground, be supportive of their successes, be understanding of their struggles, be helpful. If people like you, they are more likely to partner with you, go the extra mile for you, and speak well of you with their management. This stuff matters, it actually matters a lot.

When bonus time comes around or you’re up for an award, recognition, or a promotion, I have to make a case for why you should win out over the others employees. If the people I’m trying to convince (my peers and upper management) like you and/or have heard positive things about you from their team, it’s a much easier sell.

When restructuring happens, as it inevitably does, it’s an opportunity to keep the strongest team members and let the weak ones go. If it comes down to two people who perform at the same level of effectiveness, but one is well liked and the other is not…guess who’s sticking around and who’s getting the boot?

Increase your value, but make sure it’s relevant to the job you’re doing

Going back to school, or getting additional training is a great sign that you are motivated and a hard worker who is looking to improve their skills. Now, If the efforts are related to improving your performance based on the feedback and expectations that I’ve provided for your performance on your current job, it’s not only a great sign for you, it’s great for me too.

If your schooling or training is not related to your current job, letting me know about it is essentially telling me that you are not really vested in your job. Now, I’m not a jerk, I’ll likely be supportive and happy for you if it’s putting you on your desired path, but I will also need to start planning for how to replace you when you leave. This will make it hard for me to put additional effort into developing you, and will certainly eliminate you from consideration of a promotion.

So to summarize, be a likeable, productive, problem solver, who takes responsibility when things go wrong and takes meaningful actions to get better. And don’t waste your boss’s time. 😛

Hang Loose!