The common view of 'getting rich' is that it requires something extraordinary…
Inventing a clever gizmo. Starting a fast-growing business. Writing a best-selling book or a blockbuster movie.
Or, if you're one of several million individual investors, it might be buying a stock just after it's bottomed out…and just before it climbs to new heights.
These stories are exciting and even intoxicating. You read or hear about them and think, 'Maybe I can do that!'
As I'm writing this, I'm halfway through The Big Short, and I've even found myself thinking, 'How can I be the next Steve Eisman or Michael Burry or Greg Lippmann?'
But then I remind myself that these guys are the exceptions - the very, very rare exceptions. Their stories are exciting because they are so extraordinary. The reality is: The great majority of multimillionaires grew their wealth the way I did - slowly, cautiously, and mundanely.
They weren't homerun hitters who just swung for the fences. They bunted and hit singles and, best of all, walked to first base.1
But today, I want to talk about an even more mundane way to become wealthy-one I've talked and written about for many years in bits and pieces. I'm talking about getting rich in the most ordinary way possible-by working as an employee.
I'm going to give you the big picture in this essay. This is an option almost anyone can take to acquire wealth.
I know it's possible because I've done it personally. And because I have helped more than a dozen others do it. I will help you do the same on one condition: A few of my proteges are richer than I am today. That, I have to tell you, I don't approve of. So if you take this path, please promise me you won't go beyond me…at least until I'm dead and gone.
In my book The Reluctant Entrepreneur , I wrote about how to start a million-dollar business by bunting and hitting singles. Half of the programs we produce for members through the Palm Beach Wealth Builders Club are step-by-step guides that can direct you on becoming wealthy this way.
It All Starts With a Flip of the Mind Switch As you may know, I started my life in a family of modest means. I worked dozens of blue-collar jobs and a handful of white-collar ones before I landed a junior executive position with a small publishing company in 1982.
I was working hard, trying to do a good job, but the truth was I had no idea what exactly I should be doing every day. I had ideas from books I'd read and all sorts of demands handed to me by my superiors.
But in terms of 'getting rich' strategies, I had none. I was working 10 hours per day and making modest progress, it seemed to me at least. (Perhaps that describes your own current situation: You're working hard and chugging along. But you don't really know, for sure, what you should be doing… You just sense you could be doing better.)
I will say this: Had I not changed my thinking, I'd be an old, disgruntled, decently paid editor or writer today, worried about having enough money to retire.
But a simple change set me down the right path.
I'll tell you that story in a bit. But for the moment, I want to focus on what I believe is the first step in the journey to becoming a wealthy employee:
You must make a mental change.
I'm talking about adopting a different 'identity' of sorts…
Reversing the standard paradigm of employee-as-wage-slave to CEO-in-waiting.
Raising your work from acceptable to valuable and finally to invaluable.
But the first step, as I said, is to stop thinking of yourself as being stuck at the bottom of some corporate hierarchy. Promote yourself - if only in your mind at first - to becoming a partner in the business that employs you.
When I took that mental step, it took exactly 24 hours to change the way I worked. It changed the way I saw the business. It changed the way I interacted with my boss and my fellow employees. And most of all, it changed the specific tasks I did every day.
It took only a year to make the move from ordinary employee to invaluable employee. And that, in turn, changed the direction of my career and ultimately granted me the wealth and freedom I have today.
Few people make the leap. They spend their lives trudging along a path of mediocrity, wondering why they haven't gotten their 'big break' yet.
They don't have the awareness…meaning they don't see the border between the ordinary and the invaluable.
And they never learn the skills or acquire the characteristics that will put them on the fast track toward becoming rich as an employee.
What's shocking to most who do come around is: It doesn't take much extra time, resources, or energy to make the leap. As I said…it all starts with a simple flip of the mind switch.
Does This Sound Like You (or Someone You Know)? I've had the good fortune to oversee hundreds of employees over the years, many of whom worked directly for companies I've owned or been a partner in.
And, as I mentioned earlier, one of the largest obstacles I've encountered in dealing with employees is the awareness (or lack thereof) of what it truly means to be extraordinary and invaluable.
This next drill might be crude. But to illustrate my point, let's say that there are two mental mindsets you can have as an employee.
One is the middling employee mindset. The other is the superstar employee mindset.
Let's examine the common characteristics of the middling employee. See how many, if any, of these behaviors, feelings, or thoughts you recognize:
Middling employees live in fear. They fear their boss coming around the corner. They worry about their coworkers overshadowing them. They fret about the economy. Deep down, a middling employee lacks confidence in their value. Though sometimes this is justifiable based on their performance, this lack of confidence will turn into anxiety. Anxiety can become a demotivating distraction, which further affects performance in a self-perpetuating, downward spiral.
Middling employees do the bare minimum. They'll show up at 9:15 a.m. and try to head home at 4:45 p.m. They do what's required of them and no more. Often, they'll say things like, 'That isn't my job' or 'So-and-so's in charge of that.' Rather than looking for other ways to contribute or spend their time wisely, they surf the Internet, take long lunch breaks, or gossip.
Middling employees feel entitled. According to the 2015 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, fewer than 25% of employees are actually satisfied with their current pay (meaning they think they deserve more). Wages and salaries have been slow to grow over the last 30 years. But I can also tell you it's a fact that middling employees are the ones who blame this on stingy employers. The cold reality is, more often than not, just because you expect a raise doesn't mean you've earned one.
Middling employees don't make company values their values. There is no greater team sport than working in a company. Business is all about getting a group of people together, performing specialized tasks, and collectively going after a goal. Middling employees often fail to contribute to this effort because they do not know, appreciate, or share their company's core values and goals.
Middling employees take no pleasure from their job. Like 52.3% of the American workforce, middling employees find no fulfillment or satisfaction from their work. They view their jobs as drudgery. Because of this, they have a hard time getting motivated or performing well. (Yet, somehow, they feel entitled to a raise. When they don't get it, their job becomes even more menial. They eventually quit.)
Middling employees suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect. This one's a little more obscure. Put simply, incompetent people are unable to recognize their own incompetence. (That's because recognizing skill requires us to have some skill.) If you've ever encountered someone who thought they were great, despite all evidence to the contrary, you know what I'm talking about. DK causes middling employees, in their complacency or ignorance, to have some of the other behaviors I've described here without even realizing it. Or, even worse, to think they're acceptable!
Did you identify with any of the above? Be honest…
When I was a middling employee, I exhibited many of these behaviors. The good news is, after I decided I wanted to be rich, I was able to eliminate most of them quickly and easily.
You should be able to do the same.
Think about this: As an employee, you are going to spend more of your living hours working for your company than you will spend on any other single pursuit. You will spend more time working than you spend with your family, on your hobbies, on your social goals, on having fun, etc.
And your justification for spending all those hours working is to earn money. You might as well maximize them so that you earn a lot of money, rather than a little, and afford yourself a little freedom.
Middling employees almost never receive big raises. They can expect their salary to rise slowly or not at all. In the past 30 years in the U.S., the average salary rose around 3.6%, according to the Average Wage Index.
That is not enough to acquire substantial wealth. (Heck, the historical average rate of inflation is 3.18%!)
And your income is not the only thing at stake. Nobody wants to go to bed every day dreading the next, finding little or no joy or satisfaction in what they're doing.
But if you can change your mindset and start taking the right steps, you can make a boatload more money…and have a LOT more fun working.
As I said above, it took me less than a year to go from being broke and without direction to being modestly rich, simply by changing the way I thought about myself and my job.
I have also mentored more than a dozen people along the way to acquiring millionaire-level net worths as employees.
K.Y., for example, began as a proofreader and is now head of a $10-plus million business and a millionaire. D.M. and P.H. were working menial jobs (one for a woodworking company and another at a supermarket) and went on to earn $300,000-plus per year throughout their careers. P.S. was making peanuts when I met him, but he's now super rich - in the top 1% of the 1%! (Likely richer than me!) J.T. was an assistant marketer the first day I met her, but I could tell right away that she was a potential superstar. With the help of my advice, she went on to become CEO of her own company and now has a seven-figure net worth. B.S. was making about $30,000 a year when I convinced him to quit his job as a big-eight accountant and take a job working for me. Today, he lives about a block north of me and may have a higher net worth. The greatest proof I can provide about becoming a wealthy employee, though, comes from my own story.
Like I said, I used to be a poor middling employee. But one simple change of mindset-and the ramifications of that change - made me a superstar employee, which eventually made me a very wealthy man.
Let me explain how I personally came to have this mindset. Then I'll tell you what I did with it.
Going for the Money I was 32 years old, three months into my new job as managing editor for a startup newsletter business, and attending an executive training program at a local chapter of the Dale Carnegie Institute.
The program's second-week homework assignment was simple: Whittle down your goals and prepare to present for the class.
The assignment was like running headlong into a brick wall for me.
In his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie makes a common-sense observation: Most people fail to accomplish much because they don't set goals.
Less obvious, though, is his other observation: Some people fail to achieve success because they have too many goals. Being too ambitious and wide reaching can be as detrimental to success as being a rudderless ship.
I had no trouble listing dozens of goals and relatively little trouble narrowing that long list down to 10.
Narrowing it down to three, though, was tough. It took me six days of arguing with myself. The three goals I ended up with were to be a writer, to be a teacher, and to be rich.
But then I had to select one of them as my primary goal, and I just couldn't do it. It was crazy. I knew that if I focused on just one goal, I would achieve it - but I didn't want to give any of them up!
I was still stymied when I stepped up to the podium the next evening. I was prepared to tell my classmates that I had failed the challenge.
But as I picked up the microphone, I knew what I had to do. 'I'm going for the money!' I said to myself. Because I realized that once I achieved that goal, I would have the freedom to pursue all my other goals.
So that's what I did. I told my classmates that the goal I would be focusing on was to get rich. And what a difference that made!
I didn't stop to ask myself, 'How are you going to get rich?' Knowing what my goal was, I woke up the next day raring to go. I couldn't wait to get to the office.
Becoming Valuable…and Ultimately Invaluable The next day, I arrived an hour earlier than I normally did. And from that moment on, I looked at almost everything I did according to how it would affect my chances of getting rich.
Here's an example…
Before that day, I'd spent months trying to improve the literary quality of our newsletters by producing an editorial guidebook.
But I looked at my work and thought: How much value does this bring to the company? How much money comes from teaching our writers the fineries of semicolon usage?
Take a moment to imagine working on something for two months, waking up every day and chipping away at a project, and then throwing it out.
That's the sort of epiphany and clarity of vision my decision had granted me. Everything became easier. Every puzzling question seemed simpler. And problems now seemed to have simple solutions. My whole approach to work had changed.
I changed my mindset with the decision to become rich. And I was going to become rich by becoming an intrapreneur.
What Is Intrapreneurship? An entrepreneur strikes out on their own to start a company, adopting risky or innovative approaches along the way. An intrapreneur, on the other hand, seeks to perform a similar role while still working for a company.
The biggest difference is that intrapreneurs have the ability to grow businesses but don't venture out on their own. They feel better being a part of something that is larger than they are.
They thrive as leaders among leaders, building divisions rather than starting and growing their own companies.
They hunt down different ways to accomplish their company's goals, create new products or marketing strategies, and maximize profits by reducing costs and/or increasing revenue.
These are the types of folks you hear about who start from the bottom rung of a company and become CEOs. As they ascend the ranks, they experience and learn about every aspect of their business, becoming far better suited to the job than an outsider.
Within weeks, I went from being a middling employee to a rising star.
The first thing I did was get the attention of my boss and my boss's boss by saving the company $48,000 a year on printing costs. Within weeks, I received a raise five times the company average.
Then I revamped our editorial products, making them easier to read and easier to sell. I fired two writers, whom I should have fired weeks earlier, and replaced them with up-and-comers.
I spent a lot of time reading our marketing materials and trying to understand how to better sell newsletters. I even tried my hand at writing advertising copy.
As a direct result of my efforts, our renewal rates improved. This brought in more revenue and higher profits. By the end of the next year, my salary increased by 66%.
I realized that to become rich as an employee, I had to accept a simple fact about business:
Profit drives everything.
The Key to Extraordinary Employee Wealth Unless you are helping the company generate profit, you're an expense.
And companies are always on the lookout for ways to get rid of expenses.
In my case, as soon as I realized this, I quickly removed myself from the 'danger side' of the business.
And then over a period of three years, I increased company revenues and profits by about 50%. My personal income increased accordingly.
If you want above-average raises, you need to justify the cost by doing above-average work. I call this 'Becoming an Extraordinary, Valuable Employee.'
But if you want to make serious money, you have to transform what you're doing so that it will produce long-term profits for the company you are working for. The better you can do it, the more money you will make. It's as simple as that. I call this 'Becoming an Invaluable Employee, also known as a Superstar.'
For me, the juice was worth the squeeze. By adopting the right mindset and approach to business, focusing on a singular life goal, and becoming an intrapreneur, I became a wealthy man in the service of someone else. Wealthy enough that by the time I retired the first time, I could choose to follow my own path.
What makes a superstar employee? How does one succeed as an intrapreneur?
That's what we intend to cover in this new Wealth Builders Club series-Intrapreneurship 101: The Employee's Guide to Getting Rich Without Quitting Your Day Job. Over the span of the course, I will tell you everything I did along my path to wealth…from acquiring financially valuable skills to landing a big promotion and beyond.
And I'll also share with you some of the experiences of those I've mentored, since their paths, though slightly different than mine, also contain some great insights and valuable tips.
But know this process isn't for everyone.
As I said above, few people ever transcend the ranks of middling employees.
That's because being a superstar employee is as much a mindset as it is a set of behaviors. It requires adopting a new strategic mentality. It also requires physical practice, diligence, sacrifice, and much more.
Do you have what it takes to be a superstar?
Superstar employees know their company inside and out. They become familiar with the company's needs, their boss's needs, the company's history and products, brands, and much more. As an employee, they become both a representative and an advocate for their company. Without this knowledge, it's impossible to know the processes or people involved in different aspects of the company. To assist in the production or marketing of new products, superstars know their company top to bottom and front to back.
Superstar employees find value and purpose in their work. They love the company's output. They show up hours early and leave hours late. They do favors for their bosses and coworkers, over-promising and over-delivering. Superstars find satisfaction and purpose contributing to their company because they appreciate what their company does in the world.
Superstar employees become the company. This is perhaps the most important of all. Superstar employees no longer identify as 'I.' They identify as 'we,' aligning their goals and desires with those of their company.
Superstar employees need little governance to flourish. They do not need their jobs defined in terms of scope and depth because a superstar has no interest in a job with limits. What they want is the ability to grow quickly and take on more responsibility as they progress.
They require little encouragement and a bit of mentorship and freedom but not training, per se. They do not require feedback on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Instead, they prefer to be coached when they need coaching, and they're always grateful for advice when they can get it. With a bit of direction, they figure out how to train themselves.
They also never become 'overloaded' because they thrive on challenge and seek as much 'load' as possible. When they do get in over their heads, they quickly work out the problems themselves and figure out a solution.
James Altucher wrote a great book on the process of becoming a superstar employee. It's called The Rich Employee. (And coincidentally, it published a few months after James and I had a sit down where I introduced him to my thoughts on intrapreneurship. (But that's okay because James admits his inspiration might have come from me.)
According to James, someone who thinks in terms of the 'self' won't be able to pitch new ideas that fit with the company's needs. They also won't be able to find purpose or value in their work nor will they try to learn about their company. And they will be compensated accordingly.
Former U.S. labor secretary Robert B. Reich also has some good thoughts on the 'me' employee mentality. When he visits a workplace, he asks the people employed there a bit about their company.
From Reich's experience, when employees use 'we,' their companies are often healthier and more successful than when employees refer to the company as 'they' (implying that 'I' and 'me' employees don't align their values with their company's).
Indeed, to serve my own goal of becoming rich, my first step was identifying how to make my boss rich. But doing that required that I identify how to make my company grow richer.
I became the company.
Once I did that, I could get the skills and knowledge that would make me more and more valuable every day. Both personally and as an employee.
Important to note here, though, is that while I resolved to succeed and become wealthy, I was never obsessed with the money.
(Well, maybe a little…)
Becoming more valuable… Increasing the standards and performance from myself and my employees… All of it served as ends by themselves. By acting like a superstar, the money followed suit. I never had to hound my bosses for a raise.
If I had spent all my time worrying about money, I never would have focused on the big picture.
I hit singles and doubles and got my lineup in order. Doing this allowed me to win the game. And I knew I'd earned it through my own diligence, patience, and hard work.
This isn't some new-age mumbo jumbo about putting out 'good vibes' and reaping the rewards. You don't simply look in the mirror and chant your way into being a superstar. You get up every day and act like one.
To act like a superstar employee, what I did was take control and responsibility. That's what it all boils down to. And adopting this same mindset will allow you to get the most out of everything I have to tell you about becoming wealthy materially and mentally.
It's easy to shift the scales to become a valuable employee, but if you're going to get rich in your position, you have to do much more.
You don't need to do everything better than your coworkers to double or triple your salary. No matter what you do, however, it should be in the service of your boss and your company.
It might feel a bit artificial at first, but it will soon feel true because it will be true. And you will be on the fast track to making the big bucks.
What, Where, and With Whom? I'm fortunate that when I decided to become a superstar and get rich as an intrapreneur, I worked in a position with opportunities for growth and a boss that gave me the leeway to enact meaningful change.
These are critical elements, and I'll cover them in the next installment of Intrapreneurship 101. Because if you aren't asking the right questions and ensuring that you're in the right situation, you won't even have the chance to become a superstar…let alone wealthy.
The circumstances won't be available to you.
To get on the highway to wealth, first you have to take the right onramp. Or be in the right part of the map!
It all starts with asking three very important questions:
Then 'with whom?'
And nothing could be more critical than the answers to those three questions…
Next month, I'll try to help you answer them.
[Editor's Note: In the previous installment of Intrapreneurship 101, we told you how to develop a 'superstar' mindset and what getting rich as an employee will entail. In this essay, Mark reveals the next step, which is to determine whether you're working in a job that will allow you to get wealthy…or how to find one if you aren't.]
Someone once said that the three most important decisions in life answer the following questions:
What are you going to do? And where? With whom? I thought that was pretty nifty when I first encountered it many years ago. Today, I still think it is practical wisdom wrapped in a nutshell. Especially for people determined to get wealthy as an employee.
It is never too late to ask, 'Am I doing what I want to do, getting the benefits I want and need? Am I where I want to be, geographically and financially? Am I working for and with the people who will help me get rich?'
As I covered in the last installment, the first step of becoming a wealthy employee is a change of mindset. For many of you, you could be perfectly content in your current positions. Should that be the case, what matters is transforming yourself into a valuable, invaluable, and then a superstar employee at your current workplace.
This essay is for the people who need to take one additional step before they can begin that transformation… The people who, perhaps, are not happy with what they're doing, where they are, or with whom they're working…
So, take a few moments now to think about the three questions I asked above. It might help to look at this brief list that identifies what - for me - are the most important characteristics of the perfect job that will afford you the chance to build wealth as an intrapreneur.
The 'What' - Your Perfect Job If you can say the following three statements truthfully, you might have the perfect job already:
I would be happy to do the work I do for free. I believe my work has value - to me and to the people who pay me for it. My work is fully challenging. It engages both the logical and the creative sides of my brain. It's entirely possible that the 'what to do' of your life is not perfect. But don't panic. If it pays the bills, it is something. Our first responsibility, as moral citizens of the world, is to support the financial well-being of our families.
But if your work falls short in other areas - if, for example, it doesn't challenge your intelligence and imagination, or if it doesn't afford you the opportunity for advancement and financial growth - you should commit to making changes.
Lucky intrapreneurs may discover an opportunity to slip into their 'perfect' job. More likely, they can move toward it step by step by making adjustments, as I did in my career. Others, however, might have to consider hunting for a new job that will give them the opportunities necessary to become rich…
Much of what I'm talking about here can be found in my book The Pledge, which I've already sent to you as a Wealth Builders Club member. While this essay uses concepts from The Pledge to show you the ideal you should be striving for in your career, I recommend reading the book to see how the three questions - What? Where? With Whom? - can apply to all facets of your life.
The 'Where' - The Perfect Place to Work Where you live and work is important, too. The physical environment you naturally prefer very much affects your perfect life. (Do you love the mountains, the plains, the beach? Do you prefer big, bustling cities or tranquil little towns?)
When you are starting out, you must go where the work is. But as you move up the ladder of business success, you will have more choice in the matter. This is especially true in today's world, where in so many industries one can work remotely.
Consider, also, your commute. Some people enjoy spending an hour or more every day commuting. They use this time profitably to listen to music or books on tape and so on.
Other people - such as I - prefer a very short commute. Locating my office a mile from my home has enhanced the quality of my life. I can walk, bike, or drive there in less than 15 minutes.
More specifically, the quality of your immediate work environment - your office - affects the quality of your life. Since you are likely to be spending a big portion of your active day in that one place, make sure you like everything about it.
Your office should not be an accidental, junky place that has what you need. It should be a haven where you can work productively and a bit of paradise filled with art and artifacts that give you pleasure.
If where you work doesn't pass muster, it might be time to look elsewhere.
'With Whom' - The Perfect Partners I had always considered the question 'with whom' to be about one's spouse. And that is probably its original meaning. But it is also relevant to one's occupation.
The people with whom you work - your boss, your partners, your colleagues, and your employees - determine to a great extent both the satisfaction and the success you will have from your working life.
If you stop to think about the work experience you've had, you will realize that much of the pleasure or pain you've experienced came from the relationships you had -your interactions with the people with whom you worked.
And you may think that you have no choice in these matters. After all, you can't hire your boss. But in fact, you can. In choosing the business you work for, you are choosing your future colleagues. Later in this essay, I'll show you how to do this.
If you find yourself in a toxic work environment (a work environment that is political rather than entrepreneurial), don't hesitate to look for a better company.
No matter what, though, your bosses and coworkers should have the following characteristics:
They respect you. You have their back. They have your back. You don't expect them to change. You are happy with them the way they are. These four characteristics may seem obvious, but I managed to ignore them for most of my working life. Gradually, I came to recognize how important it was for me to make good choices in terms of partners. These are the characteristics that, after all of these years, seem most important to me.
Choosing the Right Opportunity If you've reached this point, it means you've carefully assessed whether you're doing what you want to be doing and you've decided you want to do something else.
The rest of this essay, then, will cover the first leg of the journey to getting rich as an employee: getting the right job for the right company.
In my first three years of paying attention to my job, I had learned one very important secret about making a lot of money as an employee:
To earn significantly higher raises than the average person, you must perform at a significantly higher level than your coworkers. So long as your work performance is ordinary, you can't expect anything more than an ordinary salary. But if you change your work habits and contribute substantially more than your fellow workers, you can rightly expect to be paid substantially more than they are getting.
Then, in 1982, I moved to Florida to take a position as editorial director of a bigger newsletter-publishing company. I applied my newfound work ethic to my job as editorial director with a vengeance.
My starting salary - at $35,000 - was already an improvement. But by applying what I'd learned to this bigger, faster-growing company, I was able to bring about bigger improvements. Instead of boosting renewal income by $50,000 per year, I could make a $500,000 difference.
The same ideas. The same amount of work. But applied to a larger, faster-growing company. That was a second important secret I discovered about making a great income as an employee:
It's not just what you do at work that matters but with whom you do it. To get the maximum value out of the hard, smart work you do, be sure that you are working for a boss who's willing to promote you and also for a company that is growing (so there will be better positions waiting for you).
This is a wealth-building secret you shouldn't gloss over. In assessing the job you are shooting for, give serious consideration to the person you'll be reporting to, the part of the business you'll be working in, and the business itself.
Finding the Right Company There are three kinds of businesses that can provide the environment you are looking for:
Big corporations will pay you serious money if you are at the top of their food chain. But if you like the idea of working for a big company, be prepared. You will be competing with hundreds of very smart, very well-connected, hardworking people. You will have to be not just extremely good at your job, but also politically shrewd. Because all big companies suffer from some amount of corporate politics. And even if you have what it takes to rise to the top, it will likely take 10-20 years.
Financial service businesses
Brokerages, banks, and insurance companies are happy to pay their best people - if they can perform. Career paths at this level include portfolio managers, marketers, and salespeople. But becoming a top-notch portfolio manager is not easy. It takes years of hard work and a degree of luck. The same can be said for the very best marketers, the people responsible for devising strategies to bring in new customers. And to become a top salesperson, you have to be very good and very aggressive. You may even have to put aside your scruples about treating your customers right.
Small companies with big potential
This was my choice as a young man, and I don't regret it. Starting out with a small company, especially if you are young, gives you a fast track to big money that you won't get in a big corporate environment. It also gives you several ways to become a big moneymaker without sacrificing your principles. Most of What You've Been Told About Job Hunting Is Wrong Most people end up with a job as the result of a combination of loosely structured plans, half-baked notions, unsure actions, and/or fortuitous occurrences. If you ask a dozen executives to retrace their careers, you'll probably hear a dozen versions of 'this happened' and 'that happened,' but very few stories that sound like 'I wanted this, so I did that.'
I've read many books about job hunting. Most of them were full of bad advice. What they explained (sometimes well, sometimes poorly) was how to do well what everyone else is already doing.
When you are competing with hundreds of qualified people for one good job, doing what everyone else is doing - even if you do it especially well - won't get you the job. Why? Because the person to whom you are sending your resume is getting dozens or even hundreds just like yours! When writing resumes, most people do exactly the same thing. They emphasize their strengths, hide their weaknesses, and make identical claims:
'I am highly organized.' 'I get along well with people.' 'I'm a natural leader.' 'I am a self-starter.' 'If I have one fault, it's that I can't tolerate bad work.' 'My biggest weakness? I'm a perfectionist.' Maybe you are highly organized. Perhaps you are a natural-born leader. But when everybody else applying for the job is making the same claim, what's an employer going to do? He will have no way of knowing that your claim is the one true claim in the bunch, so he will discount it along with all the others. Your resume will be given the once-over. And if there is any evidence of imperfection - a mispunctuated sentence, a reference to a hobby the employer doesn't like - it will be tossed in the trash. How do I know? Because I've rejected thousands of conventional resumes.
Employers are tired of sorting through the same old cover letters and reading the same old resumes. And they are fed up with hearing the same old lines. If you really want to get hired, you have to distinguish yourself. The best way to do that is to forget about the standard package and replace it with a more sophisticated, more personalized pitch that is based on proven direct-marketing principles.
Direct marketing is the science of creating positive responses (sales) with letters. As a job seeker, you are likewise going to be seeking positive responses with letters. By using the secrets of the direct-mail industry, you'll dramatically increase your chances of getting the kind of response ('Come in for an interview!') you are looking for.
The best book I've read on this subject is Jeffrey Fox's Don't Send a Resume. Fox compares the job hunt not to direct marketing per se but to something similar: direct sales. And he compares conventional resumes to a salesperson's cold calls. He says:
Cold calls have a low success rate. The customer may have absolutely no need for the product, may not even be in the office… The person who receives the resume may have no need for an additional employee, may not even be the hiring person.
Fox is right. The conventional approach to getting a job hardly ever works because standard resumes and cover letters are too broadly written ('Dear Sir' or 'To Whom It May Concern'), they are sent out to too wide an audience, and they talk too much about the sender and too little about the reader. Anybody who's been in the sales or direct-marketing business for even a few weeks will tell you that these are three major strikes against you.
In the next essay, I'll tell you how to write cover letters and resumes that will help you score the all-important job interview.
In this essay, I'll tell you how to write cover letters and resumes that will help you score the all-important job interview. Before that, though, you need to start looking for the places you would want to work…
You Need to Know This Before Sending Out Resumes The most important thing you need to realize about getting a job is this: The people who will be reading your letter are not really interested in you. They're interested in themselves. And if one of them is the right boss for you, that person is also interested in his business - the problems and the challenges he faces every day. This employer may be in need of an assistant, but he doesn't care about how wonderful that person is. This boss just wants to know one thing: Can this person solve my problems?
To be specific, employers don't care about your career goals, what you like to do in your spare time, and what organizations you've joined. They are used to seeing that kind of information on resumes, and they may even ask you questions about some of those facts during an interview. But they're doing so only because they're hoping to discover something more important about you. And that is some version of the answer to 'Can this person solve my problems?'
It's very important that you send your letter directly to your prospect - the person you are going to work for - not some stooge in the human resources department. You must do everything you can to find out who your prospective boss is and get your letter into his hands.
Once you've done that, you need to sell your 'customer' on the idea that you can make his life much easier and the business much better if you are hired. You can't just say it. You have to convince the boss of it. To do that, you need to figure out specific ways you can save the business time, hassle, and waste, and ultimately boost sales and improve profits.
Let's get back to direct marketing. The direct marketer knows that, to make a sale, he can't waste his prospect's time by talking about himself. Everything he writes must be focused on the prospect's problem and how much better her life will be after she's bought his product.
This is exactly what you have to do when you send out job-hunting letters. You have to let your prospective dream job employer know that you understand exactly what his problems are and that you have solutions for each and every one of them.
Think of it this way: When seeking a job, the letter and the resume are parts of a direct-mail promotion.
The letter is intended to sell. As a sales letter, it must be about the prospect's problems, not about your strengths, weaknesses, or wishes.
The resume is secondary. With the right sales letter, it's not even necessary. If you do include a resume, it should serve as a quick-reference guide to your previous successes and strengths rather than giving a lot of superfluous information about hobbies or career objectives.
The prospect - the guy who you are going to work for - is the customer.
You are the product - the product that is going to solve his problems.
Learn About the Industry and Companies You're Interested In The way to land a great job is to narrow your field. Choose an industry. Pick the top 50 businesses in that industry. If possible, give preference to those businesses that are growing. You have a much better chance of getting a job and moving up in your career by getting involved with a growing company.
Out of the 50, target a limited number of potential future employers - three or four. Then, make it your goal to learn everything you can about each business. Research the company's history, its practices, and its products. Research its competitors and identify in each case the differences between them. Read all the press releases and annual reports available for each business. Determine its goals, problems, and challenges. While you're at it, find out the secret to the company's growth.
Here is the absolute minimum information you should know about a potential employer:
The company's annual sales (approximately) Its primary profit center (what really makes its money) Its greatest business strength Its greatest business weakness You won't get this information from a brochure. You'll have to make a few phone calls and/or read some reports. Get in touch with employees, competitors, and/or industry analysts - and ask questions.
Find out what it takes to excel at the job you want. Look into what your prospective employer looks for when hiring entry-level people. And figure out the tricks and skills the successful people in that field use to get to the top and stay there.
After doing this, you will understand the important facts about your chosen industry, and you will have learned something about how your target company works -specifically, how the department that might be hiring you works. But you need to learn how to get your cover letter to that very important person: your prospective boss.
How to Ruin a Good Resume Most career counselors and employment experts would agree that people tend to make the same mistakes when writing their resumes. These mistakes include:
Lack of focus. Like any headline, a career objective must grab the reader's attention. If your resume is vague, pretentious, or rambling ('A challenging, rewarding position that will enable me to get to the highest pinnacle possible with my experience'), you risk losing the reader. Inaccurate or false information. Because many companies check your education and job references, you risk your career by padding your resume with half-truths or lies. Listing references. There's no need to list references - it's understood that you'll provide them when asked. Unclear writing. Don't worry about complete sentences, but do make sure to convey your points clearly. Salary requirements. Your current or desired compensation is an issue you can raise during your interview. Gaps in your employment history. It's not a good idea to exclude any job you've held - even if it ended badly. Find another way to solve the problem, short of fudging. Consider using years only instead of months and years (2010-2012 versus May 2010-June 2012). Typos. Proofread your resume and ask a friend or family member to proofread it as well. Even one spelling error could land your resume in the trash. Including unnecessary information. There's no need to include your age, your marital status, your reason for leaving your current job, or a physical description of yourself. Excluding critical information. Your resume should clearly state your name, address, phone number, and email address. Learn About Your Future Boss After you've looked into the business itself, find out whom you want to work for - the exact person.
This may take more research, but it is important to address your resumes and cover letters to real people. Figure out what that person needs to make his own life better.
Does he need someone who can improve the company's products? Reduce costs? Increase sales? Reduce the time wasted in following up on things? Find out what it is that your prospective boss needs, even if you have to do so by having an informal 'informational interview' with the person. (More about how to do this later.)
Another good way to determine what an employer needs is to get firsthand knowledge of what his business is lacking. If you can spare the time, you can accomplish this by working for the company part time or as an intern.
Once you know everything possible about your prospective employer, write your sales letter to that person. The letter should state, respectfully and concisely, how you intend to help achieve the employer's objectives if you are hired.
Remember, you are selling yourself. So treat this as an opportunity to sell your future boss on your product: you. Be specific. Make strong promises. Your letter can be a formal letter, a personal note, an interoffice memo, or even an email. The medium you use is a matter of what's appropriate for the relationship. But the fundamental nature of the letter remains the same.
It should say something good about the company and the person you want to work for. It should let your prospect know that you know his goals, problems, objectives, and so on. It should make the claim that you are the person to solve/achieve them. It should prove that you are that person. It should make a specific request (ask for the job). It's okay to send a resume along with your sales letter. It should serve as a quick-reference guide to your previous successes and strengths instead of giving a lot of superfluous information about hobbies or career objectives.
If you write a great letter, you'll no doubt get a chance to prove to your prospective employer, face to face, that you're the right choice for the job. When you get the interview, show him that you are determined to work day and night to prove that you are the best employee he has ever hired.
Remember, this employer wants you just as much as you want him. All employers hope to find superstars to make their lives easier and their businesses more successful. As a future superstar, you are going to fill that role for your employer.
Do all the other, less important things, too - such as dressing properly and giving the employer a good handshake. But never lose sight of the main idea: You are the product. And you are the salesperson, too. Sell your prospective employer on what he wants to be sold on: that you will improve his life.
Once you understand the basic idea of how a good sales letter works - and realize that getting a job is selling yourself-it will become immediately apparent that 95% of the resume writers out there are doing it wrong.
That, of course, means more opportunity for you.
The Informational Interview Targeting your best prospects and sending them tailored cover letters should get you plenty of interviews. But what do you do if your heart is set on one particular company and that company doesn't invite you in?
Here's a clever technique that could work: Schedule a short informational interview with your prospective boss. An informational interview is a great way to get in that locked door and find out a lot of personal and professional information about your target prospect.
A properly conducted informational interview will tell you exactly what promises you should make later on, when you do get the job interview. And once you've actually met and listened to the boss talk about himself for 20 or 30 minutes, your chances of getting a job interview are - needless to say - now much better. If you do a really good job at the informational interview, you may even end up with the job you want before you leave the office.
Here's a quick example:
Phone call, Monday afternoon: 'Thank you for taking my call, Mr. Jadhav. I've been watching your career, and I have admired what you've done. I specifically liked that last marketing campaign you did. That was a very clever campaign. I'm interested in pursuing a career in marketing, and I was wondering, Mr. Jadhav, if you could spare me 10 or 15 minutes one day to tell me a little bit about the marketing business from your perspective.'
Informational interview, Thursday morning: 'Thank you so much for seeing me. I know you are very busy. I won't be more than 10 minutes. My, what an impressive office you have! Tell me, Mr. Jadhav, what would you say is the most important thing a person like me would need to learn to be successful in the marketing business?'
Half an hour later: 'Well, the truth is, I'm ready to start working now. Really? You'd be interested in hiring someone like me? Gee. I don't know what to say. I'm flabbergasted. I'll tell you this: I will never disappoint you. I'll work day and night. I'll follow every suggestion. I'll listen to every word you say.' (And so on.)
Monday morning: You've got the job.
(Editor's Note: In the third and final part of the article, Mark Ford sheds light on eight hacks that will dramatically increase your chances of landing the job interview of your dreams. Stay tuned!)
[Editor's Note: In the previous parts of this essay, Mark showed how you can determine whether you are working in the right company and with the right people. If not, move on to find the right organization. Mark had also shed light on how to write an effective resume and what employers look for in resume. In this last and final part, Mark gives you some hacks to write a clean, informative cover letter. And how to succeed in the most vital part of recruitment - the job interview.]
Follow the steps below and you will be able to write a clean, informative cover letter that is specifically targeted at your prospective employer. As a result, you will almost certainly be called in for a personal interview.
If you're not using email, the envelope you use should be of good quality, and the address should be typed in a way that makes the letter look personal. It should be addressed to a specific person: Mr. Dinesh Jain, Vice President of Marketing. This should be the person you want to work for. Never send resumes addressed to generic titles (Personnel Manager, Accounting Manager, etc.), and never use bulk mail. And don't allow your post office to meter your mail. The more your envelope looks like something that might have come from a friend, the greater the chances that it will get opened. Your cover letter should be very personal. As we discussed earlier, it should indicate that you (a) know the company in some detail, (b) like the company, and © believe you have something specific and valuable to contribute to it. If you include a resume, it should be specifically tailored to the individual company you are applying to. Each resume should be a carefully crafted and unique piece. Don't use self-serving cliches (such as 'a passion for helping people') that virtually any job candidate can make. Instead, use facts, incidents, and numbers to reveal your qualities and capabilities. When writing about your accomplishments, focus on what you have done recently (say, in the last few years). If you have no relevant experience, don't try to pretend you do by making a job at Burger King sound like rocket science. Here is where you make up for your lack of experience by showing specific knowledge of the company and industry you aim to work for. If you've done your homework well, you will be seen as a blank slate with great potential (always desirable). Don't summarize your career, experience, or skills at the end of the letter. State the facts briefly and clearly - once. Remember the value of having connections. Each employer wants to know as much about a potential employee as possible in order to make the right decision about who to hire. So, do what you can to be recommended by someone in the company you want to work for - or by someone in the same industry. By eliminating one more 'unknown' from your background, you'll have an advantage in getting an interview. Many candidates are hired through referrals, so never stop networking. And if you have a contact inside your target company, make sure you mention him or her in your letter. The Interview Your interview should be approached with the same seriousness as your cover letter. So, before the interview, take the time to plan out what you're going to do and say.
If you have any control over the situation, try to interview after all other candidates have finished. Hiring consultants say that the last person interviewed has a slight edge over previous interviewees - and having any edge over the competition can never hurt. Be prepared to tell your interviewer exactly why he should hire you. This is a chance for you to put your research to the test. Show that you know the company well enough to know exactly how you can be an asset. Explain just how you will make your boss's life easier by being his employee. Know your strengths and weaknesses as they are relevant to this job. Honesty is important, but it is probably a good idea to withhold the information that you burst into hysterical tears right before a deadline. Instead, focus on weaknesses that you have overcome. Have a list of your future goals. Your interviewer may want to know where you see yourself in three years, five years, or 10 years. Make sure your goals are ambitious but realistic. An interviewer may be put off if you say you see yourself as CEO in three years. The interviewer may be equally put off if you mention that you see yourself in the same position indefinitely. Refresh your memory about your extracurricular activities. Interviewers often ask about hobbies and pastimes. According to an article in USA Today('Common Interview Questions'), interviewers are not simply curious as to whether you have a life - they are probably looking for evidence that you have job-related skills outside of your professional experience. If, for example, you play chess or bridge, that shows you have analytical skills. Reading, music, and painting demonstrate your creativity. Individual sports show that you have determination and stamina. And participation in group sports indicates that you are comfortable working as part of a team. At the Interview: 7 Sales Techniques That Will Land You the Job Don't waste the good work you've done so far by coming in and doing what most everyone else does.
What do most people do? I'll tell you.
They come in (dressed in their best suits), sit down, and try to smile. They answer the first few questions nervously. Then, as time goes on, they relax and start talking about themselves. The more questions they are asked, the better they like it.
By the end of a half-hour, they've spent 20 minutes talking about all the ways they think they are wonderful and every hobby they enjoy doing. If they are lucky, they've devoted five minutes to a discussion of the job they will be doing - and in that time, they might have said something like 'I'm sure I can do the job.'
This kind of interview is not going to get you hired. It's at least safe to say that if it does, it is only because the other interviewees were even lamer than you were.
You don't want to be hired because you were the best of a bad lot. You want to set a fire in your future boss' imagination. You want to get that boss thinking about how much better life will be the moment you start working for the company. In the words of Jeffrey Fox in Don't Send a Resume, 'If you don't know why the company should hire you, it's a good bet the company won't know either.'
Here are some specific sales techniques you should use when you go for an interview:
Have a specific objective in mind and work hard to achieve it. If you haven't been promised it by the end of the interview, ask for it. (Nicely.) Remember that the hiring interview is a sales call. Let the customer talk as much as he wants. Listen. Nod your head. Smile and agree. When the interviewer asks a question, give the answer that he wants to hear. If you have been listening closely, you will know what that is. Consider showing something - a customer survey, industry data, or the like - that illustrates the work you've already done and helps make the case that you can contribute to the company's success. The tactic of showing is a time-honored staple in the repertoire of strong salespeople. If you interview at a restaurant, don't drink alcohol and/or order something and eat very little of it. In your research, discover dress preferences, if any, of the company you're interviewing for. Don't be a rebel. Conform. Don't try to befriend your prospective employer. If you feel you might not get the job you are seeking, suggest that you can do a project for the company on a freelance basis. Perhaps even free. 'That way,' you can say, 'you can find out if I can do what I've promised, without any risk on your part.' This works in selling vacuum cleaners. It should work when you're selling yourself. After the Interview: The All-Important Follow-Up Once the interview is over, write a thank-you note. You don't have to write pages and pages. Just a few lines to thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you.
A thank-you note has three purposes. It reminds your prospective employer of your interview. It gives you a chance to restate your most persuasive argument for why you deserve the job. And it proves that you not only have good manners but also care about the job.
A good thank-you note has the following characteristics:
It is on stationery, not scrap paper. It's handwritten, not typewritten. It mentions the prospective employer by name. It says something specific about the interview. It includes the words 'thank you.' Writing a thank-you note is an extremely simple task. But, simple as it is, most people don't remember to send one. You should do it immediately after any interview, informational or formal. The fact that you took the time to thank your potential employer for meeting with you will set you apart from the other applicants.
A word about persistence It should be clear from everything I've said so far that persistence is essential if you're going to succeed in this world.
That shouldn't surprise you. Of all the qualities that contribute to an accomplished life, none is more important than persistence. Intelligence, knowledge, connections, luck - they are all important ingredients in the stew of success. But persistence is the stock.
Here's a little story about persistence - or the lack thereof…
Some years ago, I attended a conference in Florida where about 200 would-be copywriters had assembled to learn more about the direct-mail business and make contacts. J.T., the publisher of a large direct-mail company, invited the crowd to contact her if they wanted to try out for freelance positions.
Shockingly, only eight of the 200 came up to her after her speech and signed up for the opportunity. Imagine that - 192 out of 200 were too busy, scared, lazy, or whatever to take advantage of the kind of career opportunity that comes only once or twice in a lifetime. The eight who did respond were asked to send J.T. writing samples. Only one person did!
Keep this story in mind whenever you feel like you are competing against too many other people.
Now That You've Been Hired… Once you've been hired, the challenge will be to turn yourself into an extraordinary employee - the kind of employee who gets extraordinary raises.
If you are an employee now and are wondering about the feasibility of getting rich…you can do it. But as an employee, there is really only one way to get rich…
You must first make your boss richer. And if he has a boss, you must make him richer as well. Your ultimate goal is to make the owner of the company much richer - and the only way to do that is to make the company much more profitable.
As you will see in the next installments of this series, I have many suggestions on how to do that.
By now you are well-acquainted with the term intrapreneurship. Essentially, it's an employee with an entrepreneur's mindset. Someone who has the capacity to initiate and execute projects from start to finish.
You may wonder then, what is the difference between a project manager and an intrapreneur in an organization? The difference is in the attitude toward the project undertaken. The employee is looking at the project as a job to be done, while an intrapreneur is looking at it as a business idea that can bring revenue to the company.
When you take on a project as an intrapreneur, you need to clearly project a revenue model. You need to pay close attention to the profit and loss sheet and try to ensure the project is a lucrative one. This forces you to think like a businessperson, and not as an employee.
In many cases intrapreneurs also work out a certain stake in the project's profits. This way they are real stakeholders in the company's new venture.
The clear focus on numbers is one quality an intrapreneur needs to acquire; another is the intrapreneur's ability to look at the project with an innovative lens. An intrapreneur will not just execute a project, but will look at how he/she can create a new product/service for the customer and change the way things have been done in the past.
Let me tell you about my own experience of being an intrapreneur… When I came to Common Sense Living, I saw it as a place to primarily express myself as a writer. But over a period of time, I realised that my old entrepreneurial instincts kept coming back to the fore… I was used to collaborating with many people on a project, I was used to creating projects for clients on tight budgets, and I was also good at marketing those projects.
Those qualities never go away even when you're in the corporate world… And of course they have to find expression in some form. With that was born the Indipreneur Launchpad Course, which all of you have access to as members of the Wealth Builders Club on www.indipreneur.in. You can login with your existing login id and password to explore the course content.
Indipreneur was a great opportunity for me to give expression once again to the entrepreneur in me, and from the safe confines of a job. But even though it was a part of the job, it came with all the risks of any venture and it asked me to assess my own risk-taking appetite… Could I execute the project within the given timeframe? Did I really know what the customer wanted? Would the project see any profits? And if it did see failure, by how much would it set me, and the company, back?
Which brings me to the main point of this essay. For an intrapreneur, just like for an entrepreneur, the focal points of a project/venture stay much the same. At a recent startup conclave in the city, a research report by Ernst and Young showed that seven aspects will determine a startup's scalability and sustainability, viz: 1) Customer 2) Operations 3) Leadership 4) People 5) Finance & Transactions 6) Risk Management 7) Technology.
These seven aspects are actually at the core of any new venture, be it by a startup or a project in an organization. Let's look at how focusing on each one of them can help you sharpen your focus as an intrapreneur:
Customer: Undoubtedly, the customer has to be at the centre of any new business idea. As an intrapreneur, you can think of the pain points of existing customers… For this you may have to read between the lines, analyze the feedback you've got so far, and understand what their needs are. Talk to your customer service department, read testimonials received, and even chat with the occasional customer who visits your office. Additionally, if your idea addresses any gaps in the systems or processes of your company, and helps create smoother and more efficient systems for the end user, you will definitely find instant support for that too.
Operations: For an intrapreneur, operations relates to the various processes and people needed for a project to be successfully executed. For these you will have to list the KRA (key result areas) - in terms of the project, what you wish to achieve and how you will measure it; and KPI (key performance indicators) - how you will evaluate the performance of the people involved in the project.
Leadership: As a project leader, you will need various leadership traits. You will have to bring people together in one common mission, keep them motivated and steer them toward the goal you wish to achieve. More than anything, you will have to show that you yourself are dependable and accountable as a leader. If your hypothesis goes wrong, get ready to accept it and pivot quickly. And, if your venture fails, accept it, and gracefully take the blame for it, but don't forget to learn from it. Richard Branson says, 'All failure is fine, once you've learned the lessons from it.' People: Any project you undertake needs a talent pool to bring it to fruition. Choose people from within the organization who you think will add value to the project. As a project leader, you may also have to find small ways to incentivize the team working on your project. Look at ways in which you can compensate them better. Also, keep channels of communication open. Miscommunication or lack of communication will not only create misunderstandings, but also hamper the eventual outcome of your project.
Finance and transactions: As I mentioned before, make clear projections on the financials involved in the project. As an intrapreneur, the company is allowing you to dip into its resources during the course of the project; this is essentially a cost to the company. So draw up a profit and loss sheet, including all the resources you will use, and make approximate estimates of the number of transactions you see taking place once the product/service is launched. This guesstimate can be made after analyzing the past purchasing decisions of customers.
Risk Management: Every project/venture comes with a certain amount of risk. Even if your stakes are low as an intrapreneur, the risk of failure is still a big one… Professionally you may feel you will lose face if the project fails, and the company may not trust you with new projects in the future. The truth is that success and failure cannot be predicted, but only managed. In the case of risk, one can mitigate it by thinking of other alternatives. For example, don't just bank on that one project, find other projects in the organisation that you can also work on. And, for the project itself, you can mitigate its risk by testing it with a focus group before going into full-fledged production.
Technology: Technology is the cornerstone of new ventures nowadays. In some ventures technology is an enabler, while in others, it is at the core of the product or service offered. As an intrapreneur, depending on what you create, incorporate the existing technology in your organisation to create smoother processes. Lean on technology to enable the final outcome and to reduce multiple processes. Automate as much as possible, optimizing existing software and minimizing other resources like manpower and time.
What have your experiences as an intrapreneur been? Have you initiated a project of your own in your company, and how did you manage its success or failure. Discuss your answers with other members on WBC Conversations.
The job interview - the very nature of it is off-balanced. The interviewer has the power to hire. The interviewee wants to be hired.
So, you might feel intimidated or even a bit humiliated by the process.You might behave nervously or overly deferential toward the person interviewing you.
You can and should be in charge of the interview. It can and should be an experience that allows you to feel powerful and relaxed. Don't think of it as the employer deciding whether you are worthy of being an employee of the company. Think of it as you deciding whether the company and the job being offered are worthy of you.
Be in charge by taking charge:
Prepare. Research the company and the job before you arrive. Understand how the company works and makes profits. Know what skills and experiences are required for the job. Being prepared will make you feel more confident, and it will also help you turn the table by letting you be in charge. Link. By understanding the job requirements beforehand, you can talk confidently about how your own skills, experiences, and attitudes matchup with those requirements. Synthesize. Weave these matchups into your answers to as many of the interviewer's questions as possible, even if this means giving information he or she didn't explicitly ask for. As you share more of yourself, a bigger picture of your skills and personality will begin to emerge. You'll find the interviewer tailoring the questions to fit you and your background, rather than the other way around. Interrogate. Specifically, ask hard questions that make the interviewer reflect. For example, “What is the biggest challenge this company has faced, and how did you get through it?” Self-value. Keep thinking: “This company could really use someone like me. They would be very lucky to have me.” This kind of mindset will push the interviewer to try and impress you. It will also give you an opportunity to understand the company more thoroughly. You don't have to approach an interview passively… And you don't have to hope you get a set of questions that allows you to give a complete picture of why you're the best person for the job.
Come prepared, control how things go, and make the ideal interview happen for yourself.
And don't forget to follow…
Common Sense Living's 11 Rules To Crack Your Job Interview… The Virtue of Laziness, Part 2
Keep your resume updated: The interview process starts much before the interview. The first step is to keep a well-written, well-designed and up-to-date resume with your recent work experience and any other courses or educational initiatives you've been a part of. The resume is the first impression. If it's neatly designed in a structured and clear format, readable font and complete with all the information needed, that's half the battle won. I will not get into the various aspects of writing a resume as that's an article by itself, but I would like to give you just one tip: make a conscious effort to highlight your contributions to your past organizations and the different learnings you got from them.
Research the company: It's always good to go through the company's website and research online for any other information you need. If possible, talk to its current employees you may know. This will give you an idea about the company's ethos and its eventual expectations from you. Also, it may be wise to know who the senior rung of the organization comprises of, this will give you a chance to get familiar with the names and designations before you get there. During the interview, some knowledge about the company, will also give you opportunities to talk about any ideas you have for it and why you see yourself being compatible with the organization.
Dress for the occasion: Conservative and overdressed is generally the norm for job interviews. I would say, whatever you wear, ensure it's ironed, spotless and suits your style. Don't wear anything you've not worn before, as you don't want wardrobe malfunctions during an interview. Also solid colours work better as opposed to very loud prints or something too fashionable. You want to fit in with an organization, not stand out. Even if the organization is an ad agency and very hip, don't assume you can be too funky, play safe and wear what you would wear to any other job interview. Particularly for the service industry, where grooming is everything, polish your shoes and put on your favourite business suit.
Carry what you need: Getting organized before the interview is essential. You may want to carry more copies of your resume, just in case they need to be passed around. You can also carry samples of your previous work. For example, a folder with your work portfolio, a pen drive with your research, and a list of at least three references with their contact details. Additionally, also focus on carrying a nice formal folder rather than something cheap and made of plastic. A leather bound one or a textured one works well.
Get there on time: There is no excuse for being late at an interview, it will definitely go against you. Do what you have to in order to be on time. Cancel all other meetings for the day, check out the location on Google Maps or ask someone what's the fastest way to get there from your home. Plan your route and mode of transport in advance and get there no earlier than 15 minutes before your scheduled time. You don't want to wait around for too long and feel awkward in the meanwhile.
Turn off your cellphone: Another complete no-no: You can't have your phone ring or look down at it for messages while at an interview. So switch it off, put it away in your bag and forget about it for that period of time. You don't want to feel or look distracted as the interview should be the most important thing at that point in time; focus on it completely and pay full attention to the questions you're asked.
Shake hands firmly: It doesn't matter if you are a man or woman here, the handshake has to be a firm one. But it should be initiated by the other person. Don't hold out your hand till you see the person hold his out. And when you see him initiate it, don't just give your fingers, it should be the full hand, with the four fingers stretched out and the thumb pointing upward, followed by a firm clasp - not so tight that you hurt the other person, just firm and sure - reflecting confidence and warmth at the same time.
Listen to the questions: Being patient and hearing the interviewer out is the first part of a healthy dialogue during interviews. You may have a lot to say about yourself and the work you've done, but first understand what the other person wants to know. The questions in an interview are very often not about who you are and what you've done, but about how you will respond to certain situations and if your values match those of the organization. Let the interviewer finish his sentence, think it over and then respond.
Work on body language: Body language acts as a gauge of your character and confidence. For example, if you don't make enough eye contact, you can be viewed as a shifty person, if you're fidgeting too much, you could be perceived as nervous, if you sit too stiff you could appear scared and tense. So look the person in the eye, smile to show you're relaxed, use hand gestures when necessary and sit straight and not hunched to show you're alert and not laidback.
Don't get too chatty: You're here for business and work and not to make friends, so don't talk too much. Be to the point, add a dash of humour if needed but keep the conversation at a minimum. At a job interview, it's best to let the interviewer set the tone for the conversation. You should mainly focus on giving intelligent answers. Say thank you enough: From the receptionist who let you in, to the person who interviewed you and even the guard or liftman of the office building, say your thank yous. You'll be surprised at how your courteous nature may be tracked before and after the interview. Interview etiquette also demands a thank you note following the meeting, thanking the interviewers for their valuable time. Take out your best letter paper, use a good pen and write a thank you note… yes, the written one has more value than an email!
Are you feeling more confident about your next job interview now? So put on your best smile, straighten your tie and enter that boardroom with a calm and positive attitude, and be sure you'll definitely get that dream job and salary!
If I didn't make a change, I knew I would die poor… Living out my days a frustrated English professor or small-fry editor, with hair in my ears and an unfinished manuscript hidden in my desk.
In 1977, I was working for a small, Washington, D.C.-based publishing company. I edited a couple of newsletters - one about Latin American politics and another about African business and economics. I was earning $14,000 per year, and my wife was earning less than that.
Our two salaries barely covered our ordinary living expenses.
On top of that, I was attending graduate school, and we were paying off student loans. Then our first son was born. For the first six months of his life, he slept in an open drawer in our bedroom.
Recognizing that I had to take the monetary side of my work more seriously (up to that point, I was concerned mostly with trying to become a famous writer), I knew I had to change the way my boss, Leo, felt about me.
Until then, he saw me as a bright kid who was on the borderline of being more trouble than I was worth. I got to work and did my thing. But I had the typical young writer's distaste for everything that had to do with the business side of business.
I didn't like marketing, and I loathed sales. I didn't even like to include renewal forms in the envelopes that carried our newsletters.
I would have been perfectly happy to try to make the editorial content of the newsletters better - if Leo were to ask me to do that. But he would be wasting his time if he thought I was going to help him figure out how to make the business more profitable.
That prejudice had to change, I realized, if I expected to get a significant raise.
My goal was to get a $2,000 raise. If I didn't change my work habits, I knew my raise would probably be about $500.
I began by working longer hours and doing everything Leo asked - immediately and well.
He remarked on the improvement in my productivity. Within a month, he was favouring me over the other employees, ever so slightly, when it came time to delegating tasks.
Knowing that Leo was very concerned with expenses, I spent a week looking into ways we could reduce them. Although we were a small organization, we spent a good deal on typesetting and printing. By calling around town to typeset shops and printers, I was able to come up with a plan to reduce our yearly costs by about $48,000.
Leo boosted my income to $16,000 several weeks later. That had been my goal, and it represented, I realize now, a 14% increase. That was about five times the company's average and probably more than I deserved.
I think Leo was so impressed with my transformation from an average, semi-talented, reluctant-to-help writer to a helpful member of the business team that he wanted to reward me.
I was happy with my raise. But I realized that unless I continued to improve, my next raise wouldn't be as big. I'd get a better-than-average increase, because I had turned into a better-than-average employee, but that wouldn't satisfy me.
To get more, I knew I had to give more. So, without being asked, I redoubled my efforts to keep expenses down and worked to improve the editorial quality of our newsletters. As a result of my efforts, our newsletter renewal rates improved. This brought in more revenues and higher profits.
Over a period of three years, I came up with dozens of ideas that reduced costs and improved the quality of our products. By coming in early, working late, and being the go-to guy when problems arose, my salary increased from $16,000 to $30,000.
Thirty thousand dollars doesn't sound like a lot today. Back then, however, it was substantial. Especially considering the industry and the business I worked for.
Here's what I'm trying to explain: I doubled my salary by changing from an ordinary employee into a very valuable one. My new compensation was the result of adding multiples of my raise to the bottom line.
I did that not by being smarter than my colleagues, but by working a bit harder and a good deal more shrewdly.
This was my first experience of this kind. As I mentioned in Intrapreneurship 101 #1, I later learned so much more - boosting my pay from $30,000 to $70,000 in 12 months and then beyond a million 12 months later.
Don't Be Satisfied With Ordinary Most people go through their lives working for businesses they care nothing much about, dealing with problems they'd rather not face, and getting paid wages they'd very much like to change.
The average worker in India gets wage increases of barely 5-10%. When you take inflation into account, as you can imagine, your buying power (which is what income after inflation amounts to) doesn't increase at all or barely from year to year.
But you don't have to worry about net income increases of only 1-2% a year if you follow my recommendations.
Your income will increase in two ways: You will outpace the average salary for your position because you will work harder than your fellow employees. And you will outpace the usual career advancement curve (i.e., you'll be promoted higher and faster) because you will have skills and knowledge that will make you special.
By now, you should realize that:
If you are satisfied being an ordinary employee, you will never earn enough money to grow wealthy. If you contribute significantly more to your business than your fellow workers do, you can expect to see significant pay increases over time. These increases will be enough to give you a better lifestyle, but they will make you wealthy only after many, many years of scrimping and saving. It is only by making yourself an invaluable employee that you can expect your income to skyrocket. The idea is to dramatically boost your salary by dramatically boosting your value - fast.
And the way to do that is to make the transition from an ordinary employee into an extraordinary one.
The Six Habits of Extraordinary Employees If you want an extraordinary income, you have to become an extraordinary worker. To do that, you have to develop six important work habits:
Get in early. There is no better way to demonstrate your commitment to your company than by getting to work earlier than everybody else. Getting to work early sends a good message: “I'm here! I am eager to work! I'm ahead of the crowd!” Understand your responsibilities. You may have received a job description when you were hired, and it may do a pretty good job of telling you what you have to do. But until you understand how what you do affects your company's bottom line, you'll never be able to make good decisions about which projects to focus on.
The best way to do that is to make an appointment with your boss and ask, “What are the top 10 ways I can make you more successful at your job?”
Don't worry about appearing to want to curry favor with your boss. Tell him you realize your chances of success depend on his success. Say, for example, “I'm not asking for specific to-dos. Once I know your main objectives, I will be able to make good decisions on my own. That's why I'm asking. Because I want to make sure my work plan is in gear with yours.” Focus on what's important. Once you know what your boss needs from you, apply the Pareto principle to your work. The Pareto principle says that 80% of the success of just about anything comes from 20% of the attention it's given. So list your boss's top 10 priorities. Then identify two that will have the greatest impact on his success. (Hint: They will probably have something to do with improving the company's bottom line.) Those are the priorities that you will focus on. (Keep in mind that your boss may not know what his priorities should be. After working with him for a while, you may have a better idea of what will contribute to his success than he does.) Never say no. Employees often wonder whether saying yes to every request will make them look weak or dependent. The answer is no. Your boss wants a yes to every request he makes of you. Saying no - though sometimes warranted - may sound like you are moving against him. If you have already established your priorities, you'll have no problem identifying requests that don't contribute to your boss's (and your) success.
When asked to do something of that nature, tell him that you will be happy to get to it at some time in the future, but at the moment you are working on things that you believe he would rather see done. Then list what those things are. Chances are, your boss will modify or even drop the request. If not, you can be sure there is a good reason. Improve your skills. Unless you keep growing - in terms of your knowledge and skills - you can't expect your income to keep rising. Ask questions about every aspect of your business that is related to what you do. Find out what you can about the other areas - especially sales and marketing. Read executive memos. Take work-related courses. Have regular chats about business with the power people in your business. Implement what you learn in your work. Communicate your progress. Doing your job well is good. And getting better at it as time passes is better. But unless you let your boss and other powerful people at work know about your progress, you can't be sure they will help you. Make it a habit to update your superiors, in writing, on the challenges you face and the objectives you've achieved. In promoting yourself professionally, follow these three rules: Tell the truth. False promotion is worse than none at all. Be generous with credit to others. When reporting your accomplishments, be specific… and keep your ego in check. How Hard Do You Have to Work? Developing the above six work habits isn't easy. You may be thinking, “I'm not sure I want to work that hard.” If so, consider this: Most employees work to simply get by. Some actually try to do as little work as they can get away with.
Even employees who seem productive often waste much of their time doing noncritical work like writing long memos about issues that aren't critical to the business…or arguing points that don't much matter…or working on projects that don't really affect the company's bottom line.
In most businesses - which likely includes the company you get your first good job with - only a very few people get in early and stay focused on what really matters.
In my reading on the topic, many employment experts explain that workers fall somewhere on a bell-shaped curve when it comes to diligence and follow-through. At the bottom of the curve are the loafers and goof-offs. In the middle is the silent majority that does just enough to get by. At the top are the relative few who are motivated to achieve.
When you understand the dynamics of any such group, you understand that a modest amount of hard work will put you beyond both the terminally slothful and the limp-along middle crowd. Just by being modestly ambitious, you will rise to the top third of almost any organization. But getting up the last few rungs of that ladder - into that top 20% - will be tough, because the few you are competing against are competing hard.
Chances are, they are as smart and talented as you, with the same (or more) basic resources. They may even have better contacts. But there is one thing they don't have more of, and that is time.
If you can use your time more effectively than they use theirs, you will move ahead of them. Hard workers eventually succeed even against those who have advantages. You can do better than someone who is smarter, richer, and luckier than you-so long as you are willing to work harder than that person.
People who rise to the top work long hours, but not excessively long. They are at their desks early - at least an hour before others. And they stay later (though it may be only a half-hour later). But what they do best is work smarter when they work.
They do the necessary things first, even if they are difficult. They learn what they need to know and don't waste business time learning unimportant stuff. They are willing to harass and cajole, tease and criticize, flatter and pout to get the job done.
They spend a few minutes every morning organizing their days and a little time every Monday morning planning their week. They select their tasks based on what will achieve their goals, not on what happens to end up in their inboxes. They manage their jobs; they don't let their jobs manage them.
Hard work is, by definition, hard. But it's not all that hard if you know why you're doing it.
And in the next installment, I'll delve deeper into the “why” as I describe how to move from being valuable to invaluable. From extraordinary employee to superstar.
According to Saul Gellerman in his book Motivation, when you get recommended for a promotion, your superiors are betting their reputations on you. To make them take that risk, you need to do more than just do a good job. You need to do three more things.
Distinguish yourself from all of the other good performers. Become known outside the immediate context of your job. Learn how to manage your luck. To distinguish yourself, you have to make it clear that you're not just a good whatever. You have to demonstrate competence in a broad range of tasks and a broad intelligence. The better you are at what you are doing now, the greater will be the tendency to typecast you by your present job.
Next, get to know as many people outside your department as possible. Use coffee breaks, get-togethers, and meetings to make your presence known and to get to know others. Show how nice you are, but display your competence too.
Each new contact is an opportunity for several more. Once you've established a rapport with someone, get him to introduce you to his colleagues or even his boss. Create your own personal, powerful internal network on every corporate level. Keep in mind that to successfully climb the ranks, you need the support of subordinates and colleagues as well as superiors.
If you would not be known to do anything, never do it. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
You can learn to manage your luck the way a good infielder readies himself for a ball that may or may not be hit toward him. The infielder thinks through what he should do if the ball comes high or low, to the left or the right, so he will not have to think as the ball races toward him.
Show the world you can do the job. To Gellerman's recommendations, I would add the following: To whatever extent possible, you should try to demonstrate the skills of the job you are seeking as you realize you want it.
You want to show the world that you are capable of doing the job you seek, and there's no better way to do that than by starting to do the relevant tasks before the job opens up.
How do you do that?
First and most obviously, volunteer to help the current job-holder. A job worth having is usually complex and demanding. That means the person whose job you want will probably feel, at times at least, swamped. How could he resist your pleasant proposition to do the chores he doesn't have time for?
He may refuse your offer if he doesn't trust you. If he wants to keep his job and gets the sense that you want to take it from him, expect resistance.
So, if your plan is to replace him, you need to be very careful. But if he is moving on and you are hoping to succeed him, it should be easy to ask him for work. Ask for the grunge work first. The interesting stuff will come later.
The way to gain trust is to be trustworthy. Remember, the most important factor in getting ahead is to gain the trust of the people you work with - your subordinates, your colleagues, and your superiors. And you can't possibly get the confidence of all three groups unless you merit it.
I am talking about respecting the fundamental unwritten rule of hierarchy: “If you support my position, and you prove yourself to be superior, when it is time for me to move upstairs, I'll recommend you to replace me… but only if I can trust you to continue to support me.”
One more thing: Identify the superior who is really in charge of your career. This may or may not be your immediate superior. It should be, but in a broken structure, it may be the person above him.
When it comes to self-preservation, people are at their smartest. They listen with their full attention. They watch what you do. They overhear what you say to others.
So be careful. And make up your mind that you will have integrity.
A guy I know just lost his job. He came to me for advice on finding a new one. He faces several problems. He's 50 years old and an expert in an industry that is shrinking.
His initial efforts were completely unproductive - which created an additional problem. He now lacks confidence.
“I'm afraid I'll end up bagging groceries,” he told me. “I've got two kids to put through college and a retirement fund that evaporated when the market crashed.”
He is scared and with good reason. But I told him not to worry about the zero responses he got from sending out 50 resumes. “That's the worst possible way to get a job,” I told him.
Why Sending Out Your Resume Is the Worst Possible Way to Get a Job If you have lost a job, fear losing a job, or simply want to get a better one (by transferring, shifting, or being promoted), what I'm about to say will be helpful to you. This is based on my experience both as a job seeker and as a job giver, as well as what I've learned by consulting with a resume writing business and some ideas I've gotten from a very good book on the subject titled Don't Send a Resume, by Jeffrey J. Fox.
You must either conquer and rule or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be the anvil or the hammer. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Der Gross-Cophta, 1792)
Most people end up with jobs that result from a series of half-baked actions and fortunate accidents. Ask a dozen executives to retrace their careers and you'll hear a dozen versions of “this happened” and “that happened” but very few saying “I wanted this so I did that.”
When you try to get a better job by sending out a bunch of resumes to business you barely know, you are doing the equivalent of “cold selling,” says Jeffrey Fox.
“Cold calls have a low success rate. The customer may have absolutely no need for the product, may not even be in the office… The person who receives the resume may have no need for an additional employee, may not even be the hiring person.”
Fox is right. Resumes don't usually work, because they are designed wrong. They are all about you, the job candidate. But the person doing the hiring is not at all interested you. He's interested in his business - the problems and the challenges he faces every day. He's interested in hiring you to help him meet those challenges and solve those problems.
He doesn't care about - and doesn't have time to consider - your career goals, what you like to do in your spare time, and what organizations you've joined. He'll only even listen to that kind of information if he thinks it will help him out in some way.
But the more he reads about what you want and what you need, the further away he feels from his own wants and needs.
That's not what you want to do.
Let's face it, when it comes to getting a better job, the process is a sales event. The product is you. The customer is the business you want to work for. And the process of selling yourself should resemble a sales call, not a celebrity interview.
How do you sell something?
You start by doing some background work. You study the potential customer base. You try to understand what they need, what worries and confuses them, and what they problems, hopes, and desires are.
You become close to your prospects, because you know that when it comes time to sell you are going to have to answer their questions, solve their problems, and convince them that you can help them achieve their dreams.
In this case, you have to sell your “customer” on the idea that you can make its business better. To do that, you need to figure out how you will improve its profits. And to accomplish that, you need to study it.
Ask not what a better job can do for you but rather what you can do for your next job.
When You Want a Better Job, Don't Send Out Resumes. Send Out Sales Letters Instead As I just said, resumes don't work because they are all about you. Sales letters work because they are all about the customer (the company you want to work for)
If getting a better job is your goal, plan accordingly:
Target a limited number of potential future employers. Study them. Determine their goals, problems, and challenges. Write to the person you'll be working for. Convince him you can help him achieve his objectives. This advice applies to getting outside jobs as well as better jobs within the company you're now working for. You can even use it to convince your current boss to give you a better job than the one you have now.
Now you're ready to write your sales letter. It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain for himself. - Epicurus (Vatican Sayings, 3rd century B.C.)
Your sales letter can be a formal letter, a personal note, an interoffice memo, or even an e-mail. The medium you use is a matter of what's appropriate to the relationship. The fundamental nature of the letter should be the same.
A good letter:
Says something good about the company and the person you want to work for Lets your prospect know that you know his goals, problems, objectives, etc. Makes the claim that you are the person to solve/achieve them Proves that you are Requests a specific action (asks for an interview) If you write the right sales letter, it's OK to send a resume along with it. I'll tell you more about how that resume should be structured next week.
In Don't Send a Resume, Jeffrey J. Fox tells the following story:
Douglas MacArthur, the legendary World War II Army general, was looking to hire a new aide. After a staff review of candidates, MacArthur interview the “short list.” One of the potential aides was a young lieutenant. At the beginning of the interview, the general asked the lieutenant, “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”
“No, sir,” answered the lieutenant, who then asked, “Sir, what is your review of the role of the Army in winning the war here in the Pacific?”
For one hour, interrupted only by the lieutenant's occasional “uh-huh” and “Could you elaborate?”, the great general talked. At the end of the “interview”, the lieutenant was offered the job. Later, MacArthur told one of his colonels that the young lieutenant was one of the most intelligent officers he had ever met.
Do more than hear, listen. Do more than listen, understand. - John H. Rhoades
I had a similar experience in graduate school. I spent a quarter of an hour telling a visiting scholar how much I liked his books and what an important critic he was and asking him fan-club type questions. He later said to the department chairman, “That young man is extremely bright. He's one of your best students, in my view.” He formed that opinion without hearing a single thing about me or what I could do and without hearing a single opinion of mine except how much I like him.
This is important to remember when you are seeking a job. It's useful in any interview but especially so if you get to talk to the person you'll be working for.
That said, let's get down to business.
14 more ways to get a better job - from your current employer or a new one Your cover letter should be very personal. It should indicate that you (a) know the company in some detail, (b) like the company, and © believe you have something specific and valuable to contribute to it. If you include a resume (which is OK to do if you write a good sales letter), make sure it is tailored to the individual company. When talking about yourself, don't use self-serving cliches (such as a “passion for customer service”) that virtually any job candidate can make. Instead, use facts, incidents, and numbers to reveal your qualities and capabilities. When you are talking or writing about your accomplishments, focus on what you have done recently (say, in the last few years). If you have no relevant experience, don't try to pretend you do by making a job at Burger King sound like rocket science. Here is where you make for your lack of experience by showing specific knowledge of the company and industry you aim to work for. If you've done your homework well, you will be seen as a blank sheet with great potential (always desirable).
Don't summarize your career, experience, or skills. State the facts briefly and clearly. Don't say what your career objective is. No one cares but you. Your job, as the salesman and the sales product, is to talk about the needs and desires of your prospect, not yourself. When you go for an interview, have a specific objective in mind and work hard to achieve it. If you haven't been promised it by the end of the interview, ask for it (nicely). A hiring interview is a sales call. Don't talk or tell. Answer, ask, and listen. Consider “showing” something - a customer survey, industry data, etc. - that illustrates the work you've already done and helps make the case that you can contribute to the company's success. The tactic of showing is a time-honored stabled of strong salespeople.
If you interview at a restaurant, don't drink alcohol and/or order something and eat very little of it. In your research, discover dress preferences, if any, of the company you're interviewing for. Don't be a rebel. Conform.
Don't try to befriend your prospective employer. Be friendly instead. If you feel you might not get the job you are seeking, suggest that you can do a project for the company on a freelance basis. Perhaps even for free. “That way, you can find out if I can do what I've promised,” you can say, “without any risk on your part.” This works in selling vacuum cleaners. It should work for you. One final word from Jeffery Fox: “If you don't know why the company should hire you, it's a good bet the company won't know either.”
Few of us are entirely happy with our current work - and if we are for a while, eventually some of it, at least, becomes ho-hum.
There's nothing wrong with wanting a better job, even if (a) you're grateful for the one you've got (which you should be - especially nowadays), (b) you worked long and hard to get it, or © you are working for yourself.
I've been thinking about the advice I've been giving you (about how to get a new job or even a better job), knowing that some of the people who will be reading this are employees of mine or businesses I consult with.
“Don't encourage our employees to be dissatisfied with their work,” a client told me the other day. “And definitely do not tell them how to go about getting a better job.”
I almost fired that client, but I forgave him. He's not a bad guy. He just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that business works best when all interests are served: those of the employer, the employee, and the customer. The aim of business is not to please the employee, but if the business is a good one and properly run, the proper aim (pleasing the customer) will also please the employee.
Every man is the architect of his own fortune. - Sallust (speech to Caesar, 1st century B.C.)
My critic doesn't get it because in his world the employee's desire to have a better job conflicts with his desire to produce good products at affordable prices. He sees the self-improving employee as a threat. He might leave for another job or insist on being paid more. In the former case, the employer ends up with a net loss in production expertise; in the latter case, with higher production costs.
But that's not the way it works in the real world. In the actual practice of running a business, you discover that the breakthroughs in value - better products at the same or lower prices - come almost always from getting your employees to work harder and smarter.
I have found that I can get more of that kind of positive action by promoting the idea that employees should seek better jobs. The trick is to get them to seek those better jobs in the confines of my business.
I acknowledge that times are tough and the future is challenging - but then I challenge my employees to discover ways to sell more product, improve its quality, increase efficiency, and raise the level of customer service. I let them know that as they achieve these goals new opportunities should open up for everyone - new tasks and responsibilities that will mean higher pay and more interesting work for each employee.
I let my people know that now is not the time to abandon ship and take the risk of a short-lived job with another company. Now is the time for them to leverage the advantages they already have by finding new ways to give our customers a better deal.
If you want to go faster and farther, you should not only be doing good work at your present job but also be actively pursuing a better one.
This is a process that should be ongoing. It should begin the day you start working on one job and continue until the day you get accepted at the next. If you put that kind of upward pressure on your career trajectory, it's bound to skyrocket.
Your “better job” may well be with another company - even in another industry - but more often than not, it will be the next best job with your current employer.
If you prepare yourself for a better job by working harder and smarter, chances are (ironically) you won't have to go out and get one. Your current employer will be happy to keep you and promote you - and he'll meet your growing capabilities with increasing compensation.
There is one quality more important than “know-how”… This is “know-what” by which we determine not only how to accomplish our purposes, but what our purposes are to be. - Norbert Wiener (The Human Use of Human Beings, 1954)
But if you do find yourself unemployed, you will have to go after your next job with a target-marketing approach - treating yourself both as a salesperson and as a sales product.
And you must work - just as hard as you work doing anything that's worthwhile.
Eight ways to maximize the hours you work to get a job You've got to put in at least 50 hours a week in your pursuit of a new job. Here are some suggestions (some from Jeffrey J. Fox's book Don't Send a Resume, some from me) on how to get the most out of that time:
Work every day getting contacts, appointments, interviews, and commitments. You might even have fun with this system by assigning each event a point value. For example, a lead would be worth one point, an appointment would be two points, an interview would merit three points, and a commitment would give you four points. A good daily goal to aim for would be five points, made up of any combination of these point/event values. Maintain your goal and task lists. Most of the tasks on your daily “to-do” list should be aimed at getting a good job. Achieving a daily point goal (see above) would certainly be one of the tasks that would get highlighted. Develop criteria for the job you want. These should include location, company size, the type of work involved, flexibility, etc. Review newspapers, magazines, online sites, and trade journals - but research only “prospects” that meet your criteria. Narrow down each day's possibilities to a handful of genuine opportunities. Research each of these opportunities by reading, visiting the business, examining its products, speaking to current employees, going for “informational” interviews, etc. Write targeted letters to potential bosses (bypassing their personnel departments). Send thank-you notes to all those who respond to you, even if negatively.