Corporate jobs are reassuring. They have clear rules like “respect hierarchy” and “if you want to discuss something important with your boss set up a meeting and send an invite.”
A lot of people I know follow these rules. Yet, they tell me they don’t feel like they’re winning. They are frustrated. They feel like they aren’t taking any steps forward in their career. They say they are underpaid. That’s not what you’d expect if you read mainstream career advice. Main stream rules often suggest that following the rules gives you a shot at success.
Let’s be clear. If you follow the rules you just get to play. Winning is an entirely different story.
Being great at your job alone will NOT bring you more money
A friend I haven’t heard from in a while called me a few days ago. She complained about her job and how little it pays. Then she told me she is going to ask for a raise at her next performance review meeting.
I said: “Why do you think you deserve one?”
“Well, I achieved all last year’s objectives brilliantly and I haven’t got a raise in 2 years,” she said.
“That’s just why they pay you. But why should they pay you more?”
I find in the workplace there is quite a lot of misunderstandings. Doing your job well is what you’re paid for. You don’t deserve a raise or a promotion for that.
You deserve a raise for something that sets you apart from the others. And I’m afraid you’re not going to find that within the limits of your current role. Connect the dots outside your current role. Find something new. Involve somebody new.
Here’s what I do. I pretend I have two jobs. The first is the one I was hired for. Even though I perform well, it doesn’t count for a raise. Then I have a second one. In this job I talk to people who do not work directly with me. I see what they need, how I can help them achieving their goals and how they can help me achieving mine (or better, my manager’s). Then I come up with ideas that connect the dots and pitch them to my boss and any other person involved. That is my shot at success.
To give you an example, these days I’m trying a bunch of different marketing activities for my own blog. As soon as I find something that works great, I’ll start thinking how I can apply that to our marketing strategy at work. Maybe I’ll suggest the two best social media channels to reach our customers and what to do to set them up. This is when I connect the dots outside my job role. Once I believe the idea I have in mind is going to work, I’ll pitch it to all the marketing guys. That’s what’s going to set me apart from the others.
Initiate the change
Initiate. That is the one word you guys looking for a raise (or even a promotion) should always bear in mind. Because of the hierarchical way in which big companies are structured, they rarely see real initiative. Generally the work is very compartmentalized and not many go out of their way to make new things happen without precise instructions to do so. Those who do, catch people’s attention.
There are dozens of ways you can show initiative. Here is how you can start right now:
- Ask to have a cup of coffee with people who don’t work with you directly. Don’t ask for a meeting, people tend to take meetings more seriously and they show up with notebooks and laptops. This is an exploratory cup of coffee for general understanding. Meet people at different levels of the organization
- Explain what you do. Ask them about their objectives for the year. Understand whether you can help them achieving those
- Repeat with others
- See which partnership would be more beneficial to your manager
- Sell the idea to him/her
Initiating something new requires you to take on responsibility. The corporate world is weird in this sense. You hear the word “responsibility” 50 times a day. People often think about responsibility in terms of the success of a certain project falling on you because somebody gave you power for making things happen. But if you think about it, that is not responsibility. That is authority. Someone gave you authority to make things happen.
If you want responsibility, you move first and ask for it. You say: “I have this idea that is going to benefit the whole business unit. I can make this happen today.” If you want a raise, show responsibility. Forget the authority for now. Once responsibility has been embraced, you will be free to ask for authority.
Think of your last year at work. What did you initiate? How did you sell your idea to your managers?
Alex Dogliotti is a corporate trainer and coach who has lots of fun helping people think like an entrepreneur. He blogs at Stuckaholic.