Leave Entry-Level Jobs Behind: How to Get Noticed and Promoted at Work

Jun 08, 2015 - Joe Matar
Let’s be honest — younger generations have a sense of entitlement. Generation Y gets a lot of flack for it because technology allows for instant access to information, money, and a slew of services that make our lives easier. But nearly every kid comes out of school thinking he’ll be sitting in the CEO’s chair within a few years simply because his mom told him he was “special.” Sorry to break it to you, but life doesn’t work like that. In the real world, you have to earn everything with old-fashioned hard work, including your entry-level jobs. Nobody will automatically promote you to management simply because you met the requirements. You have to rise above every other applicant — both internal and external — even if you’ve been there all year. With so much competition, you have to go above and beyond the normal work your entry-level colleagues are doing. (Click here to tweet this job advice.) Use these simple career hacks to stand out and let your company know you’re ready to move up and take the lead.

1. Rip up that lottery ticket

Lottery dreams are for losers who have no idea how to achieve success. Too many people externalize their circumstances, hoping sheer luck or some other far-fetched external savior will rescue them from their menial existence. News flash: Go-getters create their own freakin’ luck! Instead of waiting for someone to hand you an opportunity, create your own. Approach your boss on your first day of work (or even today if you’ve already been working there for a minute) and say, “I’m excited to be working here. If you need anything at all, I’d love the opportunity to take care of it personally.” If your boss can’t see you, he certainly won’t see you in a higher position. Expressing your willingness to handle special projects and extra responsibilities sets you apart from the torch-and-pitchfork mob that’s chanting, “That’s not my job!”

2. Take the bull by the damn horns

Average people find comfort in meeting the status quo — preferring to show up, do their job, and drive home in their Toyota Prius as soon as the clock strikes 5:00. This is a great mentality for entry-level workers who want to spend the rest of their lives shuffling paper, but leaders need to be willing to take risks. When you’re in the lead, you can’t always be certain of what lies ahead, and you have to be confident in your decisions. Your track record is a huge indicator of your readiness to advance in the company. An easy risk to start with is accepting responsibility for your failures. Far too many cubicle dwellers jump to pointing fingers when something goes wrong. You’ll stick out in the sea of gray if you’re the only one pointing a finger at yourself, especially when you have a suggestion to fix the problem (or have already fixed it).

3. Get off your ass!

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re aware of the Internet — it’s filled with information about anything you can think of, even seemingly proprietary job knowledge. By paging through the Internet (along with your company’s intranet), you can become a subject-matter expert at a skill that can help your company. Being known as the go-to person for certain tasks makes you more indispensable than your lazy coworkers because management will know you’re someone who can help in a pinch.

4. Don’t rely on your manager’s memory

Too many people fail to document their own achievements. Don’t leave it up to your manager or company to remember every time you contributed to a project or achieved success. Open Microsoft Excel, and start keeping a benchmark resume that lists projects or responsibilities you’ve taken on for your team. When it comes time for monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews, you’ll have documented goals, special projects, and instances when you saved the company from certain disaster. While everyone else explains their achievements to management, you’ll be the only one showing complete documentation of what you’ve accomplished and how it benefitted the company. Climbing the career ladder at any company takes consistent hard work, focused goals, and determination to overcome failures. The old college try isn’t going to cut it here, and it’s certainly not like grade school, where everyone automatically gets a gold star. Taking action now to acquire more knowledge, take on more projects, and document your achievements greatly increases your chances of moving past entry-level purgatory. Soon, you’ll be managing your own team of entitled employees, hoping one of them will work as hard as you did to stand out. Matthew Arrington is the executive director and co-founder of Forte Strong, the world’s first failure-to-launch program for men who struggle to leave their parents’ home or find it difficult to become independent. Matthew resides in sunny St. George, Utah.