A One-Step Guide to a Better Job and More Money

By Carlos Portocarrero on 15 February 2010 (Updated 24 February 2010) 11 comments
Photo: Peasap

There are hundreds of tips out there on how to become a better employee. I should know — I wrote a whole series about it. If you want to build a case for a raise or a new job altogether, this is a fine way of doing it.

But lately I've become a fan of making one sweeping change instead of lots of small ones. Trust me: it'll be easier for you to remember the one "big" thing you can do to open all kinds of new doors for your career.

So what's the secret to making more money and getting better and better jobs? Perform.

Beating Expectations

Forget about sucking up to your boss or doing favors to get in good with management. It will never be as effective as outperforming the expectations that were set on you.

And this is where it gets complicated: what are the expectations your employers/bosses have of you? Sometimes it's easy to tell — goals and targets are handed down and your task it to exceed them. That's if your lucky.

If your employer doesn't give you targets or goals, you need to have a sit down with your boss so you're crystal clear on what is expected of you and what the ultimate goals are for you and your team.

Trust me, your boss will much rather have a meeting about clarifying goals than a meeting where an employee is whining that he/she wants more money. Once you crush the goals, you'll be able waltz in and say, "OK, you know the drill. I crushed the goal so let's talk."

How Traders Get Rewarded

Traders are lucky: their bonuses are simply a matter of plugging in how much money you made for your firm, multiplying it by the percentage the company pays its traders, and boom — there's your bonus. How simple is that? It would be great to get paid like a trader because it takes a LOT of the grey areas out of the equation.

If you're a manager and want a clear-cut example of how this can work for your benefit, check out From Worst to First, the story of Continental Airlines and how one man came in and turned the airline around in less than a year. You'll read his mantra repeated over and over again:

What you reward and measure is what you get.

Get Clarity

As an employee, you need to be clear on what you're being measured on so you can outperform the goal and put yourself in the best position to ask for a reward.

I'm sure there are people out there with horror stories of outperforming their goals and not getting what they want, and I'd love to hear some of them.

But I'm willing to get that, at most companies, they want to keep the people that are going above and beyond to provide results, and that's why my advice to everyone out there is to find out what you're being measured on and then beat those goals up with a big stick.

This post was included in the latest Carnival of Financial Independence.

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Guest's picture

I work in corporate America. It is frustrating because we know the max out raise will be each year, 3%. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for anything, especially in the last couple of years.

It seems as if the dynamic of corporate America has changed in the last 10 years. It is an employers market, rather than employees, and they know that.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

@goals: is that really true though? I'd like to hear from managers out there. I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't make something happen to keep the people that outperform. Not necessarily as a reward, but as a means of making their job easier.

If they can keep the employees hitting homeruns, their job is much easier.

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Guest's picture
vga

It really depends on the structure of the company, what the management is like, and whether they actually want you to stay with the company. Some places really don't care at all about you. If you quit, they'll just hire someone else. I've worked at jobs where you can outperform all you like, you aren't going anywhere. Maybe you'll get a bit more of a bonus, but not enough to make the extra effort worthwhile.

Some companies force you to outperform by increasing your workload and associated stress until you either lose all motivation to do anything other than show up or just outright quit. So the real goal here is to under-perform, if only to preserve your sanity.

Financial Samurai's picture

Absolutely, one must perform, but performance is only 50% of the equation.

If you don't sell yourself internally, you will only get so far. It is delusional to think that all you have to perform. There's a reason why so many people complain about politics.

If you're good at politics you'll go MUCH farther than one who isn't, but is a great performer.

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Ahh, Keigu, you bring up a great point. Of course you can't just perform. You have to be able to leverage that, but I will disagree that politics can get you as far as performing can.

At least not in the long run!

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Financial Samurai's picture

If you don't play politics right, you'll always be average despite performance.

Keigu (means "Regards" in Japanese),

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture
vga

I would argue that on a per unit of effort basis, politics gets you farther than performance.

If you assume two average performers. One works on performing and the other works on schmoozing. The schmoozer will probably go farther faster.

Perhaps I'm just jaded, but that's what I see.

Forget about performing and then figuring out how to sell yourself. Figure out how to sell yourself, then figure out how you can perform better in a visible fashion. After all, the extra performance is probably useless unless you up those social skills.

Guest's picture
Guest

vga is absolutely correct. This is what I see in my workplace.

Guest's picture
Ephram

What do you do when the target is not only relative to a baseline set of objectives your management sets for you, but, more significantly, how much you exceeded those objectives relative to how much everyone else performed against them? On my last performance review, I knew I hit a homerun against my objectives, but was told two things, 1. you didn't outdeliver these one or two people and 2. you can't expect the highest performance rating your first year in the role. To that, I say, yes I did and yes I can, but when you don't have complete visibility to exactly what everyone else is doing relative to a standard set of objectives, you can't pinpoint every one of your results relative to every one of everyone else's. They know you can't and then stack the deck against you come performance time. As well, it's not as though the bonus or raise would be worth it, MAYBE the equivalent of minimum wage for all the extra work, but it's the principle that makes my blood boil. I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts on this situation.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Sumimasen Samurai, sorry about that! It depends on where you work, and I know for a fact places out there exist where excessive politicking won't get you far if you can't back it up. The fact that a lot of people are commenting with this clearly shows most of us out there are jaded thanks to workplaces that lean towards politickers.

Sad.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I run an IT department at a food manufacturing company that relies heavily on IT, if something goes done product isnt made and money isnt made. i came in and had to teach myself everything. I created the position.

They used to spend $140 hour on IT when stuff would go down, probably 100K+ a year. I get paid peanuts, and recently when I told them I wanted to go back to school to learn more they cut my salary back, when my schedule changed, not my hours!

I performed and looked to perform even better in the future and i was anything but rewarded.