I don’t know about you but my career is thriving and I expect it to only go up from here. I take it very seriously and want to not only grow myself professionally but also the company. This article is for anyone else who also wants to grow their career and needs some direction on where to focus. After all, focusing on our careers can be one of the highest paying investments.
I want to speak in general terms since there will probably be people of all different career backgrounds reading this.
Firstly, I’d like to give a shout out to ESI Money as he is the first person I heard talk about the concept of career hacking. I’m sure there were others but I wasn’t quite ready to hear it until I was.
There is no shortage of career hacking articles on his site.
One of my favorites by ESI is titled, How to Manage Your Career and Make Millions. ESI gives 7 very helpful tips. When you are done with my article, I highly recommend you head over there and check it out.
The general concept of career hacking is to know what is expected of you, exceed it, document it, and report it. As important as tracking is to our financial health, it’s equally important to our income growth. You may be killing it in your career, but if you aren’t tracking it, it might go unrewarded. I’ll get to some tracking tips but first, let’s explore ways you can grow in your career.
Anytime we can improve our process efficiencies, it frees up more time to work on other important projects in the company. Here are some suggestions to consider in light of becoming efficient.
A Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc.
Some companies actually hire a third party to come in and kaizen operating procedures. The idea if that an outsider can often see inefficiencies in a process better than the people on the inside.
Okay, so I know kaizen is a noun but I’m may use it as a verb so here is the Ms. Fiology definition:
To improve something.
Even if your company does not do kaizens, you can. Perhaps ask a colleague, who does something totally different than you, to observe your processes. Additionally, you can write out all of your processes from start to finish and then review them with a colleague. You might even find that once you write things down, you’ll recognize your own inefficiencies. If you do either of these, be open to constructive criticism as the end result is to trim some fat.
Moreover, if you have a colleague kaizen your processes, you can offer to do the same for them. As you get in the habit of reviewing processes, you will get better at finding ways to streamline things.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when doing a kaizen:
- Is each step necessary for the end goal?
- Can multiple steps be combined?
- Are there certain steps which can be delegated to someone else?
- What technologies can be implemented to improve efficiencies?
I think you get the idea and remember, this is something worthy of doing often either at specific time periods (i.e. annually, quarterly) or when you recognize the need.
Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone
If you’ve been in your career for a while, you may be in a rhythm and have a system down. If you are comfortable, it’s a good time to ask your boss if there are new projects you can help him/her with. Identify a need in your company and offer to solve it.
Especially if you’ve done a kaizen, you now have freed up some time in your schedule.
Say yes to projects that you wouldn’t normally say yes to because a.) you’ll bring a fresh perspective to it and b.) you’ll stretch yourself to learn new things.
Additionally, talk to your boss about helping grow the company. Even if you are not in a sales position there are ways you can aid in the growth of the company. As the company grows, hopefully, your salary will as well.
As I learned from my boss there are two types of growth: top side and bottom side. I wrote about it in an article on ChooseFI, but I’ll review the concept here.
Essentially the top side growth includes all of the things you’d expect in sales (i.e. new clients, new accounts, etc). Bottom side growth is the behind the scenes type of stuff (i.e. efficiencies, administration, reducing overhead, etc.). If you’ve improved your efficiencies, you’ve helped in bottom side growth.
If your company has a global goal setting practice be sure to participate in it and/or even suggest one. However, if not, you can always set your own goals. I prefer quarterly goals because it is long enough to achieve something but not so long that you forget.
Choose goals with clearly defined action steps that are measurable and will be apparent when obtained. Also, give yourself grace. If you set a goal but are not able to achieve it, the review is what is important. Ask a colleague evaluate it with you and ask the following questions:
- Why you weren’t able to obtain it?
- Were you lacking resources?
- Does it require more time?
- Can someone help you?
- Did other projects prevent you from achieving said goal?
- If yes, what is most important to focus on in light of your role?
- Can something be delegated?
Sometimes you’ll realize the goal is worth abandoning but just do it with careful review.
Let’s talk about tracking your progress. In my career I mostly focus on the retention of client accounts; however, I do aid in the growth of new accounts. When we obtain a new account, the company receives a growth in commission. We track commissions globally and this past year, my team has decided to additionally track new commissions quarterly. If you don’t track you don’t know how much you’ve grown.
Here are some ideas of how to track your progress:
Make Sure Your Role is Clearly Defined
Firstly, if you don’t know your exact role and purpose at the company, make sure you meet with your supervisor and get this defined in writing. Once you understand your role, go back to writing out your daily processes. Make sure all of your processes support your role. Since we are career hacking and exceeding expectations, be sure to track ways in which you’ve excelled beyond what is expected of you. For example if you are to retain accounts, but you also aid in adding accounts, record that.
Most likely you’ll want to keep your role, processes, and the tracking of efficiencies in one place. Whatever method that works for you is the one to choose. If you like tracking on an excel doc, do it. If you use a task managing system and can track that way, do it. Additionally, you’ll want to clearly define the time you’ve created in your efficiencies. For example, quoting accounts takes me x number of steps and y amount of time. However, after performing a kaizen on my process, I’ve been able to shave off 2 steps and 15 minutes of time.
Include measurable goals and track your progress towards those goals. It can be as simple as listing the stated goal, the date you start, and the date you’d like to achieve it. Then keep a log anytime you work on your goal. Furthermore, include a time stamp for when you achieve it.
As I mentioned above there is a time and a place to abandon goals. Be sure to include this analysis in your tracking.
I think it’s easy to become complacent in our career and especially when we’ve been doing the same career for years.
If you are interested in growing your income and professional life, goals, efficiencies, growth, and tracking are an essential part of your career.
Ultimately, once you’ve gone through a cycle of tracking you’ll have tangible things to review with your boss. Perhaps your progress will justify asking for a raise in income.
Please share your thoughts and I’d certainly love to hear your feedback on implementing any of these practices.