“Raise your sail one foot and you get 10 feet of wind.” – Chinese proverb
I’ve never been turned down for a raise, but I have had the awkward duty of declining raises to dozens of people. Most of them simply sulked and disappeared. But a few of them took the experience as a wake-up call and fought back. They didn’t see themselves as losers, and they weren’t going to let me view them that way either.
Arguing with me would have done no good. But for those few who impressed me by making positive changes — that course of action made a world of difference for them. There are five things former screw-ups have done to convince me they have what it takes. (Every one of these people is now a millionaire.) You can do the same five things.
1. Thank your boss.
Yes, thank him. If you didn’t get the raise you wanted, there is a very good chance it’s because you didn’t deserve it. If you are like most people, this idea is going to be very hard to try on. But if you spend some time thinking very objectively about your performance (asking yourself questions like “Was I always early?” and “Did I stay late?” and “Was I always eager and energetic and helpful?”), you will probably come to see your performance for what it was — less than stellar. If you thank your boss for “making you see the light,” you’ll shock him into paying attention to you. If you follow that up with some kind of modest pledge to do better, he’ll be watching for you to do so.
2. Come in earlier.
Yes, you knew I was going to say it. There is no more impressive way to show you are serious about your work than to get in earlier than you have been. A half-hour is enough. If you can, get in before your boss does. Get in earlier and make sure he knows it.
3. Work harder.
Again, you expected this from me. But it’s true. However hard you’ve been working so far, it hasn’t been enough to establish you as the preeminent (see “Word to the Wise,” below) worker in your department. Getting in earlier and then paying complete and serious attention to your work will demonstrate your intent. As time goes by, the extra time and energy you give to your job will show up in higher skills, better knowledge, and — most probably — greater job satisfaction.
4. Get more training.
Take every chance you get to become better educated about your job and about the job you aspire to. Take advantage of whatever programs your company offers. If something comes up and your company doesn’t want to pay for it, pay for it yourself. As with working harder, you don’t want to let your extra training go unnoticed.
5. Help your boss plan your future
After a few weeks of being the new you, ask for an appointment with your boss. He may be afraid that you are going to hit him up for a raise. Assure him that nothing is further from your mind. When you get him alone, reconfirm your gratitude for the wake-up call, brief him on the changes and improvements you’ve made, and then ask him what else he thinks you can do to move forward even faster. Don’t ask for anything in return. Make it seem as if job satisfaction is your only interest.
This is a radical approach. Ninety-five percent of the people who read this will never give it a try. You may be the exception. If you are, you will see dramatic results. Your income will improve in six months or less — and it will keep improving thereafter. Before you know it, you’ll be at a whole new level. Just as important — or maybe more important — your job satisfaction will skyrocket.
You’ll like your job better because you’ll be better at it — and everyone around you will take notice, including your boss.