The Gold Collar Worker

If you want to become wealthy, one thing is certain: You need to radically increase your income.

Michael Masterson has said it before, and he spends a lot of time on this concept in Automatic Wealth. It’s that important.

In short, it’s all about becoming a valuable employee – what some career experts call “a gold collar” worker.

What’s a gold collar worker?

Gold collar workers can work on a manufacturing plant line, pound out software code in a cubicle, or write advertising copy. They’re not pigeonholed by age, gender, ethnicity, or any other demographic that a pointy-headed academic can roll out. What makes them stand out is their record of achievement in their chosen careers … and the smiles on their faces that come from the fact that they’re doing what they love to do.

What gold collar workers have in common is a combination of attributes: attitude, ambition, enthusiasm, integrity, determination, discipline, and a work ethic that has turned them into lean, mean, career-advancing machines.

“Hey!” you might be saying. “I have all those attributes – but nobody’s calling me a valuable employee or a gold collar worker.” Well … chances are, you’re not using those attributes in a way that counts.

If you want to join the ranks of gold collar workers – and earn not only the reputation but also the money that goes with it – here’s what you’ve got to do:

Actively seek to get ahead.

A gold collar worker is constantly asking his supervisor if there’s anything he can do to help. In effect, he is saying, “I want to make a larger contribution to the company.” It’s contributions like this that make successful careers, at least in the long run. Gold collar workers are never passive. That’s why they are promoted … and then promoted again.

Know the lay of the land.

Gold collar workers know how their workplace operates. They figure out whether most promotions in their company are based on creativity or attention to detail, sales or production/operations experience, computer or interpersonal skills. Then … that’s what they work on.

Of course, if they’ve read Automatic Wealth, they already know that the most valuable career advancements are always going to be based on how much you increased your company’s profits. And so, they are always on the lookout for new ways to bring in more revenue … regardless of their position.

Create opportunities – and take responsibility.

Ideas are the lifeblood of the workplace. Consequently, gold collar workers keep on delivering well-researched ideas and volunteering to take charge of their execution. Taking initiative is another way of showing that you deserve a promotion.

Become an expert in your field.

Whether it’s going back to school to learn Excel, offering to write about a subject of interest for an industry trade magazine, or even offering to talk about it in front of a Chamber of Commerce group, gold collar workers don’t hesitate – and, more important, aren’t afraid to become an industry expert. Imagine giving a speech on manufacturing line innovations and noticing that your boss is in the audience. Or, even better, your future boss.

Yes, becoming an expert is hard work. In the words of Thomas Edison: “Genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.”

Treat your career as your own small business.

Gold collar workers take control of their own careers. They don’t leave it to chance. Like a small-business owner, they take their responsibilities and the reputation of their company personally. If a customer isn’t happy, for example, a gold collar worker takes it upon himself to “kill him with kindness.”

Know your industry cold.

A gold collar worker can just about cite chapter and verse what his industry is up to on a daily basis. Becoming savvy about your industry entails reading industry publications, as well as checking out The Wall Street Journal and Business Week. Even better is to develop your own industry contacts and chat them up once in a while. The Web is a big help, too. Industry associations almost always have websites chock full of information and data. You could also subscribe to an online “clipping” service that will e-mail you news and information on your business community. Lexis-Nexis ( and Northern Light ( are good places to start. Business Wire ( and PR Newswire ( are good too.

Trumpet your accomplishments – and the accomplishments of others.

It may seem ham-handed, even arrogant, but informing your boss and others of your successes and milestones is an important step toward visibility. And visibility counts. It’s equally important to toot other people’s horns whenever deserved. There is great power in a sincere compliment. The favor will invariably be returned.

Recognize what you are worth.

A gold collar worker always knows his value to the company, to the industry, and to potential future employers. There’s no shortage of surveys and annual reports on salaries in the workplace. Check them out to see where someone with your experience and position stands. Another way to find out what you’re worth on the open market is to scout out help–wanted ads (many include salary ranges these days) or contact an employment recruiter.

Becoming a gold collar worker isn’t nearly as difficult or challenging as you may think. It all starts with believing that you can be the most indispensable employee in your company. After that, it’s all about taking action – doing what you have to do to make it happen.

“Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.”– Henry Ford

[Ed. Note: Brian O’Connell has authored 10 books, including The 401(k) Millionaire and CNBC’s Creating Wealth. With his background on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and at the fixed-income trading desk of Delaware Funds as a bond trader, he’s appeared as an expert commentator on business issues for CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, The LA Times, and other media outlets. Currently, he operates a freelance writing business, working on books, corporate copywriting projects, and magazine articles for a variety of clients.]