Tag Archives: Work

Finally, Ceramic-Lined Travel Mugs for the Stainless Steel-Averse

Plastic should be banned, and good glass travel mug options are as rare as they are fragile, so what’s someone sensitive to the taste of stainless steel supposed to do with their on-the-go coffee? Stanley’s got you covered.

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Get a Workout While You Work With a Discounted FitDesk

I bought the FitDesk 2.0 on a whim a couple of years ago, and was surprised both by how viable it was to work at, and how compact it gets when folded up. It fits easily into a closet, or opens up for use while working, gaming, or marathoning Netflix, and is particularly nice out on the balcony. Today’s price is the…

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The People to Connect with At Each Stage in Your Career

Networking is important to finding a job, a mentor, and moving forward in your career, but depending on where you are on the career ladder, some connections are more helpful than others. Here are the people who will help you most at each stage of your career.

These relationships take a lot of energy and time cultivate and maintain, so focus on the right ones for where you’re at, and where you want to go next, in your career. Connecting with only upper management or extremely experienced people won’t always be the most helpful.

  • Just Starting Out: When you’re looking for your first job, or first transition to a new job, reach out to your family and alumni. Both are groups that you already have a connection with, which helps when you haven’t been working long enough to build a strong network.
  • Three to Five Years In: Look to a former manager for a mentor or solid referral as you make the jump up the career ladder to other opportunities. If you’re interested in taking on a junior-management role, a recruiter can help you find the right position.
  • Mid-Career: Former coworkers who are now at other companies are a strong source of referrals when you want to move jobs, or even switch careers.
  • Senior Level: If you want to find open senior level roles, keep in touch with people you’ve managed before and been a great boss to. They’re the ones who can vouch for you and let you know when senior positions open up at their companies.

While the above list focuses on the people who can help you most, remember that professional relationships are a two-way street. None of these people will help you if you only reach out in a time of need, so build these relationships before you need them.

These Are The Most Important People In Your Network At Each Stage Of Your Career | Fast Company

Image from fruitnet.

Think of Networking as Joint Progress, Not Using Someone to Get Ahead

Think of Networking as Joint Progress, Not Using Someone to Get Ahead

The idea of networking sometimes feels sleazy, and in can be if you’re doing it wrong. If you think networking is about using someone to get ahead, you’re thinking about it all wrong. It’s about building a community of like-minded friends, so you can make progress together.

Years ago, I took a writing class and our teacher discussed the importance of building relationships. He explained something he noticed from watching students succeed over the years:

When one of them succeeded, everyone in the group succeeded. So it’s not about using someone; it’s about making progress and moving ahead together.

In other words, it’s about helping each other move forward. When you move forward, so do the people around you, and, ideally, vice versa. As our own Alan Henry put it, “a ‘professional network’ is just code for ‘friends who are willing to help each other professionally.’”

If you have a natural aversion to networking, it may help to reframe the way you think about it in these terms. We’ve also written a guide on how to do this, so check it out here.

Photo by Kai Hendry.

Microsoft Acquires LinkedIn For $26.2B, Deal to Close By End of 2016

Today, Microsoft announced that it will be acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2B. The deal will keep LinkedIn’s existing CEO in place and the company will continue to operate independently.

The deal is expected to close by the end of 2016. In the video above, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner explain. There’s no indication yet as to how Microsoft intends to change LinkedIn under the new deal, if at all. Nadella said in the press release that he hopes the acquisition will “accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.” This may mean that LinkedIn will cooperate or even integrate with Microsoft’s various business-facing divisions, or it could just mean that Microsoft wants to dip a toe in all areas of the professional world. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Microsoft to acquire LinkedIn | Microsoft News

How to Use Your Customer Service Experience to Find a New Job

How to Use Your Customer Service Experience to Find a New Job

Many of us start out working in customer service as a stepping stone to our next job, but it can be difficult to figure out how to climb that corporate ladder. A reader on Quora recently asked how they can transition from customer service to something more.

An anonymous reader asked how they can move on from their customer service job and transition to something else that takes advantage of their skills. Jae Alexis Lee, a former customer service manager, responds below:

I’ve helped a lot of agents over the years find their career footing to exit entry-level customer service roles and there are a few words of advice that I’d give anyone looking to make that transition:

Step 1: Assess Your Skills

When you’re leaving customer service for other pastures you really need to start by doing an assessment of what skills you have. In HR speak, we often talk about transferrable skills, or the things that you’ve learned to do at one job that can be useful to another job. It’s easy to be blinded by the things that are a routine part of your day to day job and to think that those skills aren’t important, but extracting those skills and marketing them will make you significantly more appealing to prospective employers in another industry.

It’s easy to look at a customer service job and say: “I just talk to people who yell at me all day long about things that aren’t my fault but they blame me anyway…” and to become dejected about the value of your skills, but take a few steps back and look at the things you do without much thought and ask yourself what you can do with that.

Consumer billing specialists routinely juggle several months of invoices tracking payment histories, service changes, proration, and a number of financial complexities that leave customers bewildered. That’s a useful skill. Technical support specialists frequently find themselves as stand-ins for user training, functioning more as an educator than a repair person. That’s a useful skill.

So when you’re looking to make a move, the first thing you need to do is take a look at what you do, and then figure out what skills you’ve developed that you can take elsewhere.

Step 2: Look for Opportunities to Expand Your Role

Customer service organizations often have a variety of roles that need someone to do work that’s a little bit different from general customer service work. Investing some time and effort in one of these roles can give you an opportunity to further refine the skills you identified in Step 1 and to pick up some additional skills as well.

For some people, that means seeking a defined promotion type of role within the organization: Supervisory, Advanced Technical, Trainer, etc. If available, these positions can be a good place to spend a year or two getting yourself ready for an exit. Even without those formal roles, customer service organizations frequently have needs for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), or people to take on tasks outside the role of Customer Service Representative (CSR).

These roles not only serve as an opportunity to build transferrable skills, but on a resume, they demonstrate that you have performed at a level that’s been recognized with some form of advancement. That looks appealing to future prospective employers who will see that you’re motivated to grow.

Step 3: Don’t Lose Sight of the Job You Have While Preparing for the Job You Want

I feel like it’s important to mention this. I’ve seen lots of CSRs, when they hit the point just before moving into expanded roles or just after, when they’re really starting to hone the skills to make a successful exit, start to fail at doing the job they currently have.

This is the worst kind of short timer’s syndrome to fall victim to. You’re working hard, doing the things that are going to get you ahead, but in the mean time, your existing job duties feel unimportant and become neglected. In some instances, I’ve seen this cost CSRs their promotion into a formal advanced role because their current job performance was considered as part of their evaluation for performance, and in the worst cases, I’ve seen CSRs fired for spending too much time on things that weren’t their job and not enough effort on things that were.

Failing to stay on top of your current job can turn what would have been an opportunity for growth into everything from a lost opportunity to a bad reference to a lost job.

Step 4: Look for an Optimized Exit That Aligns With Your Experience

When you’re looking for that step out of customer service there’s a special set of jobs that allow you to harvest one extra skill for: Industry Knowledge.

Industry knowledge can be part of what makes someone choose you over an equally (or better) qualified outsider and this isn’t something that you should underestimate. Advancement within the same company to a different line of business is the most obvious example but there are many other opportunities to leverage what you already know from time spent in the CSR trenches.

Most CSRs have learned a healthy bit not only about their company’s products and services but about the competitor landscape. You’ve learned about your company’s suppliers and their customers. Aiming your first move to something related to your current position allows you not only to leverage your industry knowledge to get up to speed in a new type of role more quickly, but also lets you see a bigger piece of the puzzle which can be a tremendous asset to your new employer.

Step 5: Don’t Sell Yourself Short

When you finally hit the streets and start circulating that resume, don’t ever sell yourself short. Customer Service Representatives are often under-appreciated and it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing special about you when you’re interviewing. Look back at all of those skills we talked about in Step 1, recognize how far you’ve come and how valuable you can be to someone else using those skills and don’t ever diminish what you’ve learned in the trenches.

If you can’t see value in yourself, employers won’t be able to see it either. If, however, you can sift through all the things you learned while keeping customers happy and you can extract the gold nuggets of transferrable skills… employers will line up to buy what you have to offer.

How do I get out of customer service? originally appeared on Quora. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Image by Maminez (Shutterstock).

Four Ways to Cut Down on Endless Back-and-Forth Emails

Four Ways to Cut Down on Endless Back-and-Forth Emails

Email. Can’t live with it. Can’t get your job done without it. Am I right? Last year we sent over 2.5 billion emails. And here’s the bad news. In spite of a good amount of loathing, that number is only expected to grow. The volume is an issue, as is the time you spend on it. In fact, reports say you check it about 36 times per hour. 36 times. In a single hour.

Once you begin dabbling with what’s in your inbox, it takes about 16 minutes to refocus your attention on your other work. Oh, and if you need a doc that’s buried in your email somewhere, it takes you about two minutes to find it. Do the math: This quickly adds up to a plague on your productivity.

You need it to do your job. You can’t just ditch it like a bad habit. In fact, it’s no doubt something you rely on heavily to get information, approval, or answers from colleagues so that you can get work accomplished.

But if you aren’t clear about what you want from others when you’re sending email, or if you don’t ask good questions, remember that 36 times per hour? Yeah well, watch that estimate increase substantially. I doubt that sounds appealing. Here are four tips you can use to minimize and speed up your exchanges and communicate better than ever.

1. Clarify Your Question

Have you ever tossed an idea out to a colleague and ended with, “Thoughts?” If your goal is to get input from someone on a pressing deadline, project direction, or a recommendation on options, you’ve got to give him something more specific to work with. After all, he doesn’t want to spend any more time trying to decode your message than you want to spend reading his response.

If you’ve just sent a plan that needs action, for example, instead of ending with the open-ended and vague, “Thoughts?” ask a specific question, like, “What will it take to realistically implement this plan by next week? Let me know if there’s anything I can do to get it going ASAP.” Your colleague’ll be able to respond quickly and directly, and you’ll get a much higher quality response.

2. Cut to the Chase

Sarah, the Type A project member you work with frequently, wants everything weeks ahead of time. She’s at it again. You get an email for a deliverable with a ridiculously short deadline. You’re frustrated and tempted to respond with, “Can you give me more time on that project?” with the hope of renegotiating the deadline. If you do, it’s going to take half a dozen more responses to resolve the timeline alone.

Instead, tell your colleague what you have the capacity to do, and leave it at that. “Hey Sarah, I’ve got three other prioritized projects in my queue now. I will get this done by end of day next Thursday. If I’m able to get it done sooner, I’ll let you know. Thanks for your patience.” Boom. Done.

3. Stop Soliciting Questions

Some messages generate unnecessary mail because you unwittingly invite responses. To avoid that, stop closing with, “Does this make sense to you?” Rather, say “Let me know if you have questions.” If the receiver has a query, he’ll let you know; otherwise, he’ll know that no response is necessary.

You could also close with something like,“Let me know if we are not aligned on this,” or “Let me know if you want to talk about this further.” This concise language makes it clear that the conversation is closed unless there’s an issue on the receiver’s end.

4. Don’t Neglect the Title

The subject line of your message is efficiency gold. Use that real estate to give your reader a heads up about how much attention they need to spend and when. Head those excess emails at the pass.

Use your title to indicate urgency, the deliverable, and the timeline. For example, a title could read something like, “Action needed by noon Friday | Acme project due next week.”

Now your reader knows that this is going to require some attention. She’s aware that there’s a deadline for responding and work that she needs to be focusing on for completion next week. That single, concrete statement prevents a ton of back and forth.

Given how much time and attention email requires, both as a sender and a receiver, you can see how a few simple techniques will help you send messages that generate fewer responses in return and improve the overall communication between you and your co-workers or clients. Wouldn’t that be cool? When you make your communication super efficient, you’ll not only feel more in control of your inbox, your colleagues will appreciate how efficient you’re helping them be as well.

But, keep in mind that sometimes your best bet is simply to take the conversation offline. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t resolve the issue in three email exchanges, or miscommunication is occurring because of a crazy-long thread, propose a live conversation so you can resolve the matter quickly.

4 Ways to Cut Down on the Back-and-Forth Emails in Your Inbox | The Muse

Lea McLeod coaches people in their jobs when the going gets tough. Bad bosses. Challenging co-workers. Self-sabotage that keeps you working too long. She’s the founder of the Job Success Lab and author of the The Resume Coloring Book. Get started with her free 21 Days to Peace at Work e-series. Book one-on-one coaching sessions with Lea on The Muse’s Coach Connect. Top image by onivelsper (Shutterstock).

Learn From Your Career Rivals to Avoid Jealousy and Improve Yourself

Learn From Your Career Rivals to Avoid Jealousy and Improve Yourself

TV sitcoms have taught us that if someone’s doing better than you at your career, your goal should be to crush them with righteous fury. While that makes for a great story, learning from them will probably help more.

While there’s nothing wrong with a healthy spirit of competition, you’re missing out on an educational experience if you get bitter at your rivals, rather than learning from them. As advice site The Muse points out, anyone in your field that you feel is doing better than you are probably has something they can teach you:

In other words, my network isn’t a competition; it’s a classroom. Before, I used to think, “This person is so much better, and I need to beat him or her.” Now, if I come across someone doing something that I’d like to do, I think, “This person is doing [thing x] really well. I’m going to steal one great tip from him or her and add it to my arsenal of tips and tricks.”

Of course, it’s still perfectly fine if you want to “beat” your rivals. If your rival just got a promotion and you want to get a better one, go for it! Competition can be a great motivator, but don’t let your pride get in the way. You can still ask your rivals for advice or learn from their strategies.

The Surprising Benefits of a Little Career Jealousy | The Muse

Photo by Daytona.

How to Get Value Out of Your Crappy Entry-Level Job

How to Get Value Out of Your Crappy Entry-Level Job

During the summer of 1998, I worked a night shift for a research lab in which I shoveled and sifted dirt for eight hours at a time. I hung out in this little room in the basement of a greenhouse that had a chute in which dirt had been dumped. I’d set up a large tub on top of a pushcart, put a screen attachment on top of it, then scoop several shovelfuls of dirt on there. I would then sift that dirt, retaining a few specific items off of the top of the screen, and then do it again. And again. When the cart was full, I’d push it over to the elevator, take it up to the planting rooms, and then retrieve an empty cart and do the same thing again.

This post originally appeared on The Simple Dollar.

That’s about as entry level as you could get. Shoveling and sifting dirt.

Here’s the thing, though. I was part of a team. I had a role to play with that team. I learned about why I was doing it (to make good planting soil for the lab techs to plant seedlings) and how to do it better. Over time, I built a positive reputation within that research lab, moved on to bigger and better projects, and eventually ended up moving to a different lab where I was given a big bump in pay and a lot more responsibility.

That job sifting dirt was a pretty awful job, really. I went home sore every night… or, shall I say, every morning, as it was a night shift job. My hands got callused. I was often very bored with the work.

The truth of the matter, though, was that my choices while at that job did quite a lot to determine whether I stayed there shoveling dirt for years and years or whether I moved on to bigger or better things. By extracting every little bit of value that I could out of that job, I was able to propel myself up the ladder and onto a bright future.

If you have an entry-level job or are about to embark on one, and your view is that the job is just misery, take a different perspective. Look at it like a maple tree. It’s hard. It’s rough on the outside. But with some sensible strategies, you can extract a lot of sweetness from it.

Here are 16 strategies for extracting every bit of value from an entry-level job so that you’re prepared in every dimension to move onto something bigger, better, and brighter.

Have a Good Attitude

This job isn’t your life. It’s an opportunity—a stepping stone to something better. Don’t look at it as misery. Look at it as the first step or two at the bottom of a giant staircase. Look up, not down.

Simply showing up for work in an upbeat mood—or at least showing that you have an upbeat mood—can make all of the difference. It can drastically change the impression others have of you in a very positive way, and it’s often those other people who determine how miserable and how pleasant your job actually is. Don’t grumble about some task you don’t like. Be positive in your interactions with others. Smile, even if you have to force it. Look at your job as the first step on the path to greatness (which it is), and you want to nailthat first step.

How can you do that, though, if you literally hate your job? For me, the best method was to put that hatred on me, not on the others I was working with. If I didn’t like the job or my situation, that was me, not them, and they didn’t deserve to see or hear my negative thoughts. I found other channels for it—namely, I went on these insanely exerting bike rides to pedal out my frustrations. It really helped.

Don’t Idle

One of the worst things you can do at an entry-level job is waste time. Don’t stand around doing nothing. Don’t constantly check your phone when you’re on the job. If you don’t have anything to do immediately, look for things to do.

What if you can’t think of anything? One thing you can always do is maintenance work on the things that you use. Clean the grill. Mop the floor. Run through any checklists of things that need to be done. Clean your tools. If someone else is busy, jump in and take a bit of their load for a while (if it’s entry-level work, you can probably handle some of it).

The worst thing you can do is just stand around. Not only does it make you look really lazy, it also makes the time pass slowly. The time you spend at work actually seems to go by much faster if you’re doing something rather than standing around watching the clock.

Ask Lots of Questions

Often, people take on entry-level jobs without getting the big picture as to why their job is important in the big scheme of things. Since they’re not looking at how their job fulfills an important role, they work mindlessly through their tasks and don’t consider how to do them as well as possible to fulfill the overall mission of the business.

Doing that takes a lot of questions, even at an entry level job, and asking those questions and approaching the job from the perspective of helping the business as a whole is something that is going to definitely get you noticed in a positive way.

What I found at my job was that the best approach was to go to my supervisor when he or she was out and about and easily available and just ask if he could answer some questions about the work. I did this out in front of everyone so there wasn’t any “meeting behind closed doors.” I also sometimes asked questions of the lab techs who weren’t my boss, but had to deal with what I produced.

I asked about all kinds of details. I asked about how the dirt was used and what I could do to make the dirt carts as easy as possible to use for the planting technicians. Where do I put the carts? How full should the bins be? I asked where all of the gear should be stored and how it should be maintained, so I started taking about fifteen minutes at the end of my shift to clean the gear and put it away in the way that my supervisor suggested (other people just left shovels laying on the floor and such).

I found that asking questions almost always led me to the best way of doing my job. I learned why I was doing these things and how to do things so that they were maximally useful to others so that the overall goals of the lab were accomplished more efficiently. The end result wasn’t that I did things much better than anyone else, but that my efforts had noticeable additional “polish” on them, something that my boss noticed and that the techs noticed.

Maximize Every Job Perk

If your job offers some kind of special perk—discounted food, free event tickets, and so on—take advantage of every drop of that perk. Eat a cheap meal when you arrive for your shift and when you leave. Grab every event ticket that’s available. Get everything you can.

There are a bunch of reasons for this, even beyond the obvious. For one, it’s obviously going to save you some money, which is a key part of any entry-level job. Your pay isn’t good, so if you have a chance to get other benefits, you should do so. For another, you can sometimes “flip” some of those perks to put more money in your pocket. My wife had an entry-level job where she cleaned floors for a concert venue and often wound up with tickets which she would then “flip” to make some pocket money.

Another big reason that’s often overlooked is that you gain a perspective on the product from the customer’s view. If you’re eating at the restaurant you work at, you quickly gain a sense of what’s good about the food and what’s bad about it. The better the product you put out there (for the dollar, of course), the more customers you’re going to bring in over the long haul and the more money the business will make. If you play a role in figuring that out and making that happen, it benefits you, too. Understanding the product is vital for maximizing an entry-level job.

Look for Inspiration and Mentorship

Ask about the background of everyone above you in rank in the organization, especially those several steps above you. Did they start with an entry-level job like yours? How did they climb the ladder to their current perch?

Find people who have risen from your spot to great things and make those people into mentors. Ask for their advice with difficult situations. Ask for their suggestions on how to improve your chances of moving up.

The key part, though, is actually following that advice. Hearing it is one thing—putting it to work is what actually matters the most, though.

Present Yourself Well

Show up to work clean and presentable, even if it’s a manual labor job like my old job scooping dirt. You might go home sweaty and nasty, but there’s no reason to show up like that.

Take a shower. Make sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled and aren’t falling apart. Use plenty of deodorant. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. In other words, take care of yourself and offer the best presentation you can to the world and to your coworkers and to your managers.

I can’t tell you how often I see entry-level employees show up looking completely disheveled, half-awake and unshowered with rumpled hair and wrinkled clothes. Those people are loudly shouting, “I don’t want to be here and I don’t take this job seriously.” Don’t be that person.

Be on Time

Whenever you’re late for work, that means someone else at your job has to cover for you. Often, your supervisor is aware of that, too, and probably has to deal with it in some fashion. Being punctual means no one else has to deal with those things.

Not only that, when you’re punctual at an entry-level job, you tend to stand out in a positive way from others who are not punctual. This reflects well on you, and when you stand out in a positive way, you’re much more likely to reap workplace rewards from doing so.

My strategy for punctuality was to plan to show up at work 15 minutes before I was scheduled to start. Depending on how I felt, I’d either dive in immediately or else I’d find something useful to do on site until my shift began. The goal was simple: Never be late.

Be Reliable

If you’re given a task that’s actually reasonable to accomplish, accomplish it. Finish the task to the best of your ability. When you’re called on to do something, do it without dispute. Take on the new task and finish it to the best of your ability.

You want to reach a point where you can be called on for a reasonable task and just complete it with minimal issues. The truth is that the people up the chain from you want minimal issues. They want to get through their day, just like you do, and when you make that easier for them by just doing what you’re supposed to do with minimal assistance and hand-holding, everyone benefits. You get fewer lectures, you get a steady growth in respect, and they get an easier day.

If you have a task to do, do it well. Do it consistently. Do it so that others don’t have to jump in and clean up your mess.


Avoid Negative Workplace Talk

Most workplaces have some amount of gossip and some amount of negative talk. People love to complain about their situation and many people take glee in the trials and tribulations of others.

It’s not surprising why this happens—it can feel really good to vent. However, there’s a big negative consequence for participating in it. For starters, the negative words you say can easily be carried to others. You might implicitly trust the people around you when you’re venting, but those people might find value in carrying your words to your boss or to the people you criticize.

Furthermore, if you’re often critical and negative toward others, people are going to begin to trust you less as they know that they’ll eventually be the target of your venom.

A much better approach is to avoid the negativity entirely. Don’t say a negative word about coworkers or your job in the workplace. Listen to what others are saying, but don’t repeat it. Don’t contribute to it, either. Instead, seek out other things to talk about and steer the conversation away from negativity. It doesn’t help anyone.

Give Credit to Others

If you are called out for doing something great at work, do not take all of the credit. Instead, take minimal credit and share that credit with others. Point out everyone who did things to help make that thing happen, even if you might necessarily feel that they fully deserve it.

Here’s the reality of what happens when you do this. First of all, the supervisor usually knows that you did a lot of the work to make the good thing happen. Sharing credit won’t change that. What it will do is demonstrate to your supervisor that you are a team player and are working to “lift” the other people in the workplace.

At the same time, everyone loves to receive credit for their efforts. You’re holding your coworkers up in a positive light and giving them credit. That feels good to almost everyone. Those coworkers are going to appreciate you more than before as well.

When you give credit to others, you win with your supervisors and you win with your coworkers. There is literally no drawback to giving credit where credit is due.

Identify Reliable Peers

Over time, you’re going to gradually gain a sense of which coworkers are reliable and trustworthy and which ones aren’t. Some people work hard and do a good job, while others don’t. Some people keep their mouths shut, while others spew poison and report every infraction.

Don’t worry too much about the negative people. Don’t make them into enemies, of course, but don’t focus on them, either. Instead, build relationships with the people who quietly do their job and do it effectively. Those are the friends you want at work. Build that relationship through positive conversations or conversations about non-work topics. Help those people when you have the opportunity and don’t expect something directly in return.

A strong relationship with the best employees in your workplace will constantly benefit you once they’re established. Good coworkers will help you when you need help, cover for you on occasion when it’s really important, and have your back in any workplace conflicts. These people usually have a good reputation with the boss as well, which means that their word will count for a lot when it comes to you.


Ask for Specific Tips for Promotion

If you’re interested in staying with the organization for a while, a promotion is probably something that looks pretty appealing to you, particularly when it comes with an increase in pay and opportunity.

The catch is that it’s sometimes unclear what you need to do in order to earn that kind of a promotion. Obviously, the tactics above will help you get in a good place, but there are specific things at any job that will put you in line for promotion.

The solution here is to sit down with your supervisor or with whoever is responsible for your potential promotion and simply ask what exactly you need to do to earn a promotion. What are they looking for? What do you need to accomplish or to show to earn a promotion from within?

Whatever you’re told, use it as a checklist. I would literally write down what they said and then use that material as your guide for what to do at work every day above and beyond your typical responsibilities.

Think Like a Customer, Always

In the end, every organization has customers that they’re serving. Perhaps it’s people wanting to dine at your restaurant. Maybe it’s people looking to buy tools at the hardware store. Maybe it’s impoverished people looking to pick up food from the pantry.

No matter what, your organization has customers. Whenever you’re considering how to handle a task, stop for a second and think about what you’re doing from the perspective of the customer. What can you do to give that customer the best experience without costing your business extra money?

You can keep the grill clean. You can keep the food fresh. You can keep the shelves stocked. You can answer customer questions and be as friendly as you possibly can.

When customers are happy, they come back. When they come back, your business thrives. When you do the things that bring the customers back, people within your organization will notice, and that will purely benefit you.


Build Marketable and Transferable Skills

Every day you’re at work, keep the next step in your career in the back of your mind. Where do you want to go next? Even more importantly, what kind of skills do you need to go there?

Often, the skills you need at that future job won’t overlap perfectly with what you’re doing now, but there is almost always some sort of overlap. Maybe it’s customer relation skills. Maybe it’s time management. Maybe it’s information management. Maybe it’s some flavor of IT skills.

Just look for overlaps between the skills you’re using at your entry level job and the skills you will be using at your ideal job. Then, when you’re at work, put extra effort into honing those skills. If you’re going to continue in marketing, focus on maximizing anything that might relate to marketing, for example. If you don’t have a specific skill, work on things like communication skills, information management, and, well…

Don’t Give Other Workers Reason to Backstab You

There are always going to be negative people in the workplace. They’re going to attack people and stab them in the back. They’re going to try to tear down others. That’s just their character—nothing you can really do about it.

What you can do, however, is not paint a giant bullseye on yourself. Don’t leave coworkers hanging. Don’t make their jobs more difficult. Don’t create any kind of conflict if you can possibly avoid it.

What will happen is that other people—the people who don’t do their job well and create challenges for others—will become the low-hanging fruit with the bullseye on their back. Sure, it’s not the happiest outcome, but if there’s going to be a bullseye—and there will—make sure it’s not on your back.

Final Thoughts

An entry-level job can be a powerful stepping stone for the career that you want, even when it doesn’t seem like this simple job can possibly lead to where you want to go. Never, ever fall into the trap of thinking that your job doesn’t matter or that it can’t provide anything for you other than a paycheck. If nothing else, every job is capable of opening doors to your future, whether you see them or not.

Take your job seriously. Use a customer-focused perspective on what you do. Be reliable, be timely, be presentable, and don’t idle. Look for mentors and strong relationships, and ask what you can do to get promoted. Those things will pave the path to a much better future.

Good luck.

How to Get a Ton of Value Out of an Entry-Level Job | The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm is a personal finance writer at TheSimpleDollar.com. After pulling himself out of his own financial crisis, he founded the site in late 2006 to help others through financially difficult situations; today the site has become a finance, insurance, and retirement resource. Contact Trent at trent AT the simple dollar DOT com; please send site inquiries to inquiries AT the simple dollar DOT com. Image by Leremy (Shutterstock).

The Questions to Ask When Deciding to Work for Free

The Questions to Ask When Deciding to Work for Free

No one likes the idea of not being paid for their time and effort, but there is a case to be made for working for free. Maybe you gain experience and build your resume. Maybe you get exposure. It’s tricky, though, and author Seth Godin suggests a few important questions when deciding whether or not to work for free.


There are some solid reasons for working for free, but there are also some really bad reasons to do it. We’ve shown you this flowchart to help you decide, and you should also consider the following factors, Godin says:

  • Do they pay other people who do this work? Do their competitors?
  • Am I learning enough from this interaction to call this part of my education?
  • Is this public work with my name on it, or am I just saving them cash to do a job they should pay for?
  • If I get paid, is it more likely the organization will pay closer attention, promote it better and treat it more seriously?
  • Do I care about their mission? Can they afford to do this professionally?
  • Will I get noticed by the right people, people who will help me spread the word to the point where I can get hired to do this professionally?
  • What’s the risk to me, my internal monologue and my reputation if I do this work?

These questions sum up a lot of the complexities of deciding whether or not to work for free, but Godin has some additional, interesting insight over at his blog. Check it out at the link below.

Should you work for free? | Seth Godin

Photo by Michael Cory.