By Kevin M
Imagine there?s a way, not only to keep your job, but also to get a raise in the bargain, yes, even in this very difficult job market when so many are content merely to hold on to what they have, let alone to move forward. How? By becoming that go-to guy (or girl) and daring to ask some uncomfortable questions.
On September 3rd, a brilliant article appeared on one of my favorite personal finance blogs, The Five Cent Nickel, written as a guest post by one of my favorite personal finance writers, Matt Jabs of Debt Free Adventure. The article, How to Get a Raise (or at Least Keep Your Job) recommends stepping up and delivering a higher performance as a way not only to get a raise, but maybe also to save your job.
Become the go-to guy (or girl)
The article covers this point in a single paragraph, but I think this is foundational to the whole process. Some employees work doubly hard at looking better in an effort to improve their standing, and in my experience, some of them are stinking good at it too. They learn how to mingle with the powers that be, and to get credit for any work they do. But the important distinction, especially in the job market of the moment, is not just to look better, but to be better!
This point can?t be overemphasized. When layoffs come around, the first to go will usually be those who are least productive. Matt advises ??under-promise and over-deliver! Don?t just do the bare minimum. Go the extra mile. If you?re continually surpassing the expectations of your superiors, it?s only a matter of time before a bonus or raise will come your way.?
Don?t just come into work and pass the time until the end of your shift, instead resolve to make a difference while you?re there. Become a performer your employer can?t function without (or as close to that as you can reasonably come).
In most companies, in most departments, there are a small number of people who are critical to the operation. Sometimes this importance is linked to specific positions the organization can?t do without. But more often than not, it?s a level of performance that?s been assumed by the employee.
There are three types of workers in most organizations: high performers, low performers and everyone in between. Let?s be honest?most people fall somewhere in that in-between zone. They take comfort in the fact that they out produce the low performers, but are reluctant to move into the level of the high performers usually out of fear of taking on the responsibility that goes with it. But in the current job market, only the high performers can be reasonably certain of keeping their jobs, or of getting a raise or promotion.
And there?s another critical point as well with high performers: even if the company does let them go, they?re typically held in high regard by coworkers and former coworkers who often recommend them for jobs at other companies. See Is Your Company Looking Shaky? Bet On Your Coworkers for a more in depth discussion of this critical connection.
Ask the tough questions
Matt actually recommends meeting with your boss specifically to ask what you can do to improve your performance. This is a most uncomfortable step for many people to take. It?s like asking for a critical review of your performance but without the specific prospect of a raise hanging in the balance.
So why then would you even bother to ask? Because you must. Asking tough questions is a way of demonstrating both concern for the bigger picture, and for being willing to accept constructive criticism.
Three questions he recommends as critical to ask your boss:
- Please list the top three things that I do well
- Please list the top three ways in which I could improve
- Please share one short-term and one long-term company goal
The answers to these questions will enable you know what your core value is to your employer, to make improvements in the areas in which you are weak, to have a handle on where your company is going, and what positive impact you can have on that direction. All can provide you with an inside track on where you fit in the organization.
But Matt cautions that the answers to those questions can be unsettling as well. ?If you?re not on the same page, then maybe it?s high time you re-evaluate your position and consider a new company or career. Otherwise, jump on the company train and don?t look back!?
Be prepared to act
Once you have the answers to the questions, be prepared to ?use the feedback you?ve received, and formulate your own short-term and long-term goals.? Assuming that the answers to the questions reveal that you have a future with your employer, implement changes in your work as the answers to the questions dictate.
Matt also advises against some of the practices that become a habit during more comfortable times. ?Don?t fake sick days, always be punctual, don?t make excuses, and don?t just go through the motions.? There are enough people violating these guidelines that you can stand out just by not being one of them.
Become known as a person who brings these virtues to your work, who can be counted on to get the job done when others shy away, and you will most likely be one of the survivors in what has become probably the worst job market in our lifetimes.