I primarily write about being a better freelancer and finding higher-paying clients. But the other side of the business fence is how to become more valuable to the company you work for and gaining advancement and recognition in a full-time employment gig.
As someone who’s trained, managed, and supervised others for a number of years, let me assure you that getting promoted doesn’t necessarily require outstanding abilities. All that’s really required is that you do a better job than the next guy. And, sadly, that’s becoming easier and easier as each new generation enters the workforce. As the bar plunges ever downward, I promise you that, by following these 14 Simple Rules, you’ll stand head-and-shoulders above the average worker the next cubicle over.
The events depicted in this article are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to persons living or dead (or previously employed by me) is merely coincidental.
1- Show up on Time
Even better, arrive early.
2- Take 15-Minute Breaks
Not thirty. Not seventeen. Fifteen.
3- Stay off Facebook
Do you really think I didn’t briefly see Facebook on your screen before you clicked away to another tab as you heard me approach?
4- Put Your Cell Phone Away
When I walk to your desk at 10 AM and again at 2 PM, and both times I “just happened“ to catch you texting, do you suppose I know that those weren’t the only two times you were on your phone today?
5- Treat Co-workers with Respect
There are certain names you should never call a co-worker, no matter how badly you’d like to. I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to list them.
6- Dress Better
I’m not talking about wearing a three-piece suit in a causal work environment. But showing up in a stained hoodie and torn jeans, looking like you just crawled out of bed does not impress me. And don’t ever wear your pajamas to work.
7- Keep a Tidy Workspace
Strategically placed paperwork shows me you’re busy; but complete and utter chaos doesn’t inspire my confidence, and the two-day old pizza crust grosses me out.
8- Bring a Notepad and Pen to Meetings
I don’t recall “photographic memory” being on your resume. So if I don’t see you writing down my instructions, I’m going to wonder how well you’ll carry them out. Or maybe you thought what I had to say wasn’t important.
9- Step up to the Plate
There may be times when I throw something at you with little planning or foresight. I may just need you to figure out how to get it done. So don’t make excuses or procrastinate if you can’t figure it out. Ask for help; that’s what I’m here for.
10- Leave Your Drama at Home
Sharing bits of your personal life goes a long way towards building relationships with co-workers. I’ve even been know to share light-hearted struggles (like getting my brainiac kids to actually turn in their homework and get better grades). But exercise caution when sharing the teenage pregnancies, extra-marital indiscretions, divorces, and other dramas of life, should they occur.
11- Be Low Maintenance
If I’m always wondering why you aren’t at your desk, how long of a break you took, or when you’ll finally get that assignment finished, you are a high-maintenance employee. I have more important things to do than keeping track of you all day.
12- Shore Up My Weakness
If you can relieve me of something I hate to do, or I’m not so good at, you’ve made yourself an invaluable asset.
13- Don’t Ever Say (or Think) “It’s not My Job”
I promise never to ask that you climb onto the roof and patch the leak above my desk. But I may assign you additional responsibilities. Your willingness to take on those responsibilities—and even go the extra mile—means I won’t be looking your direction if my boss ever tells me we’re cutting back and needs to know who we should lay off.
14- Make Me Look Good
I once had a boss who thanked me for helping him get a promotion. Running my department smoothly reflected well on him. How do you suppose he repaid me? By helping me get promoted.
Remember, I have a boss of my own. Your poor work habits make me look bad in the eyes of my superiors. Make me look good, and when my boss asks me what kind of job you’re doing, I promise to make you look good as well.
Hard skills like HTML, CSS or PHP may get you hired, but it’s the soft skills that get you ahead, both in your career and in life.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.