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5 Things You Can Do to Get Ahead at Work

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Peg earned a BA Degree at UTD and a Master's Certificate in Project Mgmt. She managed multi-million dollar telecom projects across the U.S.

San Diego, California at a business conference for Project Managers.

San Diego, California at a business conference for Project Managers.

The Bottom Line

Have you ever owned your own business? If you have, you'll understand that every penny spent on salaries, utilities, desks, copiers, fax machines, supplies and equipment is money out of your pocket. If you ever owned a retail business, and I have, you will soon discover that everything costs money. From the wages to the bags you'll need to package up purchases, it all comes out of your profit at the end of the day.

If you never owned a business then wasting those bags isn't much of an issue. Or is it? If you want to get ahead of the others at work who are content to punch in and stand around wasting time and supplies, you'll need to open your eyes to the realities of owning a business. Coming up with ways that will reduce costs in the workplace will set you apart from the others who just don't care. You'll see them wasting the paper towels, leaving lights on, tossing out things that can be recycled, and generally oblivious to the bottom line.

Atlanta Concourse Professional Offices

Atlanta Concourse Professional Offices

1. Make a Difference

How can you distinguish yourself? Take a moment to imagine you are the owner of a business. How would you feel about employees on your payroll who spend their day on social networking sites or on personal phone calls when there's work to be done? Would you hire more people like that? Would you give them a raise? Of course not.

Start being the person you wish you could hire for your own business and start thinking of the business where you work as your own.

The Bathtub Philosophy: Water from the faucet is income. Drains and leaks must be plugged.

The Bathtub Philosophy: Water from the faucet is income. Drains and leaks must be plugged.

Income is water coming in from the faucet with profits going down the drain. Expense is the leaks in the tub that need to be plugged to improve profitability.

— Robert Allen

2. Reduce Unnecessary Expense

What could you do right now that would reduce the overhead expense where you work? For a moment, imagine that you'll be writing the check for the electric bill this month and that it's coming out of your paycheck. Would you leave the lights on in the stockroom where no one needs to go into for hours? Consider the water bill. Would you let the water run over in that bucket while you go outside for a break? It may not seem like a lot of money until it's your business.

To get ahead, you need to make it your business.

Working as an administrative assistant while attending college classes at night.

Working as an administrative assistant while attending college classes at night.

I worked as an executive secretary to a wealthy woman who was the president of three companies. In the previous year, her husband passed away. Following his departure, a couple of employees left the firm since their role in the business was not needed.

Beyond my assigned duties of answering the phone, sorting the bills, preparing invoices, and payroll checks, I called the telephone company and asked about reducing the number of services not used but currently being billed. I discovered a way to cut the cost of the phone service by nearly half.

I presented a report detailing how much money this would save the company. They gave me a bonus of one hundred dollars for taking the initiative. This inspired me to look for more ways to cut the overhead and improve the bottom line. Key: The owner may not notice the things you do to reduce expenses unless you make them aware of your actions to reduce costs.

The Confidence to Make Presentations: Learning new skills through education.

The Confidence to Make Presentations: Learning new skills through education.

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3. Educate Yourself

In some organizations, the company is willing to reimburse employees who take college courses whether they pertain to the industry or just lead to the completion of a college degree. When I worked for a bank years ago their policy was that for every banking class a worker successfully completed, the employee would get a small weekly raise. One class at a time, I was able to raise my salary by attending class, opening a few books, and reading information on the legal aspects of my job.

"Educate yourself by communicating with those who can teach you the most."

If a tuition reimbursement program is not available, seek out a higher paying job in your organization, and volunteer for cross-training. Offer to learn on your own time if necessary. People who are good at their job are often willing to share their secrets as to how it is done. Ask to become an apprentice to improve your skill level then offer to fill in during their breaks or vacations. When it comes time for them to retire or they get promoted, guess who will be next in line for that job.

Keeping Up With the Industry Standards

Keeping Up With the Industry Standards

4. Study Your Chosen Industry

If you were to list the last five books you've read that relate to your chosen career what would they be? How well versed are you on your industry, your job, your company's products, and its customers?

One of the most life-changing moments in my career was during a wait at the airport during a mechanical delay. I pulled out a fiction novel and began reading. One of my coworkers frankly told me, "You'll never get ahead if that's the kind of stuff you read."

You must be willing to study on your own time in order to get ahead.

"Don't be lazy in learning. It doesn't get more simple than that."

— Jim Rohn, America's Foremost Business Philospher

Duties of a project manager include meeting equipment deliveries, managing budgets, hardware installation, software testing and cut over of telecom equipment.

Duties of a project manager include meeting equipment deliveries, managing budgets, hardware installation, software testing and cut over of telecom equipment.

5. Seek out Opportunities Within Your Company

As a buyer for a huge international corporation, I continued to look at the job openings that were posted for internal applicants. Although I had a B.A. degree and a good-paying job, the only way to move forward in my career was to get more training.

The project manager job sounded exactly like what I wanted to do: conduct meetings; manage installation teams and resources; meet deliveries; order project material; maintain a project budget; and travel the US. I learned that to qualify for that job at my company I would need a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

The coursework for this daunting block of information was full of word problems, theory and formulas to memorize. It took effort and hours of study in my own time before I could sit for the two-hour examination. Earning that certification opened the doors that had been closed without the additional training.

The Monthly Meeting: Working in the corporate world requires presentation skills and more

The Monthly Meeting: Working in the corporate world requires presentation skills and more

Organize a Lunch and Learn Program

If you work in an organization where there is a standard lunch hour, here lies an opportunity for growth. Start your own "Lunch and Learn" program. Where I worked, there were several conference rooms that stood vacant during the lunch hour. I would book these conference rooms at least once a week inviting others to bring a bag lunch and get together with me.

Each week I sent out an email to my coworkers who'd expressed an interest in getting ahead and we would use this time to watch an educational movie, share a chapter from a book or listen to motivational tapes. These things are free at the library or at some companies, they will purchase material for educational purposes.

Through these meetings, I learned an important fact about other people and commitment. First, there were always those who wanted to come and who showed up regularly. Second, there were always those who said they wanted to attend but never made it.

This brings me to another quote from Mr. Rohn who said, "Some do and some don't."

What will you do to get ahead?

Review: Five Ways to Make a Difference

  1. Help in controlling expenses by thinking of the business as your own.
  2. Look for ways to reduce unnecessary expenses.
  3. Educate yourself by learning from those in better-paying positions.
  4. Study your chosen industry.
  5. Seek out opportunities within your company and train for them.