From getting a promotion to going for your dream job, tips for getting the most from your career
By Robyn Moreno
Americans spend almost two thirds of their lives working, but according to a poll by SnagAJob.com, 40 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. To help you get some fulfillment from the workplace, we reached out to several of today’s top career experts for some on-the-job advice. Here, we share with you their top five tips for getting the most out of the daily grind.
Find out what’s making you miserable
If you can figure out exactly why you’re unhappy, it will be easier to make a change for the better, says life and career coach Meredith Haberfeld (www.instituteforcoaching.com). To get to the heart of the matter, write down specific examples of things you dislike about your current job, whether it’s not earning enough money, working late hours or having an unappreciative boss. Once you pinpoint what’s frustrating you, it’ll be easier to take action to improve the situation, such as asking for a raise or negotiating to leave earlier to spend more time with your family. “Homing in on what you don’t like about your job makes it easier to ask for what you want,” says Haberfeld.
Speak up to get a promotion
“Women tend to minimize their work triumphs, which impacts their ability to move ahead,” says Caitlin Friedman, coauthor of The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch). It’s perfectly acceptable to toot your own horn once in a while, especially if your accomplishments are valuable to the company. To avoid seeming obnoxious about your endeavors, send your boss a note thanking her for placing confidence in your ability to handle your latest project, and let her know how happy you are that it yielded such success. Friedman also recommends making yourself invaluable to your boss in practical ways; for example, if your boss is unable to even go near a computer without asking for assistance, why not brush up on new technologies and implement new policies that streamline office procedures? “A good rule of thumb is that you’re ready to be promoted when you’ve already mastered the job above you,” says Friedman.
Ask for a raise
What’s the secret to getting your next pay bump? Being proactive. According to the book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, women who consistently negotiate their salaries earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t. But before you march into your boss’s office, first ask yourself if your company is in good enough financial shape to give you a raise, and consider whether it’s been a reasonable amount of time since you received your last raise. If you answer yes to both of those questions, it’s fine to proceed. Remember to be specific when making your case to your boss. Carmen Letscher, a public relations executive in Los Angeles, says employees who ask for exactly what they want in terms of title, position, salary and vacation time are greeted much more favorably than employees who only use the time to complain about their lousy position or salary.
Get the most out of your employee benefits
In addition to giving promotions and raises, many companies offer employees other perks to help make their jobs feel more worthwhile. Look over your employee benefits handbook to learn what’s available to you. Some companies offer on-site gyms or child care centers, while others offer some sort of tuition reimbursement. In addition to bigger incentives like these, you might be able to enjoy some smaller benefits, such as discounted admission to museums and other forms of entertainment, like the ballet or opera. Finally, be sure to sign up for your company’s 401(k) plan. Surveys show that one third of all workers do not participate in their employer’s 401(k), while 20 percent don’t contribute enough to get the full employer match. Not having your 401(k) contributions matched by an employer is essentially giving up free money-something you definitely want to avoid.
Go after your dream job
The first step in achieving your dream job is to visualize what your dream job is, says Haberfeld. From there, it will be much easier to realistically set the goals that will take you there. For instance, if you determine your dream is to open your own bakery, your next steps-from scouting a location to securing a loan-will become much clearer. Ladies Who Launch is one great resource for fledgling business owners. The group offers networking events and meetings around the country that connect you with women who have similar interests and will teach you about financing your particular dream. Sign up for their “Incubator” program, and you’ll meet with other inspired women on a weekly basis and workshop one another’s ideas, giving feedback on everything from a business name to marketing strategies. Visit ladieswholaunch.com for a workshop or chapter near you.