Before I became a full-time business owner, I worked in my career for several years. Over that time, I learned a lot about career success. For example, I learned how to ask for what I was worth, how to negotiate, how to be confident as a woman in a male-dominated industry, and so much more.
For someone who’s just starting out with their career, switching careers, searching for a new job, or wanting to do better at work, these career success factors are for you. They will help you earn more money and get the better-paying job you deserve…because you are worth it.
Top 5 tips to achieve career success (Key career success factors)
1. Always ask for more
When I first graduated from college, I got my first job with a salary of $54,000 before taxes (after taxes, it was around $40,000). When I got that offer letter, I was ecstatic. It was more money than I’d ever earned in my life, and as far I was concerned, I was balling. It didn’t once cross my mind to ask for more money or even ask for a sign-on bonus. I was just happy I got a job that came with a good (to me) salary.
As time went by, once I started working, I got to know my co-workers and became friends with them. Then one day over lunch, we randomly started discussing how much we earned (yes, despite this being against HR policy, we did it anyway because we were cool like that).
As the conversation progressed, I realized that another co-worker and I were the lowest earners at the table despite being hired into similar positions. Also, even though we all had similar educational backgrounds.
The impact of my not asking: Some of them made thousands of dollars more than I did, and some of them even got sign-on bonuses. The reason why they were earning more? Unlike me, they didn’t accept the first offer they received. Instead, they asked for more.
Not only did asking for more get them more money, but it also positioned them to earn more in terms of raises and bonuses, which were given as a percentage of their base salary, over the life of their career at that company.
Needless to say, I was mad…at myself, although this is a common salary problem. However, the lesson was learned and I vowed never again.
Tip on asking for more money
Always ask for more money – Don’t be shy or afraid to ask. Asking for more money is a critical step in career success. The worst thing that can happen is you get a no, but at least you’ll know that you tried. Before you start searching for a job, do some research to determine how much people typically get paid on average in your industry, in your city, and by the company you are applying to. Also, compare your skillset and education level to available data as well.
Doing this will give you a baseline to negotiate with. Keep in mind that for every average salary you come across, there are people who get paid on the higher end of that average – and that could very well be you too.
2. Benefits are up for negotiation too
Negotiating and asking for more doesn’t just stop with your salary. You can actually negotiate your benefits too. Especially if there isn’t that much room to negotiate salary-wise. Of course, after my first job experience, I vowed to never just accept the salary I was given.
I decided that not only would I negotiate my salary, but I would also negotiate my benefits too. At the end of the day, what’s the worst they could say? They could say no, and I could keep it moving.
And so in subsequent jobs, I've negotiated everything from vacation days, to work from home days, to summer Fridays, to the type of computer I worked with, to my work schedule, to future bonuses based on my performance. The best part? I actually got a lot of these things after negotiating. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it!
Tip on negotiating benefits
When it comes to negotiating benefits, do your research (just as you would with salaries) to see what people are being offered at the company in question, in your industry, and even with competitors. This will give you more of a case when you make your counteroffer and negotiate and won’t make your requests seem ridiculous.
Also, be mindful of existing company policies. For instance, if your company has a strict policy around a benefit, you don’t disregard their policy when making your negotiation request. Negotiating your salary and benefits is vital to career success!
3. Exceed expectations and make yourself invaluable
Once you get your foot in the door at a new employer, you want to show them why they hired you. You also want to prove why they should reward you with bonuses, raises, and promotions by exceeding expectations. Essentially, your goal should be to make yourself an invaluable resource to your company.
For every job I ever worked, this was a goal of mine. I came into work every day, put my best foot forward, took initiative, and made sure that I learned what I needed to excel at my role. I asked questions, asked for and gave feedback, brought my ideas and suggestions to the table, and always over-delivered on every project I worked on, even when I knew I didn’t have to.
Even if you are not at your dream job, it’s still important to do your best work and be your best self. Why? Well, you’ll be positioning yourself for your dream job when the opportunity presents itself. This is because you would have already developed the habits and consistency around doing excellent work.
Plus, in the meantime, you’ll be positioning yourself for advancement where ever you are currently. One of the most important career success factors is to exceed expectations!
Tip for exceeding expectations
Ask for frequent feedback from your boss. It could be through a monthly formal or informal check-in but make sure you are getting feedback and know what your boss is thinking about your performance.
When I was employed full-time, I planned a monthly 15-minute check-in with my boss to discuss how I was performing. I asked if there were any areas of improvement I could work on or additional projects I could take on or contribute to.
This meeting made my boss aware of how serious I took my job and kept me top of mind when it came time for bonuses, raises, and promotions. In addition, my boss began to advocate for me through the company because he was confident in my ability to deliver. (If you don't have a great boss, we share key tips here).
4. Never stop learning
Just because you are really good at your job doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room to grow. And just because a skill set does not directly apply to what you do today does not mean it’s not valuable.
Everything I learned while working full-time indirectly prepared me to be my own boss. I learned how to work on a team, how to develop systems and processes, project management, and so much more. Today, they all apply one way or the other to what I do now in my business. If I had chosen to continue in my career, it would have applied to subsequent jobs as well.
Tip on how to learn more
Find courses, certifications, conferences, etc., that you can leverage to improve your skillset. This will help you become better at what you do now and also at any job you take on in the future. Expand your skillset and stand out from the competition at work!
5. Set professional goals to accomplish career success
One of the most important steps to career success is setting professional development goals. Like anything else, setting goals is vital because it helps you aspire for bigger things. For instance, let's say you are a bank teller, but you want to become a branch manager. Then you should set a professional goal to become a branch manager by a certain date.
Do this by using the "SMART" goal method. SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. So, the specific part of your goal is to become a branch manager, and the time-based part would be the date you want to accomplish this goal by such as within two years, etc.
Break your big goal down into smaller goals. For example, take your big goal of becoming a manager and break it down into smaller goals that are easy to achieve. For instance, take leadership courses to learn how to be a successful manager. (Check out our article on top leadership lessons for women).
This way, you know how to perform the role well before you apply. In addition, setting professional goals will motivate you to find a job you love and prevent you from getting stuck. Having professional goals are a key factor to consider and create in the career you choose.
Make career success easier with these tips
Use these career success factors to improve your performance and earn more money. Expanding your skillset, setting goals, and knowing how to negotiate your salary can make all the difference in helping you grow in your career and become financially successful too! Knowing your worth is also important.
Are you being underpaid and held back at work? Then learn how to find a higher-paying job with our completely FREE course and work towards career success!