In the age of participation trophies and self-esteem raising, a substantial portion of our generation has come to see themselves as just a wee bit too important.
As a young entrepreneur and employer, I can tell you that there is little more frustrating than an employee who wants to be granted a larger role or more authority in order so that that person can then go on to earn it. Like a good sports team that plays down to the level of its opponents, many people seem to think a job is beneath them and thereby feel no motivation to prove that it is not.
Basically, these people are putting the cart before the horse.
It may sound simple, but the best way to move up in a company—or any organization for that matter—is to provide more value than you are expected to in whatever role you’ve been assigned. Be so good they can’t ignore you so to speak.
Even if you feel that the task you have before you is “less than you”, do it better than is to be expected. If it’s so “beneath you,” then why not just dominate it? Of course, some employers haven’t got a clue, and in that case, it’s best to look for opportunities elsewhere. But for the most part, if you excel at something, your role and the authority (as well as promotions and raises) will soon follow.
Our company is a real estate investment and management firm, and we have one employee in leasing who we granted a small role in turnover as well. Basically, he was to check on the work done by our contractors to make sure that rehabs and make turnovers were complete and ready to be shown to potential tenants. He went on to do so well in this as well as providing all sorts of ideas for improvement and even taking it on himself to find additional subcontractors that we couldn’t help but give him more authority in that area (and a raise as well).
Our receptionist started coming in early to complete additional tasks, including bookkeeping tasks she told us she was capable of (and proved herself to be). She got a raise and now we’re looking for a back office role for her that would grant her even more responsibility and authority (and yes, even more money).
At the same time, we’ve had employees that wanted to be granted a larger amount of responsibility but did nothing at all to prove they would excel at it. They would ask for more and even become frustrated when such requests were denied. But what were we to do? They hadn’t done anything to prove to us that such a role was merited. They had placed that cart directly in front of the horse.
Indeed, I’ve personally fallen prey to this temptation before.
So no matter what you find yourself doing, try to excel at it. Indeed, in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport finds that the old “find something you’re passionate about” career advice is deeply flawed. People generally become passionate about what they are good at, not the other way around. For example, early in his life, Steve Jobs meandered rather aimlessly and showed only a modest interest in computers. But as he started to excel in that field, he became unstoppably passionate about it.
The world doesn’t owe you anything and neither does your employer (well, other than what they’ve agreed to offer you, of course). Make sure to approach everything you do as to excel at it. You need to make opportunities for yourself and the way to do that is by going above and beyond and providing more value than expected.
That is how you move up in the real world.