One foundational principle of my personal finance perspective is that your career is your most important financial asset.
If you don’t believe me, take an average salary (or one you expect to earn), and multiply it by 40 working years (the length of an average career).
Compare that number to all your other assets. Is there anything even close? Probably not.
That’s good news, right? You have a multi-million dollar asset you may not have previously considered!
The better news is that there are steps you can take to make this asset worth even more. In fact, you can make it worth millions more.
I’ve detailed what it takes to earn those extra millions in my seven steps to millions more, sharing what I did to average 8%+ annual income increases over almost 30 years. These steps are proven and will work over time for almost anyone.
That said, some folks are intimidated by these steps.
Maybe it’s because they think the suggestions require too much effort or time. Or maybe they see the steps as too complicated. Or perhaps people are simply lazy. There is certainly an air of “I want it fast and easy” in our culture these days.
Whatever the case, I can testify that these steps are worth the effort. They can literally change your financial life as shown in the careers of the millionaires. I’ve interviewed the past several years.
However, I want to help even the most reluctant career-grower by offering seven small and easy steps you can take to grow your career.
These won’t require much time or effort and they can have a good payoff. After all, even a 1% annual difference in increases through the years can add up to $1 million or more!
Each of the simple tips below correspond to one of my seven steps mentioned above. They are meant to put everyone on the path to career growth, one small step at a time.
With that said, here are seven small things you can easily apply to grow your career…
1. Set up an expectations meeting with your boss.
Of all the seven steps, the first, to over-perform, is the most important in my opinion.
A simple fact of work life is that if you want to be paid more, you need to deliver more. And the only way to deliver “more” is to know what your company and boss expect you to deliver in the first place.
Step one of identifying these expectations is meeting with your boss to get them quantified and in writing. There are follow-up actions, of course, but if you want to get the ball rolling in the right direction, setting up a meeting to chat about what your boss expects is clearly option 1.
By the way, requesting such a conversation with your boss in the first place can often be a career-builder in and of itself. Who doesn’t appreciate an employee who wants to make sure she’s clear on what the boss expects so she can do more?
2. Do one kind act per day.
Ranked right after being a great performer is being likable. (Some even consider it more important than the work you do!)
This is a more difficult target as there seems to be an endless number of ways to earn favor with co-workers, employers, and employees. But almost every article I’ve ever read on “how to be likable” has at least some element of kindness listed.
Make an effort to do something kind for someone every day. Help out with a project, offer a compliment, give someone the better parking space, remember a birthday, stay late to cover for a co-worker with a sick child, and so forth.
Basically, think about what you’d appreciate if others did it for you, then do those things for them.
If you do, people will not only like you, they’ll probably LOVE you! In addition, you’ll feel better about your workplace and your career will thrive.
3. Connect to one new person each day on LinkedIn.
The key to a successful network is keeping it growing and active. One way to do this is to continually add new connections.
And with LinkedIn, doing so is very easy.
Make a note to visit LinkedIn each day. Look for past and present connections, then invite them to connect.
During my working years, I had LinkedIn set up in a tab every time I opened my browser. It was an easy reminder to make a connection that day.
If a daily commitment is too much, you can set a weekly goal and batch efforts on various days. As long as you make seven new connections each week, you’ll still be completing your goal.
In a year you’ll have at least 365 new connections (probably more as others will find you) and your network will be a growing career asset. My connections on LI currently stand at 1,950 as a result of these efforts.
4. Work out several times a week.
There’s a whole host of research showing the positive benefits of being healthy on your career and finances. But for today we’re focusing on how to be more attractive — and working out fits the bill here as well.
In addition to keeping you toned and at an appropriate weight (both of which make you more attractive), working out generally makes you happier, which can have significant benefits in your “being likable” efforts.
Besides, those who are healthier tend to earn more while also spending less on health-related costs, so hitting the gym not only helps your career but improves your finances in other ways as well.
5. Read a book (or listen to one).
Pick a book that’s applicable to your job and read it. If that’s too much of a commitment, get the audio version and listen to it while driving to work, working out, mowing the lawn, etc.
While reading it, record key learnings and select at least three ideas to implement. As you do, these efforts should help you perform better, which should be a boost in your efforts to over-perform expectations.
Repeat the process on a manageable schedule (like once every quarter) to multiply your efforts throughout the year.
And if even this simple strategy is too difficult, then opt for a podcast or two and use them as your source for growing skills.
6. Review your methods for getting things done.
What is your process for getting important tasks accomplished with excellence?
If you don’t have one, you need one — a way to determine goals, then break them down into bite-sized tasks so you deliver more than expected in a timely fashion.
Even if you have your work process finely-tuned, an annual review is worth it to see if improvements can be made. After all, it’s this process which will help you be the best you can be and ultimately over-deliver (item #1), so always look for ways it can be improved.
Throughout my career I made adjustments to my process almost every year, even if it was just a small tweak here and there. Doing so made my system much better over time, allowing me to focus more time on the actual work itself.
7. Write down your quantifiable accomplishments each month.
One key to having a great resume is being sure it’s filled with tons of quantifiable accomplishments.
But there’s a problem in making sure the best results are recorded — most people don’t update their resumes until they begin actively looking for a job. And it may have been years since the last update, during which many important tasks have been accomplished.
Because of this, it’s common for people to forget many of their best accomplishments. Even if these are remembered, going back years later to get specific numbers on what was delivered can be very difficult.
To avoid this issue, take 15 minutes each month to record your accomplishments and the results they generated. Then when you need to update your resume, you’ll have a great list.
That’s it. A pretty simple set of tasks, right? And yet these small steps can get you started on the path to making an extra million dollars or more, so they are completely worth it.
So don’t delay. Get to work on these asap and over the years, your career and earnings will grow.
This post originally appeared on Your Money Geek.