You Never Know Until You Ask!
Every job has its perks, options, and opportunities for moving up, but it is up to you to find out what they are and to take full advantage of them. Here are four critical questions that you need to ask yourself and your employer on a continual basis because they will help you get more out of your career financially, educationally, experientially, and promotion-wise!
Question #1: Will your company match your retirement contributions? If you contribute $100 a month to a Roth IRA or similar retirement fund, some companies will match your contribution and put $100 into your fund too. This is free money that you are losing each month when you do not contribute toward your own retirement. So, ask your employer about any investment programs they offer and sign up for that free money toward your future!
Question #2: Does your company offer incentives for attaining higher education? Some companies have deals with local community colleges and universities that will actually pay for your whole degree, especially if it relates to your job. If your company does not pay for your tuition, they may still offer salary points, bonuses, cohorts, promotions, or other incentives for attaining additional training or degrees. But, you need to ASK if you want to know what your company has to offer. And ask every year because policies change. Moreover, if your company knows you are attaining a higher degree, this may put you in the running for promotions and bonuses due to your dedication to improving your knowledge and skills.
Question #3: What new projects or tasks can you take on? This might seem strange that I am suggesting that you take on more work for no pay, but there are several good reasons: first, these are experiences that you can add to your resume; second, you get to develop more knowledge and skills that make you more marketable for higher positions; and, third, this shows your boss and coworkers that you are a team player and hard worker that can gladly take on bigger projects with ease and success. My dad always told me that work is all about “service, service, service.” In other words, help out whomever you can whenever you can because then you become an invaluable asset to your company. Plus, people will remember your generosity and support.
Question #4: Is there anything else I can do to perfect my work in my current position and/or anything I can do to prepare for my next position? Always be improving at your job; when you feel like you are on a plateau, reach higher. For example, when I was a teacher, I wanted to work more with adults doing professional development, so I offered to have a “Mentor Teacher” class period in which I helped novice teachers with their curriculum. This gave me experience, skills, and a foot in the door to my next goal of being a “Literacy Coach.” On that note, one more tip is to always dress for the position you want, not the one you have! When I got to that “Mentor Teacher” period, I started to dress more conservatively because you want others to perceive you in higher positions. This is just one more step toward making your dream a reality.
Just by asking these questions alone, you are showing your employer that you are a go-getter, a planner, and a driven person who is always looking for new opportunities for advancement. As soon as an opportunity arises, you will be the first one to find out because you have initiated those conversations already! Even if your company does not currently offer incentives or options like I have mentioned, they may in the future if you and others request them regularly. It’s all about creating a dialogue around what you want and deserve as a competent worker at your company. Employers want happy, fulfilled, and reliable employees who are financially stable so it’s up to you to let them know consistently and in amicable ways, how they can support you and keep you on board while moving up the career ladder.