We’ll start with general good practice & fun ideas …
– Find the 5 grumpiest or most miserable employees at your employer. Study them and what they do… Then, make it your specific goal to do the complete opposite! Talk the opposite, walk the opposite, answer your phone the opposite way these miserable employees do. Do this and you’re already miles ahead!
– Get a small Japanese rock garden or “zen garden” on your desk. Anytime one of your coworkers is having a bad day, invite them over to your cubicle so they can take in your garden and release their stress while telling you about their issues.
– Keep a little calendar reminder for people’s birthdays and other special dates (set an alert 3 days in advance). Be the first person to say “Hey, don’t you have a birthday coming up?” You will stand out from the 200 people that just write happy birthday on their Facebook wall.
– Name work projects after other people, places, and teams. Humans love it when their names are linked to successful projects, even if they weren’t a major part of the day to day activities.
– Bring your dog into work one day, or maybe bring your kids to the office. Introduce them to everyone and show your coworkers another side of you that they’ll fall in love with. (everyone loves dogs and kids!)
– Ask about other people’s kids! Parents love talking about their children, and they’ll remember you as someone who takes an interest in their life.
– Dress better (or, actually, try to be more *professionally comfortable*) than other employees. You don’t have to be the fanciest … rather, shoot to be the person who looks completely comfortable and in control of their position.
– If you’re walking down the office hallway and drop something … do the ‘bend and snap’. It works every time. (Sorry, I watched Legally Blonde recently and thought this would be funny to add.)
– Don’t be on your phone 📲 when other people are talking! If you have an urgent call or text, exit the room to deal with it.
– Rock up to work in a Ferrari. Just kidding! Other employees don’t care what type of car you drive. And you shouldn’t care how others arrive to work. Never shame your peers 🙂
– Don’t get hammered in front of your bosses. 🍺🍺 Be careful who you drink in front of. You want to be remembered, but in a good way!
– Don’t talk politics! As much as you might want to, people appreciate a neutral perspective at work.
– Don’t wear too much cologne or perfume. One spritz is enough. 🙂 Personal hygiene is important, as people remember other well groomed people (or worse, they remember those who aren’t!)
– Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room, aim to be the most professional. Professionalism stands out, not brains. If someone gets in an argument with you, remain professional at all costs.
– Show up on time to everything. People will remember you as someone who never double-books and always respects the organizer’s time. Be happy and alert at the start of every meeting.
Be a team leader (even if you don’t think you’re one)
– Commend others and give them credit as much as possible. Not just when they do stellar things, commend them when they do their *regular job*. Everybody loves encouragement, and you’ll stand out by giving it to them.
– Compliment people *directly* when they do a good job. Call them, stop by their cubicle, or even write a handwritten card. Feedback is always appreciated, and everyone loves confirmation that they’re doing a good job. Do this for even the coworkers you don’t know very well.
– Write notes of compliments to the team managers, too! Make sure you add details about how the other person a) upheld the companies values, b) gave extra effort or went out of their way, or c) helped save or gain a new client for the company.
– Don’t take sick days unnecessarily. If/when you do actually get sick, communicate clearly with all your peers and supervisors in advance to make it a seamless transition as possible *for others*. If your being sick is tough on someone else, consider making up for it by repaying the favor somehow later.
– Talk to the coworkers nobody else usually talks to. Everyone is important in your company! Make friends with the nerdiest nerds and quietest quiet people. They will probably appreciate it and you will stand out.
– Always give credit to others where due. The most successful people are often giving others credit, and this rarely “reduces” the credit you’ll receive for successes. When others see you sharing credit, they’ll share with you, too. But we do this for teamwork, not just for the boomerang effects.
– Organize the office birthday card, the flowers when there’s been a death in a coworker’s family, and be the one who calls ahead to the restaurant to reserve a table when you eat out together. It’s not hard and you’ll have others look to you for leadership.
– If a team member makes a big mistake, forgive them immediately instead of getting annoyed. Don’t go around telling others — help your coworker try to fix the issue and save face. Helping people out of sticky situations leads to bonding.
– Send your team a motivational email each morning. That’s how I started my 5am email list! Back at my old organization, I was known far and wide by employees and managers I’d never even met before.
– When somebody screws up, send them a private, encouraging email, like “hey, these things happen to all of us. I appreciate you being here” – these short messages can be remembered for years, don’t cost you any money, and help motivate others.
– Set up an informal learning session to teach people about something you know. You don’t have to be a career coach — even if it’s a presentation on basket weaving, people will appreciate your effort and it shows you are a team player!
– Welcome new hires and a new employee. Show them around the office and offer to help them get to know their new job. Everybody is nervous on their first day … you’ll help them out more than you’ll ever know.
– Shake people’s hands with a firm grip. Nobody likes a dead-fish handshake.
How to interact with your manager and get exposure to the C suite!
*Careful with this section. Remember to be genuine – you don’t want to be seen as a sycophant!
– Set a 20 min meeting with the CEO of your company. Ask what keeps him/her up at night. I promise after that conversation, the CEO will always remember you.
– Research your C-level team members and find their hobbies. Try them out, or do your best to relate these things to your own hobbies. Executives are real people who like to connect with other real people, no matter where they sit on the corporate ladder.
– Find out what old high school or college your managers graduated from. Buy them a mug or shirt with the school logo on it as a gift they can keep in their office. Bosses usually have extreme pride in their education. Every time they look at the gift, they will remember you.
– Ask for mentorship from a career expert you really identify with and want coaching from. Executives love to transfer knowledge down and approaching them shows you’re willing to go the extra mile to learn.
– Ask questions at your all-hands company meetings. Even if there’s 500 people in the room – don’t be afraid! Asking good questions makes you stand out. Executives take note of your interest!
– If you have a weekly or regular 1-on-1 review, keep notes each week. Use OneNote or a filing system to remember last week’s follow-ups. Ensure the note keeping is your responsibility, not your boss’s. This makes managing you very easy for your boss.
– If you don’t already have a regular performance review on the books, consider asking your boss for a meeting, either once-off or regularly scheduled. This allows you to briefly check-in with your boss to make sure you’re meeting his or her goals. (An annual performance review just isn’t often enough.)
– Sleep with your boss. Kidding!!!! You don’t want to be known for being the office hussy! In fact, you should do the opposite. Be the person who never crosses the line at work.
– Ask your boss to help review resumes for people trying to get a similar position on your team. It shows that you care who your future team-mates are (you should!).
– Before asking for help from your boss, try and solve the problem yourself first the best way you know how. Managers love to see that you’ve at least tried everything possible before dumping problems on their lap!
– Learn how to golf. I hate writing this, but in a lot of industries golf matters. Maybe just learn how to *try* and golf. Even if you suck, at least you TRY.
– Don’t be afraid to share your past work successes and experience! Got some weird knowledge in that brain that will benefit your current employer? Speak up! Executives and management LOVE employees who share a good new idea.
Tips on getting a raise when you’re working from home or remote
– At the beginning of each Zoom call, tell a daily Dad joke or funny story! This always cheers people up and starts the meeting with laughter.
– Always answer your phone in the first few rings. Be happy and helpful.
– Train yourself on Zoom, or become an expert in whatever your company’s video software is. You will always be helpful on calls, be able to train others, and never be the one that makes amateur mistakes and accidentally makes the call a crappy experience for others!
– On Sunday afternoon, look at your calendar for the week. If there’s any overlapping meetings, move them. If there’s pre-requisites that a colleague needs to bring to a meeting, a friendly private reminder can help them avoid dropping the ball. Don’t be the guy just catching up on Monday morning!
– When you schedule meetings, set the end time to 10 mins prior to the hour end. Eg, 1pm – 1:50pm. The extra 10 mins won’t be missed. The meeting will end quicker and others will have time to check emails before their next meeting.
– During meetings, stay mentally alert. Always be ready to contribute. No phone browsing, no email answering, and definitely no Facebook. In this day and age, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time is a rare skill. Take this opportunity to stand out!
– If a meeting is going fine without you and you don’t need to be there, drop out. This is very simple but some people still don’t understand this! People respect people that respect their own time. Hanging around in meetings just to “show face time” doesn’t help anyone.
– Use a to-do app, like Microsoft’s ToDo. Mine is on my PC and my iPhone and is synced. Many devices are supported. During the day I add small things to it. It’s handiest for the small tasks that are easy to forget.
– On Zoom or video calls, set your background picture to something weird. Personal pictures are cool – people will ask about it and remember you more about you!
– Wear different wigs and hats when you log into video calls. Lighten the mood by making yourself look like a fool for a few minutes.
– Be alert for systems and processes that can be redesigned to be more efficient. Or, manual processes that can become digitized. Saving work for others leaves a huge positive imprint with coworkers and management.
How to write better business emails (don’t be the reply-all guy!)
– Get to Inbox Zero and always be on top of your emails! The #1 pet peeve of co workers is when people complain about how many emails they receive. We ALL get the same amount of emails – figure out a way to stay on top of yours, now and forever 🙂
– Never reply-all to emails if it’s not necessary. Save your colleagues from getting messages they don’t need.
– Dot point (bullets) all your emails, or keep things very short! Almost anything you say can be summarized in 3 bullet points.
– After you’ve written an important email, proofread it and think about whether it comes across positive or negative. Become a master at delivering bad news in a fun and positive way.
– If you need to copy/paste large blocks of text, consider using a different size, font, or color. This makes it easier for people to read your email. Eg, if you are pasting a quoted block of text, make it obvious. If you’re conveying what someone else said, make it obvious which parts of the email are you talking, and which parts them.
– Get rid of your complex and ridiculous long email signature. Dancing logos and flashing ads are a distraction from the most important thing: your NAME. Simple signatures are remembered more!
– When writing emails, stay mentally alert. Saying something and then trailing off with long tangents leaves hanging questions. If you don’t know an answer, you can still be clear (Eg, “that may work and I see no problems, but I have not tested this myself.”). Be concise, like you would in a real conversation with someone from leadership.
– When someone sends out questions via email, answer them 1 by 1. Even if you pull out their questions from a rambling paragraph, respond with a clear, numbered list of questions and answers. Answering many questions in long, text paragraphs is difficult to follow.
Cubicle life: Be the FUN person!
– Make holidays FUN. If it’s Christmas, wear a Santa hat, and buy some for the whole office. For Fourth of July, dress up as Abraham Lincoln. Just kidding, but you get the point. Being chirpy during holidays makes you stand out at work! Hang decorations in your cubicle.
– Set up an “explore your city” night! Most of your coworkers probably haven’t explored too much and you can be the one to introduce them to their own backyard! Just a 1-hour walk around a few city blocks, pointing out 5-10 historic facts they probably didn’t know.
– Get a small candy bowl in your cubicle. Always stock it up and be the person who cheers people up with treats. Before handing out a treat, ask the person a fun question like “What 3 things are you grateful for today”?
– Stay late in the office one night. When everyone is gone, make fun post-it notes with encouraging sayings and place them around your colleagues cubicles. You can leave them anonymous (then the following week you can let it slip that it was you if you want).
– Play pranks on people (in good humor, of course) like… replace a picture on someone’s desk with a funny photo of yourself. Making people laugh strengthens your relationship with them and raises their opinion of you. You can get really creative playing office pranks!
– On Friday, clean your desk so it’s clean on Monday morning. Clean desk = clean mind = focus = effectiveness.
– Organize a games night after work for your colleagues. Bingo is always fun! Bring in a plaque or trophy that people can keep on their desks as the winner. Rotate the winners each week 🙂
– Set up a happy hour. Drinking with colleagues is a great way to bond over common stuff!
– Keep a neat and clean cubicle, and always respect your company-provided equipment.
– Rock a good sock game! Wear a pair of socks that expresses the moods that you’re feeling.
– Make some homemade kombucha and go around to people’s cubicles and pour a little cup on everyone’s desk around 2pm after lunch time. It may help them with digestion and give them a little energy boost.
– Become the internal Yelp. Know where all the best burger joints or sushi places are and always make good restaurant recommendations. People bond over food – it makes you stand out.
– Always refill and make coffee for others! In fact, try and replace anything you see in the kitchen that is out.
Having company pride increases the value of your PERSONAL BRAND
– Promote your company on LinkedIn and share fun and positive stories about your workplace. Connect with your clients and business partners, liking and commenting on their posts. Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile is set up as professionally as possible, with an awesome personal mission statement.
– Write short blog posts on LinkedIn or internal sites to increase brand recognition and demonstrate your knowledge publicly. Promoting your company increases your personal brand big time! In fact, you can do this on any social media platform, as long as it’s worded professionally. (Most companies have a professional Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profile.)
– Share your company’s career page and re-share job postings with your network when spots are open inside your extended team. Help recruiters attract good people – it makes you and them look better. Win / win!
– Motivate your coworkers to rally against your company’s biggest competitor — tastefully, like creating a funny meme or in-house joke about how your company is better. This shows company spirit, as well as cheers up the office.
– Bring in a big new client, even if you are not in the sales department. Always promote your company outside of work and look for opportunities to bring in new business. Ask one of the sales reps to teach you their 30-second elevator pitch!
– If you know a good candidate for your company, help them write a killer cover letter so they can land their dream job. Make sure it mentions you as a referral contact. Help review their resume before submitting it, and prep them for the job interview. Helping others helps YOU!
– Invite a new person to coffee once a week. Tell them about your company culture and ask about their background! Learn about their prior company and past experience. They could help you in the future, as well as you can help them with the present.
How to be a better co-worker
– Become an expert on the company benefits plan and teach others what their best retirement options are. Study the 401k guide, and encourage people to invest in themselves! I KNOW you guys can do that. 🙂
– Bring donuts into the office one day. Everybody loves donuts!
– Make lunch for everyone one day. Try something from your culture or something your parents used to make growing up as a kid. People might not remember the food, but they will remember the *story* behind it.
– Buy lunch for everyone one day. Use funds from your charity budget!
– Take some tasks off a new mother or father — so they can pick up their kids early and spend more time with them.
– Take notes at group meetings (can just be a few dot points or action items), make a summary afterwards, then email it to all who were there. People will start depending on you – which is a huge value-add.
– Got a bonus? Share some of your bigger paycheck with a colleague to support his/her children’s charity or activities. Supporting people outside of work is sometimes more memorable than supporting them inside the workplace.
– Always ask ‘how are you doing?’ at the start of each phone call with coworkers, customers and business partners. You’ll be remembered as someone who cares about people, and it will increase your emotional intelligence.
– Offer to mentor a few new people. Or at least offer to meet with them once a month to check in and ask your help to talk through any big challenges.
– Give your IT guy or gal a Starbucks card when they fix your computer. (They might even hook you up with cool equipment when you do this.)
– Live your life – so you can tell everyone about it! Work-life balance is important. Teach others to achieve the same balance!
– Set some sweet-smelling candles in the bathroom. If you’re allowed to, light them every few days to keep everything fresh. Or, maybe replace the generic company soap with a nice smelling hand soap. Cheap, fun, and goes a long way!
– Attend the event that other people put on. Happy hours, movie nights, strange stuff … be the person that says YES and gives everything a try.
Always be POSITIVE, even if you feel grumpy
– Don’t live in the past weekend, or complain how long the work week is. Be positive about the upcoming work days – and encourage others to have a positive attitude also!
– Take ugly tasks without complaining. When your boss delivers you crap news, just say thanks and move on! It sucks sometimes, but you will stand out as someone who they can always depend on. Bonus points if you make crappy tasks look fun while you’re doing it!
– Never gossip. When you hear it, just leave. Stay positive. Think of the people you know that gossip. Do you trust them? Do you think the people they gossip about trust them? Don’t gossip. It helps nobody and makes you look bad, too.
– Start a never ending game of pay-it-forward! Do a favor for someone (or give a small gift) and then ask them to pay it forward to another coworker. You’ll stand out as the creator of making the whole company happier.
– When someone on your team does something awesome, write up a quick story and send it to the whole management team for recognition. See if they can share it with the entire company, or even publicly.
– Have the attitude that “nothing is below you.” You are never too good for a project, and rolling up your sleeves for lower-level tasks proves you are a dedicated worker.
– Observe everyone around you and try to understand as much as you can about their roles. Make sure you take everyone else’s job as seriously as they do. The best way to earn respect is to give respect!
– Set up a punching bag or stress bag in a private area and encourage people to get out their frustrations there. Negative attitudes and energy is like a cancer. It spreads fast — so catch it early!
Show tons of initiative
– Offer to run a weekly team meeting for your manager. Tell them you want practice hosting meetings and ask for feedback afterwards. This shows major initiative and builds you up as a team leader!
– Always try harder and do more than what you’re asked to do. After completing your work, ask others if they need help. The best way to get a pay raise is to demonstrate your extra responsibility and additional value *first*.
– Start a regular “news & updates” email that you send out weekly, monthly, or quarterly to your colleagues, bosses and execs. Include extremely brief summaries or links to relevant industry news, announcements from competitors, and any mentions of your company in the news media. This can be quick and easy for you and valuable to others — but requires consistency from you.
– Ask to present a topic at your next quarterly review or next company/dept-wide meeting. Your topic could simply be your job and how you are there to help others in the organization. If your company is large, your goal is to be remembered as a “go-to” guy/gal for your department. If it’s small, your goal is to educate your immediate team about what you do so it can help them see the overall context of company operations. Then encourage others to do the same in future meetings.
– Say yes to things that are outside of your usual work duties. Taking on more and new responsibilities makes you stand out at work, and shows you are prepared to take on a leadership position.
– Create a morning checklist for yourself. Even if you’re in a high-paying senior role, basic checklists help. They can be as simple as “say good morning to everyone” or as complex as “review firewall logs and look for anomalous indicators” — whatever suits you. Note takers and list makers stand out!
– While you’re doing a complex task, write up the steps you took to achieve or complete the task. Save this as an email template. Next time someone asks “how do I log into the PO system and mark an order as paid?” you’ll have an easy, quick reply.
– If you are in a technical or professional field, consider starting a small blog with “how-to”, “why”, or even “my tips” talking points for your profession. This can apply to lawyers, IT folks, architects, salespeople, nurses, or basically anyone who works in an industry where you have peers at other companies. The point is not to have a popular blog. It’s to have an article to point to the next time someone asks “why is this… ?” or “how do I…?” – referencing an article you wrote yourself shows preparedness and mastery of subject matter.
That’s it for now, folks!
Give some of these a try to prepare for your next raise conversation or salary negotiation. Bookmark this list, refer back to it if things feel stale in your current job, and most importantly … have FUN with whatever you do.
How do you prep to earn a higher salary? Would love to hear how you stand out at work and hopefully snag that pay bump!
PS: As a reminder for all you finance professionals and bloggers out there, you might be interested in this virtual conference this week … Elevate Influencer is for personal finance influencers who speak directly to People of Color. I’m attending the first day Aug 13th (You can too for FREE thanks to Motley Fool sponsoring the event). I’m looking forward to educating myself more about the financial challenges faced by People of Color, and how I can use my influence and this blog to help!
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!