Learn to Earn
Over the course of your career there are many valuable skills that will help you advance professionally and financially. These skills aren’t taught in school but they are crucial to giving us the greatest control over our financial future.
The sooner we learn these million dollar skills the more likely we are to earn our worth and fulfill our potential. When I interviewed Nancy Scull for the documentary “Architecting Our Own Glass Ceiling,” she admitted by her own calculations she had lost north of half a million dollars over the course of her career for her inability to ask for credit and origination fees. What follows are four crucial skills you need to hone today to prevent a similar regret.
Speak Up and Ask
Asking is a power tool when it comes to success — without taking this crucial first step, opportunities that would otherwise be wide open will stay closed off. Asking sounds so simple but in fact the ability to ask for business or for a raise is so difficult that most people require training.
Having personally trained thousands of people to ask with elegance I can tell you that most of us come to the very idea of asking with a lot of anxiety. Many people would rather work hard and hope to be noticed than ask for an opportunity; but waiting to be seen allows you to be passed over by those who are willing to raise their hand and raise their voice. Learn to gracefully ask for opportunity, direction, business and feedback. When you ask you become an active participant in your success.
Create a list of asks you have not yet made. For example, you might want to attend a conference, get more training or ask to shadow someone. Once you’ve thought about what would help you develop as a professional and listed them down, start making these asks one at a time. It helps when you use ‘I’ such as, “What can I do to be considered to attend this upcoming conference?” or, “How can I position myself for consideration in the future?” Understand that you may not always get what you want and that’s okay. It’s important that you develop the muscle. Besides, you’ll never know if you never ask.
Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
This cannot be overstated: if you fail to negotiate your salary it can cost you dearly over the course of your career. I’ve worked with clients who were being paid 40 percent below market value before they negotiated their compensation. But you can turn it around. A former client Veronica Ypez notes, “Not only was I able to negotiate a 25 percent salary increase, but after nine months in my position, my office went from making 40 percent of sales goals to 87 percent with a 20 percent decrease in costs. I became the second top sales employee worldwide for one of the two main verticals of the company.” The ability to negotiate impacted every area of Veronica’s business serving both her career and her organization.
Beyond negotiating your salary, you can learn to negotiate the price of goods or services, or the terms of your life. The amount of money you can make or save simply by learning to negotiate is staggering. Luckily, negotiation is really just a more sophisticated form of asking. We might think that some people are simply better at negotiating than others but in fact negotiation is a measurable, teachable skill that absolutely anyone can learn.
When you walk into any negotiation it’s important to be armed with quality information. Be sure to present an accurate record of your contributions, improvements you’ve made, as well as salary reports. It’s also important to have follow-up actions for both parties to arrive at mutually agreed upon terms. In salary negotiation I coach my clients to say,”I want my salary to accurately reflect my contributions and market value.” It’s important to articulate that you want what you deserve.
Consider the Bigger Picture as You Make Key Decisions
We’ve all made emotionally charged, ill-informed or just bad decisions that have cost us money. The ability to ask questions, assess information and weigh options is crucial to your professional development and financial well-being.
Career counselor Andrea Sparrey of Sparrey Consulting Group advises that, “No career choice should be made on a single metric.” Sparrey adds, “When discussing various paths, we consider everything from expected income and bonuses, to the number of times you believe you will change roles throughout your career. These discussions and the research that follows identifies misconceptions and opportunities.”
Identifying your values, purpose and goals will allow you to take the information you’ve gathered to seek opportunities that will advance your larger vision and say no to opportunities that do not. It’s easy to become seduced by something that’s appealing in the moment but may fail to fulfill your larger purpose and therefore cost you time and better suited opportunities. Just as one good negotiation can place tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket, one bad decision can take that money right out of your pocket.
Don’t Avoid Tough Conversations
In addition to asking and decision-making, having high stakes conversations can make or break crucial financial steps in your career. Anxiety and fear tend to allow us to default to avoidance strategies, which can be damaging and expensive. Rhonda Rhyne, author of “Keys to the Corner Office: Success Strategies for Women,” says, “The cost of avoiding high stakes conversations, as well as the benefits of a culture that encourages them, is enormous. If you don’t risk having the high stakes conversation, you risk much more.”
Any conversation that might be difficult and feels like a confrontation is a high stakes conversation. For example, a typical high stakes conversation in a law firm is asking for origination credit. It’s not always clear who should be getting the credit for a new matter. Or, it might be a talk with your supervisor about the lack of direction you’re receiving and how it might compromise yours and the company’s success.
Rhonda advises, “Try to replace ‘either/or’ with ‘and’ thinking. Pay attention to the content of what is being said as well as the actions and emotions of others, as well as yourself. Keep dialogue ongoing and realize it may take several conversations and/or meetings to come to a conclusion, decision or path forward.”
To wrap up, I strongly suggest creating a communication plan for any major ask, negotiation or high stakes conversation. Prepared communication plans help you to stay on point, avoid reactive or inflammatory language and help you feel less anxious. Your communication plan should include all of the critical facts you want to address to make your case in bullet points. Also include a list of questions you want to ask and the goal you hope to achieve from the meeting which you should state directly.
There’s nothing wrong with taking in a small sheet of paper with your talking points into a meeting and referencing those points as needed. It helps you to remember everything you need to express and allows you to take notes during the dialogue.
Don’t forget that you are your own best resource. Invest in your own future by learning skills that will help you generate, grow and protect your wealth. If you tell yourself you aren’t good at these things you won’t bother to learn and develop the skills you need to reach your full professional and financial potential. Instead of only seeing your limitations, start looking at the possibilities of who you might become if you gave yourself a chance.