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My Financial Independence Journey » Career, Reflections » Grow Your Career to Achieve Financial Independence Faster: Part 2

Grow Your Career to Achieve Financial Independence Faster: Part 2

1390167_ladderWelcome to the next part of our career development series.  We’ve already covered the rules of the working world.  Now, we’ll begin delving into specific activities that will help grow your career.  Specifically, we’ll focus on how to document our achievements and how to ensure that we look good and that people like us.

Document your accomplishments

If it’s not on paper, it never happened.  That’s why we need to keep a record of every one of our tasks, responsibilities, and accomplishments.  This is not a pick one of the following style list.  This is a do every single one of them list.  Also, plan on regularly updating these records.  Once a year is usually sufficient.

  1. Resume - These are short one page summaries of our education and work history.  The challenge is highlighting our most significant accomplishments in a way that will get hiring managers to contact us for an interview.  I’d actually recommend that everyone write up a CV first and then compress it into a resume.  It’s always easier to cut than to add.
  2. Curriculum Vitae (CV) - This is the standard currency for academics as well as people with scientific or technical jobs.  However, it’s probably not a bad idea to write one up regardless of your employment position.  CVs have much more detail than resumes so feel free to expound upon your responsibilities and accomplishments in far more detail.  Keeping this document up to date will be invaluable since you’ll no longer struggle to remember what projects you were working on five years ago.  You can just look at your CV.
  3. LinkedIn Profile - Basically this is an online resume or CV combined with professional networking.  is free to use and I recommend setting up a profile there, if you don’t already have one.  The quickest way to build a profile is to copy your CV.  After you’ve gotten your profile updated, build out your professional network.  Keep in mind that LinkedIn is not Facebook.  It’s a professional network.  As such, keep your idiocy, goofballery, cats, whining, and opinions off the site.
  4. Company Objectives / Evaluation - Most companies have some kind of a yearly or semiannual evaluation process.  You get assigned objectives and then you work towards meeting those objectives.  As you knock each objective out, make sure it’s documented.


A little self promotion goes a long way

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I try to make sure that my boss, his boss, and other more senior people know what I’m working on and that I am making progress.  The more people know what you’re doing, the less likely you are to be perceived as “That guy, the one in the office who does something.  What does he do again?” and more like an actual member of the department making meaningful contributions.

There are other benefits to keeping your coworkers and managers in the loop.  First, you’ll always be able to meet your communication objective.  Second, you’ll be in a position to be more quickly informed of important changes or developments.  Third, when you need someone important to back you up (e.g. when working with a troublesome vendor, client, or coworker), you’ll have already built that relationship making air support much more likely and effective.


On making yourself look good

Like everything in life, perception matters.  Therefore, I engage in a rather aggressive program of perception management.  Below are some of the goals that I strive for as part of my perception management program.

  • Be likable.  This one can’t be stressed enough.  Go out of your way to be likeable.  Smile more.  Chat with people.  Always be ready and available to help someone.  The more likeable you are, the more likely you are to be scored better on your evaluations and the more resistant you’ll be to layoffs.
  • Dress the part.  Whatever the dress code is at work, dress one step above it.  It doesn’t matter if your a suit and tie investment banker or a ‘just rolled out of bed’ tech startup employee.  If you dress better, people will slowly start thinking better of you.  Similarly, work out and eat better.  You’ll look healthier and thus look better, which will increase your likability (yes, people are that shallow).
  • Be sincere.  Make a sincere effort in everything you do.  Perfection is usually not required.  Giving-a-damn is.
  • Deliver.  Get shit done.  You are at work to produce something, not to stand around and look good while talking about your fantasy football team.  If you get a task, get it done.  And make sure that your work is the best quality that you can deliver.
  • Don’t whine.  Work can suck.  Coworkers can suck.  Management can suck.  But keep your whining to a minimum.  No one wants to hear it.  Just get things done, that’s what you’re paid to do.
  • Stay positive. You don’t need to be super chipper and skip around the office.  But you do need to stay positive.  People like being around positive people way more than negative people.
  • Help people.  Whether you’re a total newbie or you’ve got 25 years under your belt, always do your best to help your boss and your coworkers.  People appreciate being helped and they resent it when you let them twist in the wind.  You can’t solve every problem, but you can at least make an effort.
  • Build relationships. Take an interest in all of your coworkers.  Do they have kids?  Do they have hobbies?  How are they feeling?  Get to know everyone around you.  Treat them like they’re your friends.  Even if you don’t particularly care for them, fake it.


This wraps up part 2.  Don’t worry, more career advice will be coming in the future.

Readers: How do you work to document your accomplishments, self promote, and build a positive reputation at work?  How have your efforts paid off?

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13 Responses to "Grow Your Career to Achieve Financial Independence Faster: Part 2"

  1. Great article and all very good points. My advice is to read Linchpin by Seth Godin. It changed my perspective forever. Now I’m focused on creating value, building relationships and being involved in my field’s online community. Becoming irreplaceable is the best way to earn more and grow your career.

  2. Suba says:

    Good points. Only thing I would add is study and know your company culture as soon as you start with the company. Every company values different things. Your previous company might have valued someone putting long work hours, if the new company doesn’t care about how long you work and would rather prefer someone who can be a leader, you have to highlight the quality that quality. There is not point in clinging on to what “you” value instead of emphasizing what the company values.

    1. MFIJ says:

      That’s a great point. I’ll have to add that one if I do a follow up.

      I’ve been in some places where hours worked really mattered. It didn’t matter if you were actually producing anything, so long as you were physically there. And I’ve been in others that only wanted results.

  3. These are awesome points. It’s crazy how much looking good and making sure your seniors know what you are working on help with your career progression. It can be easy to fly under the radar if you don’t “toot your own horn” every once and awhile. There is a fine line on talking about yourself too much vs. not talking about yourself enough.

  4. Pauline says:

    I was good at hopping from company to company and getting a raise each time, but being likable and intern brown nosing, not so much. I’d rather put the efforts into a side gig that will last post FI.

  5. Justin says:

    In your career it’s important to make yourself look good, but never at the expense of others.
    I’ve seen people try and climb to the top by being cutthroats, but they never seem to get very far.
    It’s much more important to be a team player who can get results, and references.
    Great series. I cannot wait to read the next.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I’m of the opinion that the truly bad people will weed themselves out. You can get ahead at the expense of others for only so long before people catch on and see you for what you really are.

  6. I’d also suggest throwing up a picture on LinkedIn and scrubbing your other public profiles.

    1. MFIJ says:

      Absolutely agree. My Facebook profile is limited to friends only so I can keep up with all those people who I moved away from. I don’t add coworkers until after I leave. My Linkedin profile is okay so far, I’ve got a picture, but I need to update my CV.

  7. Good tips. I am notoriously bad at keeping my resume/cv/linkedin profile updated. Normally whenever I feel like searching for a new job I’ll scramble to update everything at once which is less than ideal.

  8. In some ways I’m glad the social media world didn’t exist yet when my career was still on the rise. The number of places you need to keep your information up-to-date and potentially scrubbed is mind-boggling. Good advice, though. Hope people listen!

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