So you have big dreams? You want the money and the stress that come with it? Let me break it down on how you can get promoted at your current job. This is for someone working at a large company.
These should go without saying but in case you are not sure let me spell out the obvious. You must be a likeable person. Dress Nice! Smell good! Say Hi to people and try to make them feel good. Be approachable and always show good personal character. I can’t go into detail within this post on how to not be a jackass but it is a prerequisite to succeeding.
The strategy- (starting from ditch diger / floor sweeper)
So you get a job sweeping floors at this company. Start by saving your money. Buy a truck with a lumber rack and tools. Be patient, work hard and offer your help when you can. Most experienced tradesman will notice your effort and be more than willing to teach you, ridicule you and request your help. This is important because when the foreman or lead trades guy starts requesting you on a job it will be the first time your name stand out to the bosses as a reliable guy.
So you have a truck and tools and your a great help to the tradesmen on the job. They key now is becoming a mediator. For example most guys didn’t want to do the “bitch work” like drive to pick up supplies. But you should jump at the chance to go to the the supply house. Call other superintendents in the field and call the office to see if any of the bosses needed anything. Make people rely on you personally. Get in communication with management and ask if they need anything such as materials or pictures from the job. This step is about becoming a trusted and reliable source of help and information.
Before you know you’ll be running around to different jobs dropping stuff off for the boss or project manager.Then the bosses will start asking what was happening on the jobs. Pretty soon you will be showing up on jobs and asking what is going on and the workers will know you have communication directly to the top. They will have to respect you to some degree or you can could bad mouth them. Continue to make yourself useful but always roll up your sleeves and bust your a$$ in the field if required. Never be above your work. Stay humble. Many people will realize you are ladder climbing and will try to hold you down. Never engage or confront these people. It will only hurt you. Always be willing to help but be sure to never get bogged down working on a job site at this point. Offer ideas how you can be of even greater help elsewhere. They key is taking on a lot of little running around tasks vs sitting on a jackhammer for 8 hours a day.
Buy every book on construction trade, management and law you can. Also keep reading this blog. Impress them with your knowledge when you can but never make them feel like you are smarter than them. Always ask for their advice even when you know the answer and even if they are wrong. At this stage its better to fail conventionally then to succeed unconventionally.
Your boss spent his entire career building a company in the hope that one of his employees could some day run the entire operation without him. Be that guy! Pick up the slack and became the guy to rely on. Volunteer yourself but don’t be overbearing, just be available. Pick up plans, going to the city and drop off paperwork. Build relationships with everyone. Tell customers, supervisors and vendors about yourself to be like-able and memorable. Never give excuses.Take responsibility for everything even if it’s not your fault and promise to do better next time. (your boss is smart and knows you are taking the fall for someone else…that shows character and leadership)
So you have been studying diligently right? Because one day it will happen. Some one will ask you to run by a job and see what a customer needs. This is your big chance. Make the customer happy and get the info. If you don’t screw up soon enough you will be going on job walks as an assistant to the estimators (the big bosses) to help measure and take pictures or in the office reviewing job data with other administrators. You are leaving the blue collar world and heading into the white collar world.
Now you need to focus on getting more and more administrative tasks. Ask if you can help estimate/make reports etc on big jobs. They will be eager to teach you. Soon you will be hanging out in meetings and making phone calls in the office. Start to casual introduce more professional business attire and keep a change of work clothes in the car just in case. Nothing is in stone until you have landed some territory in the office such as a desk or cubical. Keep studying and get good at your responsibilities. If they give you an office key make sure to be the first person in the door at least once a week and the also the last person out at least once a week. It doesn’t even matter if you are working. Just be there.
It’s hard to say where you will go from here. Many of the professionals you are dealing with may have college degrees, family ties or extensive experience that reserve their place in the company. Once you are in the office spend a minimum of two years learning everything you can before making another move to climb the ladder. Make sure you are working with complete autonomy and are considered just part of the office work staff.
The trick to climbing the ladder is building relationships with people above you by communicating your character, work ethic and knowledge. People are lazy and are waiting for someone to rely on. Casual get to know them on personal level but never brown nose people or be to agreeable. Show you are a nice guy but that you have backbone too. Avoid conflict within the company especially from former field workers. The workers in the field who have been there for 10 years will despise you, the lower office staff will be cautious of you and if you are as clever as you think you are the leadership will admire you.
If you study hard and save up your money for tools, trucks and study materials this could happen in maybe 1-3 years depending on your situation. Then as you wait two years to become accustomed to the office lifestyle you will have time to plot a new course.
The movie “how to succeed in business without really trying” is funny and relevant to this post.
It’s about a window washer who finds a book with the movie title and climbs from window washer to chairman of the board.
Here is a clip from the ending (spoiler Alert 1967)