ESI was kind enough to give me some career advice specific to my situation. This article is a reflection of that advice and the action I took.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Ms. Fiology has a colorful career history. Here are some of the jobs I've had through the years:
- Golf course pine cone eliminator
- Nursing home wheelchair washer
- Wine sommelier
- High school math teacher
- Account Manager (current gig, which I enjoy)
The advantage of having a wide range of experience is recognizing patterns and common themes in any industry. For the manual labor jobs, it was really about showing up on time and giving it my all while on duty. For other jobs such as lifeguarding, being a wine sommelier, or teaching there was preparation, education, and certification required to even get into that playing field.
Once I got into the game, it was about preparation, showing up on time, and giving it my all. For the restaurant work, I needed to shine in my customer service skills and efficiency to make the money, but ultimately it was about showing up on time and giving it my all.
We’ll focus on my current career for the sake of building this FIRE. I currently manage client accounts for a broker/third-party administrator.
I spend a good portion of my day doing cost/benefit analysis for clients. But, that's balanced with client interactions and focusing on ways to grow our book of business. Yep, and you guessed it, I ultimately need to show up on time and give it my best!
ESI's advice is money
ESI gave me some sound advice to apply to my career so I can meet and beat expectations:
- Have a conversation with my boss and get his retention expectations in writing.
- Discuss what is included in that number.
- “As you go through the process, be sure you approach it from the standpoint of ‘I want to be 100% clear what you expect (not like, but expect) me to accomplish in this position so I can be focused on your priorities.’ Then once you have this, you can work to beat it, setting you up for a promotion and/or pay increase down the road.”
- Keep in mind that I may be limited by the small size of my firm (how much they can pay me and how many spots they have to fill above me).
All very thoughtful suggestions by ESI, yes?
I recognized I could take action on the first three and then keep #4 in mind as I go down the road with this firm. My lack of concern on #4 is that I'm on an account management team and we all share a similar goal of scaling our business. We all want to learn, grow, and earn more money! We have a unique product so I strongly believe this is possible.
Applying this advice
Early in the first quarter of 2018, I asked my boss to meet with me to discuss 2018 goals and expectations. He agreed and suggested we focus on five areas during our meeting:
- Professional development
- Team development
- Personal development
Based on his five areas, I prepared an outline. I came prepared with two copies of the outline.
The first thing I wanted to tackle was quantifying the expected retention number. I learned that we have a mission and an expectation and while these are intertwined, they are separate numbers.
Previously I had been confusing our mission with expectation. While our mission is 100% retention, our expectations are more realistic. Together as a team, we're defining exactly what that number is. We have decided the only thing included in this number should be the retention of existing clients.
My boss and I also discussed the other four items with a heavy emphasis on growth. While I'm not in sales nor am I expected to meet a quota, I'm encouraged to participate in growing the company (per my request). My main objective in my role is retention but I specifically asked for direction on how to participate in the growth of the company.
A lovely new concept surrounding growth was introduced to me:
- Top side growth
- Bottom side growth
Here's a little graphic to show some examples of what is included in these two types of growth:
Bottom side is where my boss asked me to focus and focus I will do! I met with the other members of the account management team and we discussed how we can focus on bottom side growth together. In my opinion, this is where things get really exciting! We came up with four areas to focus on:
- Appropriately increased fees to clients
- Creating new products
- Task management efficiency
- Putting business expenses on credit cards with cash back or travel rewards
Fees are something I have taken an initiative on. In my six years with the company, I notice we typically don't raise our fees. I see this as a hole and want to be analyzing if an increase is warranted or not. Sometimes not, sometimes yes, but with my direction we are now, at least, looking at it.
I won't go into the specifics here as I don't want to give our secret sauce away. Let's just say I have seen a common need by many of our clients and so I have an idea of a product we can create, price competitively, and market to our clients.
Task management efficiency
We have been using a task managing program, but are feeling it is a bit antiquated. Each member of the account management team chose a different task management program and researched it. We came together to present our findings and unanimously decided on a program called Smartsheet. The capabilities of this program far exceed what we have been working on and so we are eager to begin training and setting up our whole system of tasks.
We do have a business credit card in which we obtain Marriott points. We have a ton of Marriott points and so it is time to diversify our rewards. We have a substantial amount of monthly expenses that are not currently being charged on credit cards. It is time to start taking advantage of travel rewards and cash back cards! We have a team in Florida and so there is some flying back and forth. Why not develop a strategy and do it for free?
Knowing what to do and aiming for it is a great feeling. The final two pieces of the career hacking puzzle are to track and report. I met with the Director of Operations on setting up some excel tracking reports and so we are off to the races!
Before putting a name to it, I was doing career hacking by just working really hard. I have been rewarded for it. However, having a clear direction, a team to execute it with, and a tracking system sheds a bright light on this road. I am eagerly moving upwards and onwards and always welcome your feedback and/or suggestions.
Want to read more from Ms. Fiology? Check out her other articles here.