How to Get Ahead at Work: Workplace Myths Debunked


Ask a hundred people if they're happy with where they're at professionally and 75 or more of them will tell you they hate their job. Nearly 75% of the workforce is not happy with where they're at professionally. Workers seeking to advance both their pay scale and their job titles are often held back by a number of common misconceptions that tend to proliferate workplaces across the nation. People who believe these workplace myths are often left wondering how to get ahead at work in the face of such dire circumstances.

Let's take a closer look at some of the more damaging workplace urban legends and see whether there's any truth to them.

Myth #1: Asking for a Raise is a Bad Idea

The first thing I ask someone who complains about not making enough money is whether or not they've asked for a raise. Closed mouths rarely get fed in the workplace and, if you think you're worth more money, it doesn't hurt to let your boss know you think you're overdue for a raise. Bosses and owners of companies can't read minds and may think employees are happy with their current compensation if they aren't vocal about asking for more.

People tend to think their bosses will get angry if they ask for more money. Most bosses will tell you they don't mind being asked for a raise and have respect for someone with the courage to step up to the plate, especially if they come prepared to present themselves in a good light.

Be tactful about asking for a raise. Don't storm into your boss's office and demand more money with a crazy look in your eyes. Instead, create a list of all the things you do at work and be diligent about noting the items you do that go above and beyond what's required of you. Present the list on the last day of the work week shortly before you go home and specifically tell your boss you'd like a raise. This will give him or her time over the weekend to consider your request.

Be prepared with a polite response if you're told no. Thank your boss for considering your request and don't be afraid to ask why the request was denied. You may not get the raise the first time you ask, but you'll have planted the seed. Now, water the seed by working extra hard and asking again in a few months.

Myth #2: If I Change Jobs, I'll Have to Start All Over Again.

Here's the deal. If you change jobs and embark upon a new career path, you will indeed have to start all over again.

On the other hand, if you find a new job in the industry you've been working in for years, you'll be bringing years of experience to the table when you switch to a new job. Yes, you'll have to prove yourself to your new employers, but you aren't completely starting over.

One of the things I constantly hear from people looking to move up in the workforce is they're worried about starting over again. Many of these people are stuck in dead-end jobs with little to no room for advancement. Even if you do have to start all over, wouldn't that be a far shot better than being stuck where you're at?

Myth #3: They Always Pick Someone Else for Promotions. My Boss Is Out to Get Me.

I'm not naive enough to think every boss is a nice person and I know for a fact that bosses do indeed have some people they like better than others, so this myth may at least be partially true. When I hear people say this, the first question I ask is why they're sticking around at their current job when they think their boss is out to get them. The next question I ask is what are the people who are getting promoted doing that they aren't.

One of the most common answers I hear is that the people who are getting moved up within the company are sucking up to the boss and are "brown nosing" and they're too proud to do that. Well, if you're one of those people who refuses to "brown nose," I've got news for you. Your pride is going to keep you from moving up. When it comes time for a promotion and your boss looks at a group of equally-qualified employees from which he or she has to choose someone to promote, guess who's going to get picked? The person who is most likable and has the best attitude. A big part of moving up in the world is learning the right people to suck up to. If you're too proud to do this, you're selling yourself short.

Let me make something clear. I don't mean you have to degrade yourself and become a fawning puppy dog. What I do mean is a few kind words here and there can go a long way. Watch what others are doing to get ahead and mimic their actions.

Myth #4: I Can't Get a New Job.

You can get a new job. It's never easy, but there are tons of jobs out there if you know where to look.

If you've currently got a job, you've got the advantage of having the luxury of looking for the right fit. While an unemployed job hunter may feel forced to take the first job offered, you've got the ability to search for a job that's the right fit. 

You've also got time to close any gaps in training that are preventing you from getting a new job.

Myth #5: I'm Too Busy (or Too Old or Can't Afford) to Go Back to School.

What this more often than not equates to is people don't want to go back to school, so they're finding any excuse they can not to. Where there's a will, there's a way. If you truly want to go to school (or to otherwise advance your skillset), you'll find a way to do it.

It's never too late to go back to school, even if you're only able to take a class or two at a time. Take advantage of any free training opportunities you have at work. Even if you don't think you'll ever use those skills, they'll look good on a resume and may be the difference between you getting a phone call and your resume being placed at the bottom of the stack.