This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

Nearly everyone wants a promotion or that better job. You get a better office, more recognition, perks, and more vacation time. But there is something more that gnaws at you. You want the ability to influence your company for good, to hire the right people, and to be a leader seeing the future instead of the follower wondering what’s going on. Perhaps most of all, you need the extra money: a bigger paycheck every two weeks and those fat bonuses when you do well.

There is a three step process to move up in any organization:

•    Education
•    Communication
•    Contribution

Now, once you have moved up, you must demonstrate those leadership qualities that you’ve been telling your buddies that you possess, but that is outside of our discussion tonight.

We are talking about Education. Often I’m told that one has to be lucky to get into top management. Two thousand years ago a Roman philosopher named Seneca said that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparedness. Education is preparing oneself for life.

I hear people in my company saying that they don’t have time or the money to take off of work and pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. That is not what I am talking about. Just look around. There are plenty of college educated unemployed and under-employed people. Their education is not targeted to the job. You have the advantage of already having a job and seeing what you need to know to advance. I am going to show you how to increase your job-specific education without taking off work and without spending any money.

Remember, we are talking about getting that promotion. The fastest way to move up is to become a SME (Subject Matter Expert). Become the one that everyone in your company comes to for answers to their questions about your chosen area of expertise. This works whether you are a mechanic or a mechanical engineer, whether you are a nurse or a nun, and even if you are a carpenter or a car painter.

A friend of mine is an aircraft mechanic. He started out at $7.50/hr. Within two years he had moved to lead mechanic making $24.00/hr. Two years later, he is a technical advisor making $87,000/year with only a high school diploma.

How did he do it? Education (and hard work). He took aircraft maintenance manuals home at night, and instead of watching television, he read those manuals. Every weeknight he spent one hour reading about his job. Sometimes he would come upon something interesting and read for three hours, but never less than one hour per night. He became a Subject Matter Expert on aircraft maintenance.

How much did his education cost? Nothing, except time and effort. The boss noticed that he took those manuals home from the company library. And the boss noticed that my friend knew more about his job than mechanics with twelve years experience.

The good news is that anyone can become an expert in their field by studying just one hour a night for six months. Your co-workers and even your bosses won’t put in the effort. You will become a fount of knowledge before you know it. And that makes you valuable.

Another of my friends worked for me on the Mexican border. He realized that he could command more money if he could speak Spanish. But he was an aircraft fueler making minimum wage. He couldn’t afford to go to college. So my friend went to the library and checked out books on learning Spanish. He went to bars and practiced speaking Spanish. Every chance he got he spoke Spanish. In less than two years he got a big promotion because he was prepared.

Do you know where your company’s library is? Check out some of the manuals. Study them. Learn the things that your boss doesn’t know. Your public library is the next place to look. Learn the science of negotiation, or the art of networking. Read. Educate yourself.

Don’t neglect the classics. One Fortune 100 CEO was asked what business book made the greatest impression on him. He answered, The Brothers Karamazov. “It gave me insight into what motivates people,” he said. It doesn’t make sense to discount the suggestion of a man who makes 31 million dollars a year. Biographies are also valuable. They tell the stories of great leaders in politics, the military, and the business world. Read those stories and make them part of you.

Read deep into your field. Technical manuals, sales manuals, industry magazines, company history, organizational charts, and more are all available in your company library. Industry books, general business books, foreign language courses and DVD’s are in your public library. Best of all, it is all free.

Studying will prepare you for the second step in the process: Communication. We’ll take that up next week.

Remember: Leaders are Readers.

D. Alan Johnson

Be Sociable, Share!