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Skills That Make You Money

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Some of the best investments you can make aren’t financial.

Master these techniques and secret shortcuts to earn more on the job, cut down needless costs, and grow your wealth over a lifetime.

Master the Meeting

The average pay bump from a promotion for managers or upper-level executives is 7%, according to Mercer. But how do you get one? “The meeting room is where we exert leadership and develop credibility,” says corporate trainer Dana Brownlee of Professionalism Matters. Don’t dominate – nudge the group toward concrete goals. If someone can’t let go of a point, try saying “Good idea! I’m writing it down.” You’ve now freed a room of grateful co-workers to move on.

Exchange Fast Favors

Research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has shown that successful people do more favors at work. But don’t be afraid to ask for tiny favors too. We may feel more warmly toward people after lending them a hand – our brains figure we must have done so because we like that person. It’s been called the Benjamin Franklin effect: The Founding Father recalled winning over a legislative rival after borrowing a book from him.

Google Better

Say, for example, you need stats about a product’s market share: Use “OR” (in caps) to Google for different words that might capture the same thing (like “percent” and “proportion”). And check the image search results: The data you need may be in a chart someone posted. Go to for more power tips.

Get Better at Excel

If there’s any need to quantify your business’s activity, being the office Excel guru makes you valuable. Two skills to focus on: building charts (great for presentations) and pivot tables (to summarize lots of data). The ExcelIsFun YouTube channel is loaded with lessons.

Pick the Right Language

It’s easier than ever to dip a toe into languages with free tools like Duolingo, a site and app that make learning like a game. If you then want to ramp things up, real-world classes run about $300 for 20 hours of instruction. Invest your time and money wisely: The payoff is in less commonly studied languages. A Wharton/LECG Europe study found that speaking German translated into a higher wage premium than for second languages overall. Ambitious? There’s a big market for Mandarin.

Write Better

  1. Avoid fancy words you don’t need or understand. “Fulsome” (as in “fulsome praise”) does not mean full; it means insincere. If you use hoity-toity words to sound posh, you will look pompous and may say the opposite of what you mean.
  2. Cut unnecessary words. John Kerry once said “The President is desirous of trying to see how we can make our efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.” What he meant was, “The President wants to help.”
  3. Revise, and better still, show it to someone. What’s clear to you may not be clear to someone else.

Get Social

If you run a business or work in marketing, social media like Twitter seem like a great way to get your message out. But remember that users have zero interest in following companies that clutter their feed with ads. Use social to establish your expertise or spark idea; then when people are in the market for what you sell, they’ll remember you.

Take Back Your Workday

Handle each email only once – reply, file, or trash. Hide that extra chair – you’ll discourage chatty co-workers from lingering. Time your breaks – research shows that your brain loses focus on a task after about 90 minutes.

Get Your Resume the Attention it Deserves

“Ten years ago, job seekers would write a full-page cover letter,” says executive resume writer Wendy Enelow. A better approach now is an email designed to cut through the electronic clutter. Use the subject line to note your key selling points. Instead of “Director of sales position,” write “Director of Sales – 10 Years of Exceeding Sales Quotas – MBA.” In the body of the email, spotlight a major accomplishment. Follow up with three big career wins in bullet points.

From Money Magazine, March 2015
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