$%&#! protecting your career during COVID with numbers

Let’s talk about numbers: dollar signs $, percentages %, and plain old numbers #.

While the economy is sick with COVID, the best protection for your career is generating good numbers on the job.

There’s a lot of slack in the American economy right now. We’re shopping less, entertaining less, and buying less. This reduced demand has caused the economy, and employment, to shrink by 15%. As a result, promotions and pay increases may seem to be off the table for the foreseeable future.

But that won’t be the case forever. Eventually the world will return. Demand will pick back up. Perhaps the enormous shift in demand towards online, virtual, and delivery businesses will mark the beginnings of a recovery.

The best way to position yourself for the economic rebound is to generate good numbers for your resume and your job.

Because business is numbers-focused, every job is, ultimately, number-focused. Jobs pay a specific number of dollars for a specific number of hours or days of employment, in which you’re expected to produce, manage, lead, or generate a number of outcomes.

You are judged, explicitly or implicitly, on how well you produce those numbers.

So when the time comes for promotions, pay increases, or a new opportunity, having the numbers on your side makes your success easier.

To get ahead in your career, focus on your $%&#! That is, your dollar signs ($), your percentages (%) and your numbers (#).

Pay attention to your dollars ($). How did you reduce dollars spent? Increase dollars earned? Maximize the impact of budget dollars deployed? Minimize the cost in dollars for vendors hired? Save dollars, grow dollars, optimize dollars – how did you do it?

Pay attention to your percentages (%). What percentage did you grow efficiency? What percentage did you shrink waste? What percentage did you grow your accounts? What percentage did you reduce resources used?

Pay attention to your absolute numbers (#). How many more customers, clients, deals, campaigns, engineers, contracts, inventions, projects did you add to the business? How many bugs, problems, objections, cancellations, lawsuits, risks, delays did you remove?

When you’re able to use these numbers to demonstrate your competence in pay raise conversations, promotion discussions, and job interviews, it’s much easier for the person on the other side of the table to say “yes.” That’s because you’ve demonstrated the value you bring to the business, with numbers.

Use your one-on-ones to help generate good numbers

Ensure that you are generating the numbers that your business, your resume, and your boss need by… asking your boss.

Use your regularly scheduled one-on-ones to focus on how you can best add value. You might say something like:

“I know coronavirus has thrown us for a loop. Over the remaining six months of this year, what two or three numbers do you think are most important for me to improve for the business?”

Your boss will appreciate your being proactive. You’ll get the benefit of knowing what you ought to focus on. Your resume will benefit from specific numbers you can highlight. And, in the years to come, your paycheck will benefit as a result.

By the way, if you don’t have a regularly scheduled one-on-one with your boss, it’s in your career interest to insist on having them.

Why numbers?

Resumes with numbers outperform resumes with wordy descriptions. That’s because future bosses are looking for someone to help them improve their numbers. So the resume that says:

“Increased revenues by 17% through outbound campaigns to 35,000 prospects.”

Beats the one that says:

“Responsible for sales growth through excellent, proactive outbound campaigns to prospects.”

Similarly, this achievement:

“Reduced cloud computing expense by 7% through implementation of machine learning module, enabling reduction of 422 servers.”

Is better than:

“Expert in cloud computing, cost reduction, server optimization, and machine learning models.”

Numbers make it easier for a future boss to see how you add value and which numbers you’ve been able to move.

And what’s best on your resume is also what’s best in your annual pay and promotion discussions. The more you show how you have improved the numbers of the business, the easier it is for you to show how you deserve the raise, the promotion, the new job.

So despite the slowdown forced on us by COVID, don’t slow down your own efforts to get ahead. Focus on $%&#! in the months to come, you’ll be much better positioned to advance your career in 2021 and beyond.