Getting ahead requires a series of stretch jobs that provide more learning, more growth, and more impact. If you're not being assigned these types of roles, you need to ask for them.

It's my contention that if you want to pull a top person from another company, you need to provide a minimum 30 percent nonmonetary increase. I refer to this as the 30% Solution, as shown in the graphic. The 30% represents some combination of a bigger job, faster growth, more impact, and increase in job satisfaction. You need this level of increase to get a candidate to seriously consider what you have to offer.

There's no reason a person can't negotiate his or her own 30% increase when considering a new job, or even better, create one in his or her current job. Quite frankly, this is how you'll get ahead faster and how those before you got ahead.

Let me explain.

During my 25-year run as a full-time executive recruiter, I have interviewed somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 candidates. During every one of these interviews, I would dig into the candidate's major achievements, getting specific details, dates, facts, and evidence of exactly what the person accomplished, having the person draw organizational charts as well. I'd then compare this to the job I was attempting to fill to see if I could find the 30 percent nonmonetary increase. Whether I could find it or not, I did find something else--what motivated the person to excel, where the person excelled, how the person got ahead, and the person's trend of growth over time. This entire process eventually became the Performance-based Hiring process and the two-question performance-based interview I advocate.

During the fact-finding, I'd ask candidates how they got assigned the major accomplishment they were describing. About 50 percent of the time, they said they were assigned the project and the other half said they volunteered to take on the project. For example, I remember an accountant who was asked to handle a major international consolidation project by the CFO of a client company during her second year with the CPA firm. This was a stretch role that she handled successfully. She left public accounting a few years later and was hired by the CFO as a director of accounting at his company. I also remember a director of operations who asked to lead his company's expansion in Asia. He believed he needed this job to get ahead even though he knew he didn't have all of the skills needed. He then described to me how he started with one plant and 100 people and expanded it into a multi-plant international distribution system with more than 2,000 people over the course of three years. I placed him as a VP of operations for a similar-size company in the U.S. and a year later he become its COO.

So if you're currently employed in a job that isn't providing you a 30 percent increase each year, here are some ideas on how to get one.

  1. Volunteer for a project that is tough or no one else wants. Not only will you learn a lot in the role, you'll also start getting recognized as someone who wants to get ahead.
  2. Find some problems in your current job and fix them without being told. Don't even ask for permission; just tell your boss you're doing it and you'd like some extra resources. You need to do this working overtime. This is called "exceeding expectations."
  3. Don't make excuses. Just figure out how to solve the problem. Going the extra mile is how you get noticed as a "make it happen" person and how you get assigned projects ahead of your peers.
  4. When a job comes open, ask for it even though you're not qualified. If you need to convince those in charge, say you'll handle the role on a temporary basis until the role is permanently filled.
  5. Take on an extra project in some area you find extremely motivating and where you excel. Since it's an area you're interested in, it's a great steppingstone you've created for yourself. Often this will lead to other similar opportunities.

If you're not now being assigned stretch projects ahead of your peers, you need to create them yourself. Don't talk about doing it and say the work needs be done, just do it. And if you do this often enough and are successful most of the time, you'll start being assigned these types of stretch projects on a frequent basis. As a result, you'll become more confident and more capable. That's the 30% solution, and there's no reason you can't make it your own.