The Way to Rise to a Better Job

J.R. Miller
(1840-1912)
 

Every worthy young man has noble ambitions. He needs to get on in life. But there are right and wrong ways of trying to rise in the world.

The newspapers once told an incident of the early life of Charles M. Schwab which helps to explain the secret of his great success. Mr. Schwab became President of the United States Steel Corporation, with immense responsibility but he began as a grocer's clerk at Braddock, in Western Pennsylvania. Next he carried a chain at Homestead and later was a draughtsman in the Carnegie works. While holding this position, the young man came under the notice of Captain Jones, general manager of the Carnegie works.

The story is that Captain Jones at that time needed the services of an expert draughtsman. He applied to the head of the drafting department for a man, asking for the best man in the place.

"I have no best man," said the chief; "they are all good."

Captain Jones went away. The next day an order was issued that to complete a certain piece of work all of the draftsmen should work two hours' overtime each day for several weeks, without extra pay. All of the draftsmen grumbled except one man. Captain Jones came along the next day, and said to the chief of the draughting department: "How do the men like that order? "

"They don't like it, and are all grumbling all except one man," was the reply.

"Who is that man? "asked Captain Jones.

"Schwab."

"Give me Schwab," said Captain Jones. From that day, the young draftsman's success began.

The man who told this story was asked what he thought of President Schwab. He said, "Charles Schwab has no equal as an executive in the steel world today."

The complaint is frequently heard in these days, that there is no place for young men. They can find only positions with small salaries with no chance to rise. There would seem to be much truth in this. Certainly a great many young men never get out of the first place they take in large establishments. But no doubt the reason in many cases is in themselves. They never make themselves ready for any higher or better place. They accept their position without any enthusiasm. They never seem to have any real interest in it or in its duties. Their aim is merely to get along day after day, doing only what they are required to do. They never come a moment earlier than the hour fixed for them to begin. They watch the clock and never think of staying a few minutes overtime to finish something that ought to be finished. If asked to do a little extra work, they grumble and show an unhappy spirit. They may be faithful and may not skimp their tasks but they are exceedingly careful never to do any more than they have to do.

Then they complain that they have no chance of promotion. But have they proved themselves capable of filling any larger or better place? The truth is, that the heads of departments in all large establishments and even in smaller ones, are always on the watch for those who are capable of taking more important positions.

The incident of young Schwab illustrates this. He was not always talking about his abilities and seeking a higher place. He was content where he was, in a sense; at least he was interested in his place and enthusiastic for its success, and always did his work, not only earnestly but with eagerness. He never demurred when the tasks were heavy but was ready to put in extra hours if so required, and did so, cheerfully.

Those over him kept note of his efficiency, as well as of his willingness to do more than the ordinary work of his position. He had proved that he was competent to fill a larger place. Then when a man was wanted for other duties, for a more important place, he was ready.

Young men who wish a chance to get up in the world need not seek to rise by scheming. In the long run nothing comes of such efforts. A man may seem to get on for a time by scheming but it is not a secure way of advancement.

There are those, too, who are all the while trying to get up by continually asking for letters of commendation. Such letters may be of value in getting young men an opportunity to enter a place, or in calling attention to their abilities and good qualities. But that is all they can do. The worst thing a young man can do for himself, is to get over-placed through the influence or the importunity of a friend. Too often commendatory letters of this kind are neither sincere nor altogether true; they are given under pressure and overstate the facts. If the person gets the place through such endorsement, he is not able to fill it acceptably and cannot keep it.

The only true way for a young man to rise to a better position is to make himself so proficient in the place he now fills, that he will be thought of at once when someone is needed for a more important position and more responsible duties. He does not need to be always applying for promotion or asking for more salary this is one sure way not to rise. Let his life and his work be his commendation. Promotion may not come immediately nor may it be rapid; but as a rule, we get into the places we make ourselves ready to fill.

A young man should always remember, too, that there are two lines of success he should be growing as a man, in noble character, in all Christly qualities while he is forging ahead in his work or business. Without this, the largest success in his occupation will be only a house built on the sand.