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If youÂ?re really serious about wanting to improve your job, drive your career, and make more money, the solution lies entirely with you. Five steps on how to get ahead are enclosed.

How often have you heard friends or coworkers complain about their jobs, saying they’re bored, they never get promoted, they aren’t making enough money? Maybe you’re one of those complainers yourself.

If you are, and you aren’t doing anything to improve the situation, it will never get better. In fact, chances are good that it will get worse. If you’re really serious about wanting to improve your job, drive your career, and make more money, the solution lies entirely with you. You are in control. Once you realize that, you can take the necessary steps to get ahead, feel challenged, and be rewarded for your efforts.

Here are five suggestions to get you started. Educate yourself. The most important thing you can do is to get additional training. Read everything you can get your hands on in an effort to learn everything you can about the company, the industry, and how to provide the best customer service possible—to your customers and your coworkers.

Invest $15 to $20 a month on customer service books and audio programs to learn everything from how to empower yourself to how to handle customer complaints. I started studying on my own when I was 23 and, by the time I was 30, I had a net worth of $1 million.

I’ve said this thousands of times over the years and I’ll repeat it again here because it is so true: Educating yourself is the best investment you can make. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs. Use those programs to expand your knowledge—and your horizons. Also, enroll in every seminar and workshop your company or industry offers. It will not only provide you valuable information, it will let others in the company know that you are serious about your career and what you can do to drive the company’s business.

Focus on customer service. While technical knowledge and skills that are specific to your business are critical, too many people ignore a critical element in the success equation: customer service. Customer service means doing whatever you can to take care of the customer. It means greeting customers by name and with a smile. It means being knowledgeable about your company’s products and services so that you can help customers make informed decisions. It means listening—really listening—to what the customer has to say so that you can better meet his needs. It means going out of your way to ensure that the customer’s experience—with you and your company—is a good one.

Often, people look at customer service as servitude rather than as a powerful tool in ensuring the customers will return to the company time and time again, bringing their money with them. The more service you provide to customers, the more they will buy, and the more you will be noticed. The payoff will be great.

Develop a positive attitude. Your attitude determines not only how you feel about yourself, but how others feel about you. No one enjoys working with someone who is negative, complaining, and doesn’t carry his own weight. Developing a positive attitude involves developing a good self-image. Give yourself pep talks on the drive to work and pat yourself on the back on the drive home for the many things you did well that day. Don’t dwell on the things that went wrong.

Don’t compare yourself to others. The only meaningful comparison is between what you are today and what you can become tomorrow. Learn to handle complaints. Many people immediately get defensive when faced with an angry customer. Instead, listen to what the customer has to say, ask questions to clarify details, apologize for the error, ask the customer what she feels should be done to correct the problem, and then do whatever you can to correct it—and do so as quickly as you can.

Empower yourself. Recognize that you have the power within yourself to change yourself—and your life. If you are going to be creative and productive, you must be empowered. Empowerment means taking risks. On the job that might mean taking steps to solve a customer’s problem without first getting permission from your supervisor. While taking such action will result in a happy customer, it can also result in an unhappy supervisor. But remember: It’s often easier to ask for forgiveness after you take action than it is to take no action at all, especially if you can point out how satisfied the customer was with that action.

Work smart. Manage your time. Get organized. Execute tasks based on priorities. When you prioritize, you think ahead. You work on the roots of problems. You work on activities that prevent problems so there will be fewer problems to solve. Don’t procrastinate.

Do the most important or difficult task first. Make small decisions promptly. Group related and similar activities and do them at the same time. Your success is much too important to be left to the decisions of others. Take control of your career. The greatest limitations you face in getting ahead in your career are self-imposed. Visualize yourself as successful. Get the training and develop the attitude that will drive that success. And, when you have a bad day and want to blame someone, look in the mirror. The face looking back at you belongs to the person responsible for your life and your career.

John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker who were featured in USA Today’s June 27 cover story on service recovery. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service, including Ca$hing In: Make More Money, Get a Promotion, Love Your Job; e-Service, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, and The Customer is Boss His bimonthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge.

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