In 2014, at 24 years old, I became the Vice President of Marketing at DigitalMarketer, an industry leader in digital marketing education that helps companies like Uber and HarperCollins. I earned a generous six-figure salary and was responsible for an annual digital media budget of more than $5 million.
Two years earlier, I was a bartender who had just moved from Kentucky to Texas and desperately needed more cash to pay my bills. After scrolling through job listings, I came across a $12 an hour internship at DigitalMarketer on Craigslist. I interviewed the next day and was hired.
So what was the key to my rapid ascent? Instead of thinking of myself as an employee, I considered myself an intrapreneur: someone who brings an entrepreneurial mindset to their day job.
The intrapreneur thinks, acts, and has similar qualities to an entrepreneur, except they work for someone else. Instead of bringing a passion for success to their own business, they bring it to their employer’s business — and this, in turn, makes them invaluable to the company. This translates into more promotions, bigger raises, and more freedom for the intrapreneur.
Here are three ways to embrace an intrapreneurial mindset and become perpetually promotable.
1. Build quality relationships within your organization
Relationships are the foundation of any business. Throughout my career as an employee, I invested a lot of time getting to know the people I spent so much of my time with. We organized after work get-togethers, team meals, and tried to make our work as fun as possible. The more a team enjoys one another, the more productive they’ll be. Cultivating these relationships catapulted my growth because I was on their minds when a new project or promotion became available. For example, in 2013 (when I was fresh out of my internship), we were launching a new project and realized we were about to miss our deadline. There was a membership area and community forum left to be built. My boss called and asked if I’d be willing to take them on. I had no idea what I was doing, but resolved to find the answers (thank you, Google) and stayed in the office until midnight most nights. We pulled it off and I proved to myself and my team that I could be a driving force in the business.
2. Spend at least 5 hours a week learning — and implementing what you learn
After my 4-month internship ended, I was promoted to Social Media Manager. From there I became interested in paid traffic and started taking up to four online courses a month to learn Facebook ad strategies. After a few months, I approached my boss and suggested that I try running a campaign. He gave me $1,000 to work with — and I brought back more than three times that in revenue. By studying on my own time, I was prepared to initiate this campaign, which led to my next promotion to Digital Media Buyer, and later the VP of Marketing.
I wouldn’t have been able to make these jumps if I wasn’t studying and learning on my own time. Get your hands on any books, courses, podcasts or seminars that will help you become better at your current position — and the positions you aspire to fill.
3. Be a self-starter
Self-starters are motivated, ambitious, and don’t usually need to be told what to do because they’re already doing it (and often much more). I remember waking up at 4 a.m. to get to the office so that I had a few hours of quiet time to complete urgent projects. I worked on weekends and holidays. I completed whatever task was needed to help the team move forward. While I don’t want to glamorize hustle culture, I do believe in urgency and grit when you’re in a season of growth. My drive came from a desire to impress upper management but mostly for us to succeed as a team and serve our customers in the best way possible.
Do you have new, out-of-the-box ideas that could help your company grow? Share them and offer to take the lead. Is there a problem in your organization that no one has stepped up to tackle? Solve it, or find someone who can. By taking ownership as an intrapreneur, you’ll become an invaluable asset to your company.