I know this will work for you, because it worked for me and I’ve seen it work for dozens of others.

Warning: I gave these tips to a co-worker when she asked how she could get off the factory floor and into cubicle world. She listened to tips 5-8, and interrupted me saying, “But I don’t wanna do all that.” To which I replied, “then you better get back to school.”

  1. Make a list of small to medium sized business in your area. Start by calling the local Chamber of Commerce and asking for the names of the fastest growing small to medium sized businesses. Remember, you don’t want companies that are too large – above $250 million in revenue. Large corporations rarely hire or promote non-degreed people. I’ve seen it happen, but it is so rare, I wouldn’t count on it. Small to mid-size companies will promote anyone with ability and allow them to learn any job in the company.
  2. Remove all retailers, restaurants, and hotels (really most of the travel industry) from your list. Retailers, restaurants, and hotels of all sizes are likely to exploit you, promote you to assistant manager, pay you less than 20K, burn you out, and never promote you. Find a fast growing business in the technology, manufacturing, construction, real estate, or transportation sector.
  3. Research the companies on your list. Read every page on their websites. Look for bios on the founder, president, executives, and other people that work for the company. If the leadership bios stress educational achievement above business achievement, cross them off your list. Rate the companies on your list numerically.
  4. Go get a job at one of these companiesany job. Start with the company you like most. First memorize their website, their products, services, history, leaders, and then apply for any open position, even if it is – beneath you. But apply for the best job you qualify for. If they don’t have any openings, go to the management bios on their website and find a manager or executive you can identify with, then stop by the company in person and ask for that manager and tell her how much you love the company, what you can do for the company, and how much you’d love to work there. Dress professional, and leave a cover letter and a resume. If she won’t see you, leave a hand written note. Don’t rely on email only. Do everything you can to meet them in person. Persistently pursue employment at your top choices for several months then continue down your list. If you follow these tips you will get a job, probably at one of the top companies on your list. But the job will suck and it will pay little.
  5. Learn to do your job better than anybody has ever done it before. Tell your manager you want to learn every job in your department because you want to backup anyone that leaves or takes a vacation. When another department is hurting, walk over to the department head and tell her that you are willing to help anyway you can. When you see a problem, never complain, look for a solution, and offer to implement your solution on your own time over the weekend – for free. Even if no one notices, keep busting your ass anyway. When you see a problem, question management only if you have better idea and are willing to articulate the solution. If you have a solution, good managers will love to hear it. If you don’t have a solution – it’s a complaint. Don’t ever complain.
  6. When asked to work late or over the weekend without pay, don’t complain. Volunteer for it and do it with a smile on your face… without exception.
  7. Volunteer for everything that you can. If a new team is created – volunteer. If they need people for a booster club – volunteer. If they need people for the safety committee – volunteer. Volunteer for every educational opportunity offered. Volunteer willingly at every opportunity.
  8. Never stop talking and thinking about how great the company is and how great its products are. Never go to the bar and sit around complaining about the company. Show your passion for the company, its products, and its leaders in everything you do.
  9. When you meet an executive say this, “I’m am so grateful to be here at Company X. This is the greatest company I have ever worked for. I want to know everything there is to know about this business. I want to know how you guys come up with new products and services. I want to know your sales processes; I want to know operations. I want to help this company grow. Will you help me learn more about this company? How can I be of more service and value? I have no problem learning and working at night or on the weekend. I love this place.” Make this speech your own and memorize it. Tell it again and again to the executives, the founder, and every manager. Plan to put in 70-80 hours a week because they will take your offer. Learn every valuable piece of information you can about your company.
  10. In 1-4 years you will be one of the most valuable employees in the company. In many cases you will know more about the company than most of the managers. When management openings arise, apply for every opening you are interested in, even if it requires a degree. If you are persistent, someone will eventually give you a management position, because you know so damn much about the company. This entry-level management job will likely pay 40-70K depending on your industry, company size, and geographic location. Congratulations! You’ve reached the entry point of a college graduate. From here you can try to continue to climb the corporate ladder and your soft skills and intelligence will matter far more than your educational record. Good Luck!

So you still think it can’t be done? Read about ninth grade dropout Guy Mingo.

Want more information…
Read the Go-Getter, a short story about succeeding in the corporate world. Peter B. Kyne wrote it in the 20s and it is timeless (if you can overlook the political incorrectness).

These tips will work wonders for your career even if you have a degree.

Note: These are tips to acquiring a management position without a college degree. These are not tips on how to acquire a management position in the company of your choice, in the industry of your choice, at the best salary. If you want to do that…
Get a degree.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker