Getting Ahead in Your Career is More Straightforward than You Think
Through the years, I was often asked about what I did that made me get promoted so consistently and as a manager what my expectations were of my employees. Many times, these people seemed to be struggling to perform on the job or minimally weren’t moving up the ladder for pay or position. The struggle they seemed to have was more a mental mindset than actual skill or talent.
I have discovered that success on the job involves two simple, yet sometimes elusive concepts. The first concept is about delivering performance that exceeds expectation. The second concept is performing beyond the description of the job or adding value. You may be sitting there thinking “hey, I don’t get paid enough to do all of that”, well if you are thinking something like that, may I point out that you’ve already set yourself up to remain exactly where you are.
When you first start a job, of course, you have interviewed and have an idea of what your job involves. You are now on the job and some type of training has taken place so you can perform the job. The amount of stimulation you get when first starting a new job can be overwhelming, but at some point, you arrive at a point where you are fairly independently performing the job. It is at this point, where you need to take a step back and fully understand the nature of the business you are in and where your job plays a role. You are part of an organic machine. Without you, the machine would either stop functioning or it won’t work as intended.
This is where you must understand what your management expects from you, so some research is appropriate. If there are other people who perform the same job and seem to do it well, interview them and ask them what they think excellence is and how they achieve it. Talk to people upstream and downstream from you. By this I mean there are most likely people who do work that comes to you so you, in turn, perform work that goes to others. When you talk to these people, ask them what they provide or need you to provide along with questions about, when, how often, in what form and with what qualities. Once you think you have done your homework, time to talk to the boss. Roll up your findings into something you can jointly review. Ask them to validate what you have developed and modify or add anything that needs to based on the fact that it’s that person who will be assessing your performance. Once you are clear, your final questions should be: How will you know if I am performing? What criteria will you use? In other words, you now know what the expectations of the job are and how to perform it, but what will the process be for finding out how well you did?
This may seem like overkill but it’s not. The majority of people in the workplace seem to amble in and out of jobs, never really connecting to the fact that THEY are responsible for their own success. Like a map and itinerary on a vacation, you have to know where you’re going, so you know what you have to do to get there.
There is one other thing you need to do. If your place of business doesn’t have a formal performance appraisal process you will need to devise a way to obtain feedback on your performance. Even if your place of business does have a process, you may want to conduct your own process for obtaining input on how you are doing, not just from the boss but those people you work closely with. I have seen people doing fine between appraisal periods and then suddenly run themselves off the road. Don’t wait a full year to find out that fact. Also, make sure you are not just conducting a love-in with your work friends, you need honest, objective input on how well you do your job and what would improve it.
When a person is doing their job well, the way to a boss’s heart is to go beyond the job description. Adding value is where you perform work that is either not being done or not being done well or consistently but will advance the mission of your business. There is usually a ton of these kinds of opportunities; you simply need to look for them. As you gain experience, you will notice them all the time. I had a job in a fabric store and as with all retail stores; there are times of boredom due to customer lulls. It was during those times, that I tidied up the bolts of cloth, made sure there were no loose ends on the trims, dusted and cleaned. It might not have been part of the job description, but it made a big difference to the owner.
A pearl of wisdom on when to add value. Only pursue adding value when you know you are consistently performing your job well. Don’t drop the ball, take on valued added tasks AND continue to perform your job. There is nothing more irritating than to have some cowboy going off doing a bunch of things that are “nice” but not doing their job. Also, make sure you aren’t pursuing your own agenda or fun thing. I’ve had people go off to add value and what they were doing, missed the target. It had no value.
There is another subtle aspect to adding value. It demonstrates a level of thought and initiative that is hard for bosses to “train in” to a person. You either have it or you don’t. If given the task of laying off a person and the choice is between two people that absolutely perform their job, the boss is going to look at the person that brings more to the party than just doing the job. They will look at the value adding an employee as someone who is committed to the business success, someone they can trust and someone that can grow. That is job success.
Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential.