Say you have a job you like, but want to do even better and take on more challenging roles or maybe you are seeking a more prominent role in your organisation, commensurate with your skills and interests. Perhaps you have a nagging feeling that you aren’t being recognised for what you’ve brought to your team. Does any of these ring a bell?
In a perfect universe, this sense of dissatisfaction would solve itself. The boss would recognise your efforts and potential, and you’d receive better assignments, a better work shift and a raise, or a new job would open up in your organisation that would meet your professional goals and you’d move into it seamlessly.
Alas, good things don’t just happen on their own. Improving your situation at work will most likely require some proactive attention. It begins with a careful assessment of the person we’re dealing with.
As organisations and industries face a nearly non-stop need to reorganise and reset priorities, it is especially important for employees to have a clearly stated sense of what they want.
The goal here is a personal mission statement that can provide guidance throughout your career. It can be drawn up at any time.
You may already be asked annually for a self-assessment by your boss. This exercise is different. This one is purely for your own consumption and the goal is to establish a baseline of where you are, how you are doing and where you want to be.
Take the time to write this down, in whatever fashion you prefer, from a spreadsheet to a personal essay. Writing it down is important. It helps organise the flotsam of ideas and feelings about work that we carry with us every day and allows you to add or subtract things over time.
Once done, you should refer back to it regularly. Half-yearly doesn’t seem too often. Update it as necessary to reflect any changes in your situation.
Critical here is becoming aware of your own natural strengths and interests. You may already have a pretty firm grasp of them or you may discover them as you piece your self-assessment together. If you are unsure, turn to a trusted colleague or former boss. Their view will be especially valuable.
If you are still unsure, you could turn to the many self-assessment quizzes available online.
Knowing who you are and what you want prepares you for occasional conversations with your boss about your future. These conversations are times for information sharing between employers who like happy workers but have certain needs to fill and employees who want to be happy but also need jobs.
Raising your profile
You may look at your self-assessment and say: “I’m one of the best workers here and nobody knows it!” If so, it may be time to make an effort to raise your profile in the workplace. This will possibly take some extra work.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Step up to solve problems
- You and your co-workers can probably come up with dozens of small (or large) processes that don’t work for some reason – a software issue, a procedure issue, a deadline that no one can ever meet.
- But everyone is so busy that no one has time to find a solution. Make yourself that person. Take on one or two of these issues. The answer may simply involve getting the attention of the person in your organisation who can address it.
Be alert to ideas that could make your department’s work easier or better. Suggest them to your boss, and if she approves them, be ready to take the next step to make them a reality. Don’t be hurt if your idea gets turned down. These things are like batting averages; one out of three is excellent.
Some people have absolutely no hesitation chatting away in group sessions and team meetings. Others have a natural reticence.
It is fine to keep quiet if you have nothing to add, but you aren’t doing anyone any good by withholding a helpful comment or good question.
If speaking in these settings doesn’t come naturally, try to take a moment before the meeting to develop some questions.
Some experts recommend trying to be the first person to speak up once the floor is opened up to questions – if only to quickly get the monkey off your back.
Don’t feel like you have to ask a Nobel Prize-winning question. It’ll be easier once you get started.
There are many other ways to make your role a little more prominent, such as:
• Looking for ways to solve a headache for your boss;
• Offering to mentor new employees or coach co-workers about a new technology or tool;
• Taking on a task or work a shift that isn’t exactly a favourite among the staff.
Our offices are tiny societies where teamwork is prized and we praise colleagues who do an outstanding job. However, someone who always tries to position themselves at the front of the parade can expect a cold reception from the team.
The bottom line is everything in moderation. If you want to stretch and do better for your department, go for it. Be the best you can be, but good work truly blooms when it is discovered, rather than placed under the boss’s nose.
This article first appeared in The New York Times.