Productivity is a huge fad these days. Every few articles I see on Linkedin have this or that advice counseling you on the best way to maximize your output and save time, allowing you to learn new things, undertake new challenges, and eventually rule the world. These articles all provide great tips and tricks, but the 80/20 rule applies as much to people as it does to productivity: 20% of people in your company are responsible for 80% of a company’s success.
So many people stay in jobs where they can survive on the bare minimum. These workers complete the tasks they are assigned, and don’t really work much harder than they’re asked. In the tech world and especially in larger companies, these people are smart and yet they allow themselves to waste away in boredom, getting trapped in work that doesn’t utilize their full potential. Luckily there’s a way to escape these pitfalls.
Any person at any size organization, no matter what field you’re in, can make an impact at their work: they simply need to take the initiative and act. Seek out challenges, look for gaps and problems that you are able to solve. Make it your business to be aware of challenges that your team faces! You’ll hear these things talked about in meetings or development sessions: it’s in your absolute best interest to keep one ear to the ground. Even if you don’t have the necessary buy-in to help with a situation, pay attention. When the time comes, you’ll be more likely to recognize an opportunity and capture it.
This is the step where the 80% of workers fall by the wayside. They recognize an opportunity to let their value shine, and allow it to fade away they encounter any resistance. Take the initiative to make an impact. Let your creative fire fuel you through these first moments of working on your own, without guidance or reporting to a manager. As you continue stimulating your problem solving skills, you’ll eventually accomplish whatever challenge you sought to overcome. The secret to carving your path to work you want to be doing is one word: specialization.
Sure, you weren’t hired to work a specific niche, but if you have a transferable skillset and there’s a problem that needs solving, why not use this chance to show the higher-ups what you’ve got? Work in your own time, and create a solution that either benefits the company by a) generating revenue or b) saving time. These impact-minded goals are not only helping the company grow, but they produce metric-based results: measurable tangibles that truly show improvement. Not only did you improve productivity, you improved productivity by 45%. Those numbers make it impossible for people to ignore you. Do the work that needs to be done. As long as it doesn’t compromise your current workload, managers really can’t get mad at you for doing extra work-it can only help you in the long run.
However, there is one caveat to this mantra: beware the petty manager. In more politically entangled companies (though sometimes smaller, too), managers will try to stifle creative outbursts for fear of looking weak or inefficient to their bosses. A candidate I recently spoke with was frustrated because every time he proposed a new idea his managers would squelch them down, simply because they did not want to give credit away.
This scenario may require you to turn your creativity into your boss’ idea. Yes, I know you’re not going to get credit now for all your hard work. Here’s the thing: you know you did it. And when you eventually go looking for a newer, more exciting job at a newer more exciting company, this will undoubtedly work to your advantage. What’s that, you have a marketable accomplishment with quantifiable success within your current company that you accepted no credit for?
Sign me up.
Rick Girard is the Managing Director and Founder of Stride Search, a boutique professional talent search firm. While not running a School for Gifted Mutants, he creates valuable content for Hiring Managers and Career Seekers alike to elevate industry standards of executive professional search.