Being a Kick-ass Employee
Whether you’re in an entry level position or you head up a department in a large company, there are certain concepts that should be applied in your working life. As well as increasing your value in the job market, practicing these ideas will enhance your worth to your current employer. You stand to earn more raises, bonuses, and ultimately promotions as you progress through your working life, because you’re constantly improving what you know and how you work. Follow these principles and you’ll find you often end up in more management type roles seeing your responsibilities increase, along with your paycheck.
I write this in the hope that any wisdom I share on this subject provides you with some useful takeaways. This is not written from the perspective of an expert who has this all figured out. Rather, I’m simply reflecting on my experience and what I’ve learned from other people, and sharing that with you.
Now, there are times when we need to take a job solely because we need to feed ourselves and our family. However, this should only be a short-term solution. Going to a job simply to receive a paycheck will provide no motivation for you, and it’s usually not enough to take you to the top (at least, not for the long haul).
Below are the top five things that will make you the best employee at whichever company you work.
If you’re unsure where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived? Where will you be in one, two, five, or ten years? Obviously, experience helps us determine what we want to pursue as a career. But there needs to come a time when we’ve figured out what we like doing, what we’re good at (with which we can make a living), and pursue it with all our energy. Does this mean we’ll always have a job that we like one hundred percent of the time? No. But you should always evaluate your current job scenario and ask yourself if it’s taking you where you want to go. And if the answer is no, you really need to do some soul-searching, to figure out what you should be doing with the time spent on the working day.
What would you really like to do with the forty-plus hours per week that you give to your career? If you find you’ve strayed from the path to your dream job, form an action plan for how to get back on track. You may be unable to make it happen immediately, but you should start on a plan as soon as possible. The plan should also include evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. I believe that, as individuals, it’s impossible to be masters of everything; so it’s in the best interests of ourselves and our employers to know our weaknesses and strengths. I highly recommend you buy the book Strength Finders 2.0, and take the test inside to establish just what are your strengths. It has been life changing for me, which is why I believe everyone should read this book.
There’s no point knowing what you want to do, if you’re not setting out to be the best in that field. And the way to achieve this is to keep on learning. This can be as simple as reading books or articles online, or interviewing experts in your field. Education is a pathway, rather than a destination, and it’s a path we should pursue throughout our whole lives.
For the most part, people want to help others. I suggest you try to find a successful person in the field you want to prosper in, and ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you. Ask them questions like, “What do you wish you knew one, two, or five years ago that you know now?”
It’s also good sense to extend your knowledge beyond what you’re specifically doing at work. The more tools you have (ideas, know-how, and so on) the more value you’ll be to your current employer—as well as those who’ll employ you in the future.
Many would say that this is just common sense, but it’s been my experience that very few employees practice these fundamental skills. If you make a habit of applying these core principles when performing every aspect of your job, you’ll be extremely valuable to your employer. Even if you’re not the best in your field, if you have these attributes, you could find yourself scoring the job promotion over better candidates, simply because you have these fundamentals. Don’t underestimate how important this is in an employee.
An example of being reliable, would be to arrive at work 15 minutes early every day, and not leave at 5.00 p.m. on the dot (even if it’s just a little after). Your employer will notice this, even if it’s not mentioned. And it will be even more obvious if you work with others who are tardy, or seem to always leave right on time. Practicing these core skills has been the one aspect in which I’ve excelled, enabling me to earn raises, bonuses, and promotions over longer-term employees. Communication is a huge factor, especially if you work with customers. But how you communicate with your supervisor and co-workers is also very important in order to gain those hard-earned rewards.
Every person who has a job can work at becoming more productive. Yet very few people actually bother to, or at least manage to ask themselves how they can achieve this. What tasks do you consider to be wasteful in your working day? How can you achieve more in less time? Actively seek ideas about how to be more productive. How can you make your product more valuable to the company and to the consumer? Discuss this with your supervisor or boss.
As well as making you a valuable employee, this is a great learning experience that goes beyond your current employment. By making a habit of asking yourself this in your daily work life, you make yourself infinitely valuable to any employer fortunate to have you working for them.
Every worker requires a degree of organization skills. People who perform their job well have learned how to organize their tasks to achieve better results.
Let’s take a simple work scenario: being a dishwasher for a restaurant. You might think that there’s no room for improvement in such a basic job. But if you were to load the dishwasher more efficiently, thereby fitting more dishes in the machine, and have them come out clean, this indeed would be more valuable to the restaurant.
I’ve learned that by being organized, I’ve been better able to handle my weaknesses; for example, I know that I can easily become overwhelmed if I’m constantly interrupted with changes to projects that I’m working on throughout the day. One habit I’ve formed is to only open my email client at certain times of the day. This way, I’m unable to see when new email comes in, so I don’t interrupt my work by checking its content. The same theory applies to my phone; often I’ll let messages go through to voicemail if I’m already occupied with an important task. These two changes have enabled me to increase my productivity tenfold, yet I’d have failed to even notice them had I not been organized to see how much of an effect they have on my day.
Note-taking, managing emails, handling meetings, and so on—performing these tasks is easier when we’re more organized. Especially when we’re not naturally organized, like myself!
The key is to be proactive with your career. Success in your chosen field doesn’t just happen; it takes hard work, dedication, and focus. Don’t run the risk of your dream job going to less talented candidates, because their other skills make up for their deficiencies.
Learn to earn success. Don’t just hope that it comes to you—go out and grab it!