Every day people go to work and wish their job were better. Besides better compensation, they want more challenging assignments so they can feel useful and fulfilled. But too many times the possibility for better assignments is hindered by not engaging some fundamental actions and attitudes that catch the bosses’ attention in a positive way.
What follows are five characteristics that often separate those who get better opportunities from those who don’t:
1. When instructions are given, listen! Soak up everything, even if you think you know what the instructions are going to be. One of the most frustrating things a supervisor faces is an employee who says, “but I thought you said ….”
Since supervisors hate things having to be done over, clear and active listening up front puts you in a good light.
2. Ask clarifying questions about a wider scope of purpose. This practice stems from the fact that mind-reading is an overrated sport. If you don’t know how or why something is the way it is, it’s not your supervisor’s responsibility to magically be aware of your lack of knowledge.
The act of asking questions about the bigger picture shows initiative. It indicates you want to learn, and it impresses most bosses.
Suffice it to say that supervisors are more likely to delegate the better, more challenging assignments to those who understand the big picture rather than to those who don’t. Therefore, actively try to understand the big picture and you get an edge for getting better assignments down the road.
3. Seek responsibility. Sadly, too many employees do just enough work to get by. Those who want to improve their value as an employee will seek out new duties while still paying attention to detail in those duties which are already assigned.
Additionally, valuable employees are those who work at creating a smooth interface between their duties and the duties of those around them. The point is that doing your own work well is just a start. Since supervisors look for ways to reduce bumps and obstacles in work flow, employees who work to minimize ripples in how their job duties affect co-workers—without being told to do so—are seen as tremendously valuable.
Also, make sure your backbone is strong and take responsibility when things go awry. Mistakes happen. Supervisors know this. When you make a mistake, offer an apology and a make a sincere effort to learn from the mistake. It goes light years farther than offering a lame excuse or trying to place blame elsewhere.
4. Use good manners. “Please” and “thank you” create good will in just about any environment. Although their omission makes for quicker interaction among small groups of employees, it doesn’t take much for the absence of polite words to magnify even the slightest bit of tension.
Some even say that healthy social interaction is becoming a lost art; that people are being treated poorly as the quest for results and deadlines take center stage. For those that want to be seen as a value to their organization, think about where you spend your own money: Do you like to shop where people treat you like a number, or at a place where you receive personalized attention? The answer should be obvious, but now think about how a personable atmosphere adds value to the workplace—and how people are viewed as valuable when they use good manners.
5. Remember you’re hired to solve problems. All occupations and all jobs within those occupations have this one requirement in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the new hire on the job for two days; everyone is hired to solve problems.
Problems come in all shapes and sizes, but too many people look at some problems as “too menial.” Such people would benefit from heeding what a wise teacher once taught: If you are faithful in the little things, you will be put in charge over many things. All problems need solving—not just the high profile ones.
Also keep in mind that every workplace has problems, and it’s those who are in the workplace every day who know the problems intimately. The valuable employee not only identifies problems, but also offers solutions. To point out problems and not offer solutions does little to promote one’s problem-solving ability. As a result, those who only point out problems are rarely offered bigger, better assignments.
Bottom line, too many workers do only what is required, and as a result they are causing their own unhappiness. But those who increase their value to a company are opening the door to richer, more fulfilling employment.