According to career expert Jonathan Fields, there have historically been two main categories of employees in organizations: creators and operators.
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Operators follow a pre-determined game plan for a particular role, they adapt their talents and approaches to the specific prerequisites of a job and they adhere as closely as possible to these requirements.
Until our recent economic downtown, operators with precise areas of expertise were able to thrive. Their competent execution of specific fields made them highly valued by their co-workers and superiors.
Current economic realities, however, have resulted in a significant reduction of specialized operators in all industries, and have forced remaining employees to double and even triple their duties. While upping your workload may save your job in the short term, the possibility of losing your position to someone else who can do the same number of tasks as you (or more) and at a lesser cost to the organization is a constant concern.
Along with greater scrutiny of operators, there has also been an examination of the other category of employees: creators.
Organizations have looked to creators to imagine new plans on a daily basis. They’re relied upon to solve problems, deliver improvements, and – in Fields’ words – “see opportunities where everyone else sees barriers, to blaze a new trail rather than follow a well-grooved one.”
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Unfortunately, even creators have seen their ranks thinned in recent years, especially creators who are used to formulating an overall vision without also devising a strategic implementation methodology to make their vision a reality.
For workers, professionals, and executives at all levels within an organization to survive and flourish, they must revise their talents, operating styles, and philosophies into a third employee category - one that is rare yet highly prized by employers: the creator/operator.
Creator/operators are individuals who can not only introduce new ideas, remedy challenges, and develop innovative solutions, they also possess the ability to launch, execute and guide their plans with the outcome being the consistent delivery of valuable benefits that create revenue, save revenue and improve the organization’s image in the marketplace.
While being an essential career move, transitioning from a pure operator to a creator/operator can be challenging for many professionals, especially those who may not be used to thinking outside of their established comfort zones.
When seeking solutions, they need to research new perspectives, consider different approaches, and be open minded about what’s possible. When faced with challenges, they need to be proactive, and not simply reactive. When pondering a new idea, their mindset must be “what if?” and “why not?” rather than “why should I?” This transformation process takes practice, a willingness to experiment, and a sense of adventure, but the journey can enhance one’s professional worth as well as improve confidence, boost self-esteem, and build leadership ability.
As we’ve learned in our current unpredictable economy, many of us firsthand, it’s impossible to make yourself 100% indispensable to an organization. But by being a consistent and effective creator/operator, you’ll make it inconvenient, unprofitable, and difficult for a company to lay you off.
Rafe Gomez is business strategy and marketing communications consultant, and the author of the audiobook WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? A POWERFUL NEW INTERVIEW STRATEGY TO GET YOU HIRED IN TODAY’S CHALLENGING ECONOMY, available on Audible.com. Follow him on Twitter @rehirementcoach