No matter where you stand on the corporate ladder, the truth is, your career is not really about you.
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Very few professionals have been able to advance their careers by simply showing up for work and doing their job. The Peter Principle claims workers are promoted to the level in which they fail, which reinforces the idea that not all advancement is based on the skill that gets you there.
It’s time to understand that your success in the workplace is dependent on filling a need and bringing value to the company. It goes beyond getting your work done, it's about implementing a necessary attitude change and realizing that it’s about being proactive and anticipating the needs of your clients or bosses and proving your worth.
Here are five ways to change how you approach your career to take the focus off of just yourself to propel you to the next level:
1. Ask yourself every day: what is my mission? Your career is going to go nowhere without a mission or a purpose, and that mission should not be to just collect a paycheck. Making money is a very important part of why we work, but there needs to be a bigger mission or goal. What is yours? If you are an attorney, your mission might be to help ensure justice is served. If you’re an executive assistant, your mission might be to keep your boss better organized so the entire team benefits. Set clear (and obtainable) goals that focus on what you can do for the greater good of the company.
2. Who do I serve? There is always someone who should benefit from our hard work. They could be internal people such as your boss or the end user of a product you maintain. Even if you have a job that feels mundane or unimportant, you are still serving someone. It’s important to identify that person or persons. If you feel disconnected from those whom you serve, request some face time. Doing so could reenergize you, especially if you spend that time asking questions that will allow you to learn more about their needs.
3. What is expected of me? Clearly understanding what’s expected of you from your “clients’” perspective is important so that you know how to go the extra mile in a way that serves your clients. Your purpose for doing so should be to increase their experience.
4. Why would someone want to promote or hire me over someone else? In the current economic environment, there’s a strong chance there are many people who would like your job--and do it just as well. But we all have unique talents and it’s important to showcase them. The skill could be something as seemingly small as the way you interact with people, or how you are able to see the opportunities amid a crisis. These are not small things. They set you apart from the competition so make sure you know the answer to this question when seeking a promotion or new employment.
5. What can I be doing better? This is a question to ask yourself every single day. If you’re bored, have no time, are not challenged in your work or feel like every day is the same, there is something you could be doing better. Find five minutes every day (even if it’s on your commute home, in the shower or walk to lunch) to consider better ways to do the same job with less stress, with more productivity and with better results. Furthermore, if you have free time there is something extra you could be doing and it’s your job to figure that out.
Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur™ Coach (on Twitter @occupreneur), is a certified professional coach based in New York. A Wall Street veteran, she specializes in Occupreneur™ coaching, strategy and crisis-consulting services for executives and organizations who strive to improve their businesses or careers.