What is the recipe for success in any job? I stumbled upon this great article by Chris Guillebeau, How to Stand Out in Any Job. While I think his ideas have some obstacle in some situations, the spirit of these ideas and the practical applications are fantastic. I encourage you to read his article and wander around his site. There are some real gems there.
I want to bounce off his 8 principles for becoming a superhero in any job over the course of the next couple of weeks here on CCS.
“Never Turn Down a Project by saying, ‘that’s not in my job description’.”
This is huge. I like that he put it first. There are three ways to be at work: open, closed and somewhere in between when it comes to being flexible in the workplace. Guess which group gets the raises and promotions? Guess which group has a better chance of getting positive responses to their requests?
In my varied work experiences in retail and the library world, I have hands down been happier when I have been open to being flexible about my job duties, etc. This does not mean I take on jobs and responsibilities without asking for compensation for added work. It does mean that when asked to handle something or do another task or take on some responsibility, I have almost always said yes, even if there is not added compensation. I’m also not saying to take on TOO much responsibility so you lack balance in your life. There is nothing wrong with answering a request to do something with an honest reply about workload and inquiry into your institution’s priorities. Something along the lines of:
“I would love to help you. I’m in the middle of projects X, Y, and Z; but, if you don’t mind Y and Z getting put on hold a bit; I think I can handle this new task with no problems.”
I have almost always been rewarded for pitching in when needed. Sometimes the reward is monetary (raises and/or promotion), sometimes it’s a pat on the back and sometimes it has been support from others for my own pet projects. Almost every time, I have been rewarded with the satisfaction of helping a coworker.
Happiness researchers (yes, there really are researchers who research happiness) have found a higher rate of happiness in people who are altruistic. I think the same sort of satisfaction that you would get doing volunteer work or shoveling an elderly neighbor’s snow is available to you at work by being keeping an open mind about what your role is and how you should be spending your time.
I have encountered people who’s knee jerk reaction to being asked to do work outside of their job description is “no.” You’ll win no friends and allies with this attitude. That attitude benefits no one. Most of you have experienced workplaces where there are some people who barely hold up their end and there are others who are continuously asked to work on new projects. Some people see this as unfair, especially in a union environment when you might be making the same amount of money as the person who does less and is unwilling to help out. But, even in these situations you win by stepping up because come promotion time or when an interesting position opens up you will be in a better spot to succeed in getting it. You will also just have more opportunities at work: more opportunities to learn, more opportunities to build your resume with varying experiences, more opportunities to network with colleagues and more opportunities to be challenged with interesting and fulfilling projects.
“That’s not my job.” Don’t be that guy. The guy who says that dreads getting out of bed and going to work every day. The guy who says that only dreams of retirement. The guy who says that is just putting in his time. Our lives are way too precious for that kind of thinking.
Take this moment to ponder a line from Mary Oliver:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?