You might not know this, but your job…well, it isn’t your job. It comes with a description that lists your responsibilities and certain tasks that you do on a regular basis, but those duties are not your job. Nope. Your job is to become indispensible to the organization that employs you by contributing skills and expertise so valuable that it can’t function as well (or at all) without you. To knock the freaking socks off of the team you’re part of and make their jobs easier. In fact, if you’re really, really good – I’m talking valuable-beyond-measure good – your colleagues should never have to ask you for anything, because you will have already thought of it or taken care of it.
When you start a new job, especially in a very competitive specialized industry, there’s this phrase that people always use to motivate you. They say you should be the first person to arrive and the last one to leave. And for the time you’re there, they tell you to kick ass all day long. But the problem with this is that you’re not sure what exactly kicking ass entails. If your roles have been rather black and white, with positions like sales associate at the hipster-est hipster clothing shop, server at the neighborhood café, or warehouse stocking specialist, you’re probably unsure of what to do in the gray area that comes with embarking on your first “real” job. And why wouldn’t you be? Particularly if you have little to no college experience.
Regardless, they throw you in, and it’s sink or swim. These people and the organization they represent have invested in you. You! Of all the people in the world. They. Picked. You. So you better give them a hell of a return on their investment. You need to prove to them and to yourself that you’re worth it. You have to give it your all. That means working beyond scheduled hours, asking the right questions, building strong relationships, being an incessant learner, understanding how your success will be measured, then surpassing expectations and demonstrating passion along the way.
You’ve been given a schedule and, whether part-time or full-time, you have to dedicate yourself outside of those hours. If you’re in the office a few days a week and the organization, for instance, hosts events on the weekends, volunteer to help out with set-up, execution, and cleanup for those events. If there’s an important meeting happening before typical office hours, ask if you can bring coffee or breakfast and come in early to make sure the space is in top shape. If you’re invited to happy hour after work, by all means, GO! Get to know your colleagues in a more relaxed environment, but be professional – you want your integrity to be intact when you walk into the office the next day. Show your dedication by investing the time you need to.
Ask the right questions
Once upon a time when I was an intern, a mentor and friend of mine told me to ask the right questions. I thought, Yeah, okay, great. I just need to ask the right questions. And a few minutes later I thought, How do I KNOW what the right questions are?! What kind of advice is THAT?! Turns out, it’s great advice, and I didn’t realize it until I found myself repeating it. To ask the right questions, you have to start thinking differently. For instance, instead of asking why someone might have given you a chance, ask what you’re going to do to make sure they don’t regret it. Instead of asking what you should do about a problem, come up with a solution and suggest it. But at the very least, just ask questions. You need to understand that no one has all the answers, and no one expects you to either. That’s why it takes multiple people to run a team, a company, or even a country.
Relationships are everything
Whether you’re incredibly extroverted or prefer to keep to yourself, you have to create connections with people, both inside and outside your organization. The relationships you make early on in your career are some of the most important because they can lead to many others. The easiest thing to do is to be yourself. People can tell when you’re being genuine and they’ll appreciate it and feel a stronger connection with you. But it’s not all about you. Take interest in other people. Ask about their job and about what they do outside of work. You might just find that you’re surrounded by some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet.
You can never learn enough
As I said before, nobody knows everything. And no one ever will. That’s what makes life such an adventure, right? (Just nod along.) Learn as much as you can about the industry you’re in, the organization you’re part of, and about organizations like it, or ones it could aspire to emulate. Look for inspiration everywhere. Read articles, study people and places, go to events, talk to smart people – just get out there and soak it up. Then use all that knowledge to improve the things around you.
The biggest barrier to doing a kick-ass job is not knowing what you’re being measured against. You can’t succeed without knowing what success means to the people who are evaluating you on a daily basis. Every day of any job (and of life, even) is a test. And you don’t just want to pass it, you want to blow the minds of the test makers so hard that they have to rewrite it to make sure those after you perform at as high a caliber as you.
People appreciate honesty and humility. If you’re unsure of how you’re doing, request a review. It will only benefit you to know what you’re doing well and how you can improve. Ask what success measurements you’re being evaluated against. No doubt it will be a matter of solving business problems. If it’s recruiting volunteers, put together a game plan and execute it. If it’s recommending the best audience for a product or service, do primary and secondary research and interpret it into a persona. If it’s developing a creative campaign, make sure you have fantastic insights to inform the creative work – don’t just make cool shit for cool shit’s sake.
Wear your passion
Finally, show that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. People don’t want just anybody behind their brand or company. They want a team of passionate, ambitious leaders who’ll be better advocates for the organization than any consumers they could ever hope to buy with a marketing program. Your enthusiasm and curiosity should shine in everything you do. (Unless, of course, what you’re doing doesn’t light you up. In that case, find what does and use this same recipe for success.)
That’s how you kick ass all day. The secret is that it’s your own ass. The bottom line is you must do more than the bottom line. Be so remarkable that you make everyone else aspire to your awesomeness. If you can do this, it’s likely that you’ll get a job offer, or at the very least, you’ll get the kind of referral that would make anyone else snatch you up in a heartbeat.
Work every day to be better and make things around you better. If you’ve found what makes you happiest, you’ll know. You’ll feel like a better you with every ounce of effort that you contribute to whatever it is.
(photo credit: http://frenchbydesign.blogspot.com)