Here’s a potentially career-boosting exercise for you. Pretend you are as of this moment, fired from your position. If this were to happen to you, what would be the likely reason? Maybe you ticked the wrong person off. But in general, the reason will be some version of this: the total cost of your employment (including the opportunity cost of replacing you with someone cheaper and/or better, benefits, taxes, insurances, trouble you cause ;-) and wages) outweighs the perceived value of your contributions.
Now, let’s wave our magic wand. You’re back in line for consideration for your current position. What would you do to sell yourself to the organization? If you could refine and optimize the job and set the most mutually profitable expectations for performance, what would be the top 3-5 accountabilities and how would you measure and achieve them?
To get the most of this thought exercise, discuss it with others who professionally interact with you on a regular basis. Hold your thoughts in reserve; just honestly question them to get their unfiltered opinions. Try to identify how their answers connect to larger organizational objectives.
Another way to maximize the benefit of this exercise is take an inventory of your greatest professional strengths. Look for how these can be better leveraged to raise the bar in your current role. Again this can be a little difficult to do on your own, so seek a knowledgeable person who can serve as an effective sounding board for you.
Your true earning power is based upon the value of your contributions vs. prevailing market options. A star athlete earns so much because so many people want to see their team win and very few athletes can perform in that job at the highest level. But often, it is the higher salaries that are first in line on the chopping block. The QB who has a big contract but doesn’t deliver results at the level of the younger crop of QB’s is in danger of being cut from the team. (Donovan McNabb, anyone?) If you want to command a good wage and enjoy real security in your career, it is imperative that you maximize your contributions to the organization.
For better or worse, it is best not to simply toil away unnoticed. You must find a way to put points on the scoreboard – points others in the organization can see. The best way to do this is to agree upon specific metrics that define success. The more these metrics correspond to tangible, dollar-based performance, the better.
When setting these benchmarks, you must do so in a way that leaves room for you to consistently outperform them. Why? To really stand out, to be considered indispensable, take a cue from Scotty in Star Trek – under-promise and over-deliver. “Ya didn’t tell him how long it would really take ya, lad! How are you going to earn a reputation as a miracle worker if ya tell him how long it will really take?!”
I’m not talking about sandbagging. The benchmarks must be reasonably close to what a skilled person in your profession may be expected to achieve. The trick here is to pick the ones that play to your particular strengths.
Before you can become a miracle worker for your company, you need to convince the people making the decision that you’re the best available candidate for the job. Since we’re talking about the job you currently hold (if applicable!), you’ll be selling your innovative ideas for your job. You need to make your case of how you, and specifically you, in that role is the best answer for the bigger organizational purpose.
Here is a final thought. One fantastic way to distinguish yourself in your organization and the marketplace is this: Be About Something. Pick your Main Thing. Then learn how to deliver that message in your words and deeds. I’ve found this to be critically important. In fact, I’ve discovered that my main thing is helping people and organizations live closer to their main thing. That clarity has been extremely liberating and empowering for me. I wish those blessings upon you.