I’ve seen two kinds of people. We all know that guy who won’t shut up about all his accomplishments and takes every opportunity to suck up to the manager. But we usually don’t notice the one who’s content to have his hard work be unappreciated because the satisfaction of doing a good job is enough for him. I want to talk about the second guy. As an introvert, I find it much easier to just keep my mouth shut and move on than to constantly demand attention for my performance. However, something I’ve been learning recently is just how important it is to not only know your own value but to make sure your boss does too. This can be a tricky balance. You don’t want to be that first guy who is constantly boasting but you also don’t want to be someone who can simply be walked over as a means to an end. I’m going to visit three things you’ll want to consider if you are trying to get the most out of your career.
1. Know Your Value
This is the most important part. Just because you already got the job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep asking yourself that infamous question: “What are my strengths and weaknesses?” That’s right. It’s not just for interviews. Knowing what you’re good and and what things you need to work on is absolutely critical for making sure you get the recognition you deserve (without looking like a stuck-up jerk). The first thing you should do is take your comparisons of yourself next to your coworkers and throw them in the trash. Comparing yourself to other employees will never do you any good. Rather, compare yourself to what the paradigm of the industry looks like. What would be the perfect nurse, engineer, teacher, salesman, etc? What separates you from that ideal picture of an employee? Are you working towards narrowing that gap?
Then, ask yourself: “What am I doing well?” Maybe you just work really hard. Maybe you are a great problem solver or you’re really efficient. Find those strengths that you have. Here’s the hard part: ask your coworkers what they think you do well and what they think you do poorly. It can be hard to have an unbiased opinion of yourself so getting another perspective is of the utmost importance. Not only will your coworkers be able to tell you areas in which you could improve, but what they don’t tell you will provide clues as well. This step is a massive leap towards self awareness. Ultimately you want to break things down into three categories: what you do well that people notice, what you do well that no one notices, what areas you need to improve. Before you ask: “But what about areas in which I need to improve that no one notices?” Stop kidding yourself. Everyone notices all of your weaknesses, believe me. That’s just how the world works.
2. Demonstrating Your Value
Actions may speak louder than words, but without words actions are just a loud chaotic noise that is impossible to interpret. Humanity developed language for a reason. Use it.
I recently had a performance review in which I was rated lower in a category than I thought I deserved. I waited until my manager was finished explaining each rating then I explained to him that, while I may be weak in some other areas he mentioned, I know that I’m better than what he gave me credit for. He then asked me how I thought I deserved to be rated and why, and when I explained it to him he changed the rating to what I asked for. Because I was able to demonstrate that I had a good understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, my manager reevaluated what he thought of my performance in favor of my own assessment.
This part is hard for me. I’m the kind of person who won’t correct a fast food employee when they give me the wrong order simply because it’s more comfortable to say nothing. But when it comes to your career you can’t afford to simply do the comfortable thing if you hope to ever make any progress.
3. Making the Most of Your Value
If your boss doesn’t appreciate your value fully even after you clearly demonstrate it, get out. A company that fails to recognize the value of its employees is not a place you want to find yourself in five to ten years. You don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted those years when you could have been contributing to a more successful career. Find a company that will support you in making the most of your value and you will find yourself looking back and wondering how you came so far. That’s certainly better than coming to the realization that you’ve stagnated over the years. A lot of people won’t look for another job simply because it’s easier to keep the one they have even if they aren’t appreciated. Again, you can’t afford to simply do the comfortable thing. Get out and make sure you are set on a path to where you want to be.