Being a Better Employee Series: Go Beyond
The gist of this post can be summarized pretty well with simple math:
Do your job = Good Enough
Do your job well = Good
Do your job well + go beyond what your job entails = Great
If you do everything you’re responsible for and you do it well, that will reflect positively on you. But shouldn’t everyone be doing this already? They should, right? It’s just too bad they don’t. One surefire way to stand out is to take a little initiative and figure out what you can do that is clearly above and beyond your call of duty. Not for the sake of showing off or calling attention to yourself (although hopefully that will happen too), but just for the sake of doing more for your company/team/boss. This makes you more valuable to your coworkers, your boss, and your company.
But what exactly does “Go Beyond” mean?
One Example: The Google Policy
I love Google’s 20% policy: they tell their employees that they have to spend 20% of their time (that’s one day a week!) thinking of something totally new. That’s right: they want their employees take all of their day-to-day responsibilities and shelve them to brainstorm new initiatives that could help Google remain an innovator. I would love to work in a place that looks at the creation of new ideas like this.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many jobs out there like that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t just do this on your own.
Pretend You’re in Charge
This is one of my favorite ways to brainstorm new ideas or better ways of doing existing projects. How many times have you thought to yourself, “This is SO annoying! Why don’t we change how we do this?” But too many of us fall into this trap: “It’s not my job to worry about that, that’s my boss’s job.” That attitude is too common in the workplace, and it’s the reason why there are so many inefficiencies and strung-out bosses in the world. Why not help your boss out a little? Pretend you ARE the boss and think of how you would change something if you were in charge. Sometimes you have to be on the ground actually doing the work to find a better way of doing it—bosses don’t have all the answers (I know, shocker).
It used to happen to me a LOT at my old job, so I thought about the process for quite a bit of time. I sat at my desk and thought about it—eventually I came up with what I thought was a better way, and I tested it out. Then I wrote it all down and let it sit for a day or two. I reread what I wrote later on and realized it was still a good idea—my way was way faster. So I held a little meeting with my boss and she was really happy: all of us would be saving valuable time and the company wouldn’t be wasting it on an inefficient process.
When you do more than you have to (as long as you aren’t crossing over into someone else’s domain, you troublemaker you), the company gets more work out of you—work that may never have gotten done in the first place. You come out looking real good for showing initiative and actually developing/suggesting something new or a better way of doing something. And hopefully you’ll save everyone some time by making the whole company more efficient. You think they’ll want to replace someone that brings that to the table day in and day out?
I know this may sound cheesy and New Agey, but don’t do any of this stuff if all you’re after is attention and job advancement. I think it definitely can help with those things, but anyone whose main motivation is to simply climb the ladder and “look good” to the bosses will eventually be found out. Sometimes it takes a while, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.
If you’re really coming up with new ideas and better ways of doing things to help yourself (your job will be easier), your coworkers (ditto), your boss (it’ll make him/her look good), and your company (not to sound Communist or anything, but that’s also a good goal to have), then it will all pay off in more ways than one. Eventually.
It’s Not That Easy
I know, I know. Most of us are already drowning in our existing work, so how the heck are we supposed to put all that aside and work on something completely new that has no direction, no due date, and no one expects you to do? It may mean you’ll have to do some work outside the office (or show up early), but that’s not as bad as it sounds. Sometimes all it takes is thinking, and you can do that on your commute, before you go to sleep, or even while your wife thinks that you’re watching Dancing With The Stars with her—thinking costs you nothing but time and a little bit of energy.
The really tough part is coming up with something totally new. For starters, I recommend taking on something that already exists and making it better and more efficient. Or keep a pad and paper on you at all times and jot down anytime you catch yourself complaining about how this or the other “doesn’t work” the way it should.
Things to watch out for and jot down:
- “You know what we should do?”
- “It would be so much easier/better if…”
- “This is stupid.”
- “You know what I would do?”
- “I hate doing this!”
- “What if we…”
Bringing more to the table than is asked of you will make you stand out and will make you an essential part of the company. If you don’t feel essential and don’t feel too good about your job security, this is a fantastic way of building that up. The last two posts on this series are good, but they don’t result in anything concrete that you can point at and say “Here, look what I’ve done.” This one does and that’s why you should get started on going “beyond” as soon as you can.