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Working above Your Title

Finding Success Working Above Your Title

Let me rant for a moment.  If I had a nickel for every time someone, when asked about their career, told me they were waiting to get promoted, I would be rich.  Rich, I say!  The truth is that, when it comes to your career, you’re in the driver seat.  When you are in the driver seat you know that you have to drive.   Seriously, if one of my people came to me and asked about promotion they better have a careerserious argument for the expectation of recognition including how they are already working at that level and what success they’ve had.  There is no additional budget.   There are too many people who are already promoted to levels where they are not contributing to the level the work/environment demands.  Thus they are in the overpaid category.  That category is the first to go.  You do not want to be in that category, ever, at any level, especially the c-suite.

There are plenty of people who are underpaid and underemployed.  But rarely are employees underutilized.   If that is the case with you get in your leader’s interface mode and ask for more to do.  Or hide your face and wait until you are asked to leave. Now the rant is done.

Being More Valuable

The title of this article is working above your title.  That means find ways to be more valuable than your job description.  Once you are in a role find ways to improve the role.  This is true at any level of the organization.  As an example, as the CEO you may want to leverage your leadership role to build bridges with other organizations that are crucial to the success of the overall organization.  The top to top meetings create solutions to problems the job description does not cover.  If you are working your way to the C-Suite start thinking like a chief.  If I ruled the world I would… would what?   Well, you better have an answer if asked or start working on the solution.

The correlation between your career success and your contribution is not always obvious.  But over time please realize the importance of contribution and your career trajectory.  More important than education or experience is the willingness to take on projects that help the team.  Do not misunderstand the importance of relationships, education and experience.  Those will always be crucial.  But contribution is more important.  Contribution is growing in importance.  Taking hold of your leadership role is about getting the job done and then looking for ways to add value.  Value might be in projects that are not part of the daily output but will improve process, gain insight, identify areas of strengths or new ideas.  Not all these projects bubble up to the top of the to-do list but organizations need an edge to grow.  Without a list you have no area of focus for growth and for your area of added value.

Tips to Make You More Valuable in Your Career

Here are four things you can start doing today to make yourself more valuable to the organization and to the team as well as find more success:

  • Volunteer for the projects that no one has done or seem impossible.  Take a leadership role in any project without appearing to dominate.
  • Identify areas that are problems. The garbage always needs to be taken out.  No one wants to do that.  You know those problems that no one has on their list and not are not being addressed.  Identify those hot spots is one way to become more valuable.  Estimate a value for each of these “challenges” with an ROI or return on investment.   That could be an investment of your time or dollars from the organization.  But look at these in the way in a way that may return on both the organization and your career trajectory.   Identify those challenges with low impact in the change process.  These may be done on your own such as research or trying new processes in projects that you manage.
  • Solve problems that are clearly problems.  Here is your chance to shine.  Do the heavy lifting if required but do it.  Change the system, clean out the store room, research a new system or make a call to the client who left six months ago.  Take some action successwhere the outcome will be real, give you value and or improve the organization.
  • Build bridges with key resources or rebuild bridges that are important.  Every team has an arch enemy or a nemesis.  Okay maybe it is not that dramatic in corporate.  Maybe the team you could bridge the relationship is actually a client.   Instead of meeting via email or text get on a plane and see them.  Take them for dinner.  Build a relationship beyond the normal channels of “the way we have always done business” to get a better result or more information.  What teams does your team challenge or smooth working would only be a dream.   Buy the first cup of coffee.  Research what it would take to build something better.
  • Research new ideas, products, software solutions, best practices or some other solution to that problem.  Be the resource your team needs.  Watch YouTube videos to teach yourself.  Or find out best practices from competitors.  There is a big world out there at the tip of your fingers when entering the internet.   Solutions await so spend a few of those fantasy footballs conversations on something that makes you more valuable in the work setting.
  • Delegate.   Does this need more explanation?  What is replicable, low complexity, repeated and explained quickly?  Delegate that this afternoon.
  • Ask the question nobody wants to ask knowing the project will be in your lap.   Be the one that challenges the emperor’s tailor.  What needs to be said and takes courage, when properly presented, will be appreciated.   Consult a resource like Crucial Conversations to build conflict management skills.  Or as the book will show you how to communicate when the stakes are high, opinions are opposed and there is emotion involved.  Get good at communicating though opposition and you will always have value.
  • Create systems within processes in your area of responsibility.  Be prepared to be reassigned.   Set systems in place to launch the business unit, team or process to the next level if you suddenly are asked to chair the house committee on energy at the White House.  You can only be replaced when adding value without acting like it’s a national treasure.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to ensure you remain valuable within an organization.  But it is up to you to seek out and eradicate the problem to add to your value.  These actions help insure your organization’s future but also become your stories to tell in board meetings, public relations interviews, performance reviews, promotion justification meetings or for your next interview.  Finding ways to add value starts with being bigger than what is asked of you.  Being bigger is very different from being too big to do careerwhat is asked of you.  “This and” not “this or” should be your motto.  It requires strategic approaches.  Adding value include being generous, teaching, mentoring, solving and in general thinking ahead or anticipating what needs to be done.

We are all busy.  If you are too busy you are not leading.  You cannot add responsibility to your domain and no additional responsibility will be added to your job.  You do not get to throw that card on the table.  Career over.

Contact Us for More Career Advice

For additional help as well as general career advancement advice contact Pat Weiland, President at Sage Strategies

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