STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME:
Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work
Increasing the Value of your Name:
Branding yourself like a BMW
By: Allan Vayman
Today, in our economy, the value of everything is being reconsidered. This is especially true within the corporate world. As such those that are serious about career building must find ways to build increasing value around their name if they want a shot at progression.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, the job market dictates the salary range for all of our skillsets. For those feeling stuck and hoping to break that mold, it can require a radical shift in ones beliefs. This article is written for those that find themselves regularly working with their eyes between the clock (waiting for the weekend to come), and their deposited paychecks (making sure their pay was right down to the penny). I understand this mindset because it is one I used to share. At some point, for sake of career progression, the bean counting must be moved aside to free our minds to putting in the uncompensated time necessary towards our own development. For some, this shift in thinking may be so dramatic that based on their outlook today, it can seem… preposterous. However, as with all new endeavors to change it all starts with baby steps.
As with all subjects I venture to write about, it is only in hindsight that I can say I am lucky enough to speak from experience. There are many who feel overdue for a role change and an increase in pay shortly after stringing together a few solid quarters out of the fiscal year. However, when they do not see any tangible return on their efforts their performance begins to wane. They do enough to get by until they hear word of new job opening on the horizon, then turn-up their efforts once again. When that opportunity happens to ‘slip through their fingers’ they once again disengage, and the pattern repeats itself. The difficulty for someone that falls into this pattern of behaviour is that they are unaware of the setback it can cause their reputation. Being hot and cold at work is counterproductive to establishing an exceptional brand within an organization, where predictable results are thrived on. This track record of behaviour would likely give management reservations in co-signing such a person into a role that will be more challenging and self-sufficient (never mind an opportunity for higher compensation). If gone unchecked, this pattern can very well confine a person to the seat they are sitting in indefinitely.
There are many metaphors I was considering using to illustrate what I wanted to speak on in this article. Finally I settled on a BMW, a brand whose legacy is synonymous with quality and consistency in performance. An owner of a new BMW expects that if the spec sheet says it can go from 0-60mph in X amount of seconds that it will do so every day of the week, albeit seamlessly and with class. No one that drives a BMW off the lot anticipates a few great road trips with it in the summer, then to have it begin to show signs of choking up and turning stubborn the following fall, breaking down and going into hibernation in the winter, only to wake up to a new day in the spring, getting back up to speed!! Much like the BMW brand, if we want to gain an image of being in a certain ‘class’ our performance and engagement at work must become absolute. “You can’t expect to make 80k a year with 40k habits” is a rough quote a colleague once shared with me that resonates. Of course developing these kinds of habits is not an overnight process for anybody.
There are those in the workforce that have come to a point where they believe the only carrot that will ‘inspire’ them into sustaining a high level of performance and accountability at work is a pay increase. However, in a competitive environment the person that carries a ‘compensation first’ mentality can rob themselves of significant development opportunities. People of this mindset may have reservations about lateral moves, short-term contract roles, or other skill and rapport building activities that can increase their value to an organization. They may believe they already possess a unique value proposition, but the job market has a blunt way of reminding us all just what salary range our current skills and experience fall into. As a mental image, however, just imagine how much research and development, design refinement, test driving, marketing, and reputation behind the BMW brand went into the new M6 Coupe before someone came to the dealership and paid the asking price.
“One doesn’t have to wait to be assigned a value through a new title either, as we should build our value from where we stand today and let a title follow.”
People that hold a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude (WIFM) operate on the pretense that if a nominal increase in pay was handed out that they would suddenly come into work a half hour early to get settled in; that they’d crack a smile and make friends; that they’d motivate the team and lead by example; that they’d catch a ball before it drops without looking around to see if anyone else will; that during unpredictably high volumes of work they’d give it gas and move from 0-60 on a dime; and that they’d come in and conquer the day, then close up shop and do it all over again tomorrow. To offer all these benefits and be perceived as ‘luxury class’ to a business unit, we can’t be seen puttering around the office like a winter beater. However, for many, their motivations aren’t properly set up for the corporate environment to enable these habits to develop, which can make a career path a gruelling and uphill battle.
If the shoe fits us, how can we begin to turn this all around and become the BMWs we believe ourselves to be? The first step is no small step at all, as it is probably the most difficult, and it determines the course of our working lives at least in the short-term. It requires us to confirm whether, overall, we still find passion in our line of work or industry. Having passion is the key to blurring the line between our life inside and outside of work, and allows us to welcome developing and expanding our skillset on our own time. It is this passion that can allow us to significantly condense our development time and begin pulling ahead.
If our passion has been confirmed, it’s time to hit the open road and leave the old non-committal version of ourselves far behind in the rear-view. We must begin to see what we may be blind to today, and that is that in any given moment, in any given day of the year, whether inside or outside of work, whether being paid extra or not, there are opportunities to build up our value. We must come to understand that there is a real and direct line between the person we are now, and the habits we must form to become that high performer of exceptional value. One doesn’t have to wait to be assigned a value through a new title either, as we should build our value from where we stand today and let a title follow.
Here is a shortlist of things we can do in any given moment to increase our value:
- turn our mood around
- stay positive
- motivate the team
- gain trust in others to execute a task (teamwork)
- share a win
- get organized
- take on a new task
- practice a new selling technique
- work on rapport building
- forge a new relationship
- strengthen an existing relationship
- recognize someone
- learn a new process
- master a process
- improve a process
- practice working with numbers
- identify a trend
- share a trend
- draft a report
- vocalize an opinion
- pitch an idea
- assert ourselves
- focus better and for longer
- practice multitasking
- get feedback
- apply feedback
- provide feedback
- coach someone
- work on our writing
- plan and run a meeting
- practice speaking to an audience
- collaborate with another department
- learn a new part of the business
- decide on the next book to read
- enroll in a certification program
- apply a transferrable skill from outside work into work
The numbers of things we can do in any given moment are only limited by our curiosity and motivation for discovery. If we have an extremely high willingness to learn, and can maximize our time throughout the day, just imagine were we can be in a year’s time. It is these accumulated pieces of knowledge gained from experience that allow us to contribute insights of value. It is this value one can bring to the table that would enable them to enter new and different spheres of influence within an organization, with ideas that might be applied cross functionally across departments. The person possessing a WIFM attitude must shift it to recognize where there are opportunities to gain a rare combination of experiences, skills and relationships that can leverage them into a new ‘class’.
During an interview, the interviewers job is to ‘check under the hood’ to see if a resume (spec sheet) is a true reflection of what the candidate brings, and it is where they determine their value to the business unit. Gone should be the days where we feel we have to stretch our experience to meet the requirements of a new role, tweaking our behavioural examples a few nights before, throwing on a suit, and calling that interview preparation. If we think about it, interview preparation starts long before an interview or new job opening is ever on the horizon, as we are building up our value to meet a new opportunity as it presents itself.
The next time we are feeling a sense of entitlement we must ask ourselves why someone would pay XXXXX amount more for us, when they feel they can get someone similar for XXXXX amount less, with $0 down and 0% financing? We are talking simple economics here. If we have a strong counter argument to that question, then just maybe we have built up exceptional value to our name.
As a colleague, and always as a work in progress,