Baby-sitting Your Job or Owning It? A Career Differentiator

Jobs are precious these days. Most careers are made up of jobs we’ve loved and others that felt like a long trek across the desert with an empty canteen. 

It’s tempting to grouse when we see our jobs as: 

  • Boring and repetitive
  • Uncreative and confining
  • Unchallenging and limiting 

If we’re not complaining that the work isn’t exciting enough, we’re dissing on the boss who isn’t doing something about it. 

It’s our work. 

It would be wonderful to have a boss with the time, energy, and ability to tailor our jobs to fit what we most want to do. Truth is, no one’s doing that for our bosses either. 

Businesses run on the processes and tasks required to make their products and deliver services. They need us to produce results that create the revenue and profit needed to keep it going and us employed. 

This may not be a very sexy scenario but it’s the way it is. 

We are essential to the success of the business and the business is essential to ours. We’re in this together. 

Baby-sitter or owner? 

Baby-sitting for someone else’s kids is a big responsibility, but it’s not the same as being the parent. A baby-sitter spends a specific amount of time with the children, performs basic care duties, gets paid, and goes home. 

When we approach our jobs as just a string of tasks completed over a set period for which we get paid and then go home, we are a bit like a baby-sitter. Our perceived commitment to the lifetime success of the business would appear minimal at best.

 We differentiate ourselves at work in ways that get us noticed when it’s evident that we truly own our work, whether glamorous or mundane, out front or behind the scenes, challenging or simple.   

So, I’ll repeat: “It’s your job, so own it.” 

When you work your job with zeal like it’s your own business, you demonstrate its value, bring attention to it challenges, showcase your capabilities, win the regard of colleagues, and set a positive example. It gets you noticed. 

Your job—your business 

If you haven’t looked at your job from an entrepreneur’s perspective before, here are several business aspects that you own: 

Products and services: Your output (i.e., data, ideas, reports, transactions) is what you’re selling to your boss, coworkers, and perhaps customers. So the quality of your work product is a measure of your contribution to your main customer—your employer. The better is it, the more value you’re adding.

Customer relationships: Your internal customers (boss, coworkers, peers, other departments) make or break your ability to succeed. They either applaud your work or criticize it, contributing to either a positive or negative brand. You need positive relationships that become your loyal support foundation.

Marketing: Your work reflects on the company and you. Everything you do needs to reinforce the standards, quality, integrity, and principles that underpin the business and your personal brand. A good reputation is currency for your future growth.

Fiscal Responsibility: You have an impact on the company’s bottom line by the way you use resources, apply your time productively, adhere to rules, and protect company property. You don’t need to be spending budgeted dollars directly to affect the bottom line.

Administration: Every business has back office work (reports, filing, records, accounting) that ensures its efficiency and effectiveness. In your job you need to be known as someone who meets deadlines, is accurate, and careful about your paperwork. 

Freeing yourself 

When we own our jobs, we end up freeing ourselves from the idea that we are somehow under the thumb of the company. We recognize that the work we do is in our control, a reflection of our ability to get results though our own energies. 

When we own our jobs, the leadership sees a difference in us, in our ability to understand the business, and our part in it. It showcases our skills and abilities in unique ways. That can be the perfect formula for your next move—up! 

Photo from twodolla via Flickr

Wanted: High Flying Career. Will Work Without a Net! | Risking Failure for Success

High wire acts. Acrobats. Human cannonballs. Circus careers come with big performance expectations and high stakes. The consequences of failure can be dire.

Successful circus performers are masters of precision, flexibility, teamwork, and consistency. They own every move they make for their own good and the safety of others.

Flying through the air on a trapeze with no net below is the measure of a career that you own. When you don’t expect to fail, you’ve arrived.

What’s your act? 

Everyone wants an exciting career:

  • Marketing lead on a big account
  • Editor at a hot shot publication
  • Start up business owner
  • Global account exec
  • Ecotourism director 

What does all this take? Do we just grab a chair and dash into a cage with the Bengal tigers, listening for the roar of the crowd? 

A career is a progression of our work life. It doesn’t just appear. The jobs we take are how we get things started. There are no guarantees that those jobs will add up to a career, particularly one that makes us feel successful. We just give it our best shot.

Risk is the route to reward!

Fear is the death knell for our careers: fear of failure, the boss, new assignments, change, or rocking the boat.

Playing the game to get a raise, promotion, or plum assignment isn’t risk taking. It’s maneuvering within the safe zone.

Career risks are about owning your choices and the consequences of your decisions, good or bad. That’s when you feel the exhilaration of flying through the air without a tether or that proverbial net. That’s when you know you are fully in charge of your career and, perhaps, your life.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t as brave as those circus aerialists. We make decisions expecting that:

  • If it doesn’t work out, we can rely our parents or spouse to bail us out
  • We can go back to the job we left behind or a prior employer
  • Going back to school will ultimately land us a better job 

We tend not to take risks that will leave us in a helpless heap if we come up short.

What are you willing to wager?

This is the quandary: Because self-preservation is a strong motivator, how do we balance our risk tolerance and our success aspirations?

Start out by being honest about what you want to achieve and why. What will make you really proud of yourself? What choices are you willing to stand up for in spite of the potentially negative reactions of people you care about? What sacrifices are you ready to make?

Look at professional athletes. Many come from backgrounds fraught with struggle and want. So they bet everything on the outside chance they will become big time athletes. If they fail, nothing much changes.

Look at children of privilege who were expected to go into the family business but want to do their own thing instead. That’s what happened with Warren Buffet’s, son, Peter, who became an Emmy Award winning musician his way. If he’d failed, he’d have paid the price on many levels.

Look at William Gates Gill, author of How Starbuck’s Saved My Life, who lost his high-powered marketing job at J. Walter Thompson Advertising. At 63 he took a service job at a Starbuck’s store in New York City because he was down and out. If he failed at that, he was done.

Fold the net…Find the glory!

Career success feels sweetest when you’ve made it your way. Safety nets are often an illusion and can become a prison. Tune out the naysayers who chant: “Girls/guys don’t do that,” “What if this all goes wrong,” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” Think for yourself and about yourself. Don’t fear risk. Embrace it smartly.

When you’re business fit, you’ve thought through the options. You’ve done your due diligence. You know where you’re headed. You’ve inventoried your capabilities. You’re packed and ready to run away to the circus! See you there!

What was the biggest career risk you’ve taken? How did it work out? Can’t wait to hear!