The Job Coaches: Increase your stock value at work

photoEverywhere you turn these days, the conversation is about the state of the job market.

Pundits debate the recovery given still sky-high unemployment rates and people everywhere are more concerned than ever about finding jobs and keeping jobs. What does it take to make sure that your name is on the short list of people who are valued and viewed as “keepers” in the slippery world of business today?

1. Understand the business. I’m talking about the big picture of the business. It’s not enough just to master your job or even your functional area. Think in systems terms about how what you do every day affects the success of your business on a macro level. Study the marketplace. Understand the context in which your business operates and who its competitors are. Figure out how the job that you do contributes to the ultimate experience of your company’s customers.

2. Get clear on the strategic direction of the business. Time and time again, when I ask people what they need to be successful at their jobs, what they say to me is, “Just tell us where we’re headed.” If you don’t understand your company’s vision, it’s hard to add relevant value. Don’t be afraid to ask your company’s leaders to share their vision for the organization. And if you’re one of those leaders yourself, remember that a huge part of your job is to clarify strategic direction for the people you’re depending on to get the job done.

3. Build relationships. High tech or not, every business is a people business. The quality of your relationships often contributes as much if not more to your success as the quality of the job you do. Take the time to invest in connecting with the people that you work with in a way that builds trust and respect.

4. Be proactive. The business environment in which we operate today is far too complex for most directives to come in the form of a tidy list of instructions. One of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to ferret out critical information, study it, and then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do, or you may just find them telling you where the door is instead.

5. Take on the tough assignments. If you know or suspect that you have the ability to successfully complete challenging projects that have not yet been offered to you, ask for them. If you know that there are assignments that other people shy away from, put your name in the hat. Your visibility can increase exponentially if you take on the thorny jobs and do them well.

6. Focus on outcome vs. activity. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the significance of their jobs is all about how they spend their time each day, as if being busy is what matters. Businesses value results, and what you do to produce them is far less important than your bottom-line ability to deliver the goods. Make sure you understand exactly what results the company is looking for, how they are measured, and how you can exceed their expectations.

7. Understand the culture. Every organization is unique in terms of what it values, how it operates and the kinds of behavior that are expected and rewarded. Getting a handle on the culture of your company is kind of like mastering the unwritten rules. The playbook may be elusive, but it’s important. Make it your business to understand what matters.

8. Manage perceptions. The currency of value in any organization is how you are perceived by others. You may be the most talented person in the world, but if the decision-makers in your company don’t see that, it doesn’t count. Make sure that your behavior, how you communicate, dress, act, etc. reflect the image that you want to convey and the substance of what you bring to the table.

9. Be a team player. Virtually any environment these days, regardless of industry, relies on teams to deliver its products or services. Being a good team member requires compromise, adapting to different styles, and learning to collaborate in a way that produces results that you couldn’t achieve on your own. Invest in developing a camaraderie and flexible working style with your team members that makes it a pleasure for them to work with you.

10. Study the superstars. Every company has them — the top producers, key contributors. Observe how they operate. What makes them effective? How do they communicate? What do they prioritize? What can you learn from them? Sometimes the best way to get ahead is to heed the example of those who have gone before.

Advancing your career is largely about increasing your own stock value at work. Make sure that your strategy helps you to bring the best of yourself to the business, and have others take notice!

Barbara Poole is a master-certified coach and president of Success Builders, Inc.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, February 5, 2010.

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