Career resilience 6: Get value from work
Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In previous articles we’ve looked at how careers can be linear or non-linear, how to give value to work and how to build value in our networks. In this article we will explore ways to extract value from work. How to get value from work.
Real payback: What does value from work mean to you? The simple answer usually centres around money: we offer our labour and creativity in return for money and benefits (usually also described in monetary terms). Now don’t get me wrong, money is important; we all need to pay this bills and put food on the table at home. But let’s not run away with the idea that that’s the end of the story. We spend more than one-third of our week at work and it’s got to be more rewarding to our lives than simple dollars and cents. So we need to ask ourselves some searching questions about what we really value at work. Consider:
- Do we want a job that is simply high-paying?
- Are we seeking a job that gets respect from others?
- Do we want a job that allows us to help others in some way?
- Is it important to learn new skills, pick up knowledge, or learn new ways of working?
- Do we want to be able to decide how we work, and not have to report to others?
- Do we like doing physical work, or prefer to work with our hands?
- Do we want to balance time with our family and friends, and to do the activities we enjoy?
- Do we need to use our brains in solving problems and being challenged mentally at work?
- Do we like to be in charge, have people come to us for advice
- Do we enjoy making decisions or is that too risky for our peace of mind?
Of course, there is no simple answer and one size will not fit all. To get value from work starts with us and our needs and desires. Let’s be clear about what we want.
Get Set: I’m the centre of my world. Undoubtedly, our careers are our business and what we make of them begins and ends with us. So, let’s get our mindset right and get value from work for ourselves.
- Valuing ourselves- If we don’t develop a strong respect for ourselves, we can’t really expect others to do it for us. Of course, we often find it very difficult to value ourselves: how many of us were brought up where giving is encouraged and receiving considered to be almost a sin? Where recognising others is good but recognising our own achievements is vanity? Yet we already know that our external environment becomes a reflection of what is inside us. Take ourselves seriously and others will too: don’t… and they won’t. We can only get value from work when we begin to value ourselves.
- Expressing ourselves – New jobs are scary and we can be tempted to hold back, just to fit in. Though it is important to follow certain rules, we don’t need to hesitate to express our thoughts and emotions. If we don’t know or understand something… ask. If we spot an inefficiency or creaky process… call it out. If we can see a way to make all of our lives better… why would we hold back? Certainly some bosses or colleagues may see suggestions as criticism or interference so we do need to be careful. But really, do we want to work in an environment of silent obedience and total compliance to the status quo? Balanced communication is the key here. An effective communication pattern will render higher successes than we’d get without it. Being engaged will bring us greater value from work.
- Knowing our worth – Our careers, and measures of success, really depend on what we think about ourselves. Criticism is all around us and resilience to it starts from within. So, irrespective of whether we receive praises or criticism, let’s keep up our good work and self-motivation as we judge best. If we base our whole identity on what others think about us, we’ll probably end up nowhere; bouncing from one opinion to the other, being considered indecisive and being passed over. Keeping a realistic view of our own contribution will help us thrive and get value from work.
- Pay the ticket price – We’re not talking about a free ride here. We always need to be very clear that our contributions have to be genuine and sincere if we are to receive value from work in return. We can’t expect to receive an award for slacking the whole day and we need to do our best and play within the rules. Good quality work are basic table stakes, real reward and advancement will only come with delivering above the basic levels being expected of us. To get value from work, we need to put it in, in the first place.
- Looking around – They probably value us already. Often, we are our own worst enemy; our own worst critic or our own worst task master. It’s healthy to be realistic about what a good job, well done, looks like. A good outcome deserves acknowledgement, so we should accept praise or gratitude with grace. Why diminish praise when we deliver ‘merely’ a good job, rather than perfection? Whose measure of success is at play here? Is it realistic to reject praise in favour of our own higher standard? Making the shift to realistic self-respect and valuing our real achievements is exactly the behaviour that will help us accept that people around us have always been seeing our value. Too often, we’re the one who was blind to it because, in our own minds, we were a too busy striving for absolute perfection and always falling short. When we work towards valuing the person we are and respecting the job we’ve done, we will arrive at a better mindset to work, create success for ourselves and get value from work.
Maintain the value and payback. OK, so we’ve defined some parameters of value for ourselves and we’ve got our heads in the right place. Now we need to make sure the value starts to flow and keeps on coming. Here are some easy steps to get value from work and keep it coming:
- Where am I on the ladder? When we want to be responsible for the success or failure of our company we should seek to move up the ladder. If going home at five every day and forgetting about work until the next morning is better, then moving up is not the answer. It’s tempting want to move up the ladder because that’s what we’ve been raised to want and expect… but is it right for us individually? Remember, to get value from work will depend largely upon our own sense of what value is.
- Plans change, live with it. Most successful people are in a very different job or different career path now than they set out on in the beginning. Change can be forced upon us or new opportunities can lead us to change direction. We need to be prepared for change and stay ahead of the curve. Flexibility in our careers will take us a long way if we’re ready to roll with it. So we should always be asking “Is this a good change?” “Will this allow the value from work to keep flowing?” If yes, go with it, if not, is there a better alternative, or are we better off staying put?
- Shiny new things. A bigger job title usually comes with a pay raise and more perks, but is that what we really want? Does the new job bring the right kind of value from work for us? Motivation and success are held within us, not in a new job title. Value from work sits within our own definition. We need to take time to evaluate the full impact of any ‘promotion.’
- Deal or no deal. We should never be afraid to walk away from deals that just don’t come together. If it’s right… go for it. If it’s not, negotiate or decline. Every deal has a ‘walk away’ price; a better alternative to a negotiated agreement (a BATNA). By understanding what we really value, our BATNA becomes clear and we can negotiate with confidence. When we’re willing walk away, we’ll usually be pleasantly surprised at how much better our negotiations turn out. Suddenly, what we offer carries value, and the tables turn in our favour. Keep the value from work flowing by accepting only the right deals
- Hold onto the big picture. We live in today’s environment but we can get locked into a preoccupation with this week. Too often, we can forget about how success might look for you five years from now. What if we write a brief personal vision statement, make a list, or draw a diagram touching upon our most important values and the key parts of your life. We all know that our careers can’t soar when we’re lacklustre today but, equally, forgetting about the future will drive us into a rut. Even when we’re engaged in a career crisis, things will go much better and value from work will keep flowing only if we keep our perspective and balance the shorter- and longer-terms.
- Get in shape. Your career and value from work is directly influenced by everything we do to stay in shape – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We need to manage our fitness and energy level, as well as the best time to do our best work. That way, we’ll build the resilience that will keep us going, and maximise the value from work.
- No working vacations. When we’ve ended for the day, stop! When we take our vacation, be on vacation! We need to develop the discipline to remove ourselves from the job completely. When the job’s done, offering to check e-mail and voicemail while we are away is unhealthy. Whose anxiety are we serving by taking work away with us? To get value from work also needs a sense of when to turn the tap off. The world will not collapse in a heap when we walk out of the front door.
- Time to Leave? We can’t live in fear of the next big change. We should never be afraid to abandon ship. When the value from work stops flowing or slows down, it’s time to review our options. We need to be flexible when it comes to our overall career path, even if it means changing careers midstream. So keep vale from work flowing at its optimum by keeping ourselves in the right value stream. Although scary, change is sometimes necessary and can be very good for us.
Are you getting value from work? Does it feel like it’s all give and no take? Are you burning out by working too hard with too few rewards? Are you doing the right things to get value from work? Perhaps it’s time to review your value from work and your strategy to keep it coming. Check out how Epiphanies Life Strategy & Coaching can help.
If you’re ready to develop your career and it’s resilience, here are three simple steps you can take to get started.