ABCs of Your Career Journey – C is for Contribution

Some could perceive their career journey as one where they only focus on themselves and their goals.  However if you analyze highly successful people you will realize that many help to better the lives of others.  This can be accomplished in many ways from assisting in a project, report, presentation, etc., mentoring a staff member or even a colleague, and/or referring someone for a promotion or new job opportunity.

I have had several managers in my presentations talk about subordinates who are just coasting to retirement; they even have a retirement app that details the months, days, hours, and even seconds until retirement.  These people are barely engaged at work so just want to put in minimum effort to get their paychecks.  These managers are frustrated (some are very angry) that these subordinates do not see the value of leaving a legacy for their colleagues and future workers.

That scenario may be the extreme, however, I wonder how many people realize that they fall into the comfort zone trap.  Yes they do their work and may go beyond “occasionally” but really do not think to extend themselves all the time.  I am not suggesting getting “dumped on” so establishing boundaries is important but being a collaborative and helpful team player benefits the organization and the person in the long run.

One way to contribute is to become the “solutions person”.  Every organization can improve their efficiencies but it takes time.  In addition, many people are uncomfortable with change but that is inevitable in this fast paced environment that we all live and work in.  Before making recommendations, it is imperative that you analyze the situation, review several alternatives, discuss casually with a few others, and then detail a plan to accomplish it.  There may be pushback and it may also fail but some of the greatest inventions and work flows came about from previous failures so you have to at least try.

Although senior leaders have busy schedules, many find time to mentor others.  I worked with a Fortune 500 financial services company that paired junior people with some of the top leaders in the company.  The matches were not necessarily from the same division and many were not in the same geographic location.  The objective was to provide guidance and support to these staff members, however, the leaders said they learned a lot as well and would be willing to be mentors again. The staff members reported that their mentor was always available to them and usually had more sessions than what was required in the program which they truly appreciated.

All these examples can help you in your career journey for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one is the intrinsic value you feel by helping another person.  Even if all you get is a simple “thank you” for all you did, it still is that sense of pride that you helped another person.  In addition, in a meeting to discuss a promotion or in a job interview providing concrete examples of how you assisted your organization will be viewed very favorably.  Those that keep to themselves and do not go beyond their job description will find it much more difficult to get ahead.  This all may seem like common sense but when life gets hectic, we may forget to lend a hand.