Where Logic Meets Love

The Blessing of Advocates at Work

Saturday, October 30, 2010

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The Blessing of Advocates at Work | Faith Permeating Life
Mike and I have both been very blessed recently in our jobs. We are both poised to take on positions of more responsibility at work, and this is in large part because we both have mentors and advocates at our jobs who are working on our behalf to get us into the positions we want.

I was struck by this because this certainly isn't everyone's experience, and yet it happened to both of us, who work in complete different types of jobs in different industries. What is it that has allowed us both not only to keep our jobs, but to have people actually trying to help us reach our goals?

In case this may be of benefit to anyone else, I thought I'd share my thoughts.

1. We are willing to do our jobs.
This probably sounds obvious, but some of the most difficult people to work with are those who don't want to do their jobs. It's a lot easier to procrastinate in an office job like mine than at a restaurant job like Mike's, but in both cases you'll find people doing what they want to do ahead of what they're supposed to be doing. I've had several ridiculous conversations with someone in another department who was supposed to be doing work for our department to the effect of, "Well, I could do that, but it would be really hard and take a lot of time." So? I also recently had the experience of working on a committee with someone whose one assignment was to ask one question of someone he was already working with, and in two and a half weeks he didn't do it. It's people like this that make us look good simply because we do our jobs.

2. We look for ways to do our job better.
Mike started out as a dish tanker when he was in grad school. I started as a secretary after graduating with my master's degree. It would have been easy for either of us to say, "I could do this with my eyes closed" and just settle in to do what we were assigned. But I'll tell you, Mike was a damn good dish tanker and made things run so efficiently in the dish room that even as he's moved into different positions they're always happy to let him back in the dish room for a day because he can whip it into shape in no time. In my case, rather than just recording attendance for our workshops like I was assigned, I used my downtime to put the huge backlog of paper attendance sheets into our electronic systems, then started running analyses and making suggestions about improving attendance. (I recently checked, and attendance is up 25% since I've been in the position than before I started.)

3. We care about our organizations.
I am a huge advocate for the student voice and the importance of listening to students' feedback. I've joined a few different committees and volunteered to take on extra work -- in one case, even taking the initiative to reorganize an entire committee -- because it's so important to me that we serve our students effectively. In most (if not all) cases, I'm the youngest and most junior staff member there, but that hasn't stopped me for speaking up when necessary to keep things moving smoothly or to ensure that we're not ignoring the student perspective. In Mike's cases, he's started going in one extra day a week (for free) to work with the marketing staffer on fundraising and marketing ideas because it's so important to him that the restaurant become more well-known in the community.

4. We are specific about our goals.
When I had a one-on-one meeting with my boss about a year ago, she told me thought I was a genius and she couldn't believe how cheerfully I did work that was "clearly beneath me." Clearly, at that point I had stood out as an employee, but nothing more than a really excellent secretary. I'm not even sure she knew about all the extra work I was doing for the office I really wanted to be in. As part of my annual performance review, I had to complete a self-evaluation, and so I decided to take a risk and put one of my long-term goals as becoming a full-time staff member of this other office. She completely got behind it and started working to make that happen. I was amazed to find that once she saw value in me as an employee and thought I would should be in a higher position, all I had to do was say what I wanted that position to be and things started to move. Similarly, once Mike found that he probably wasn't going to get a full-time job with his master's degree anytime soon, he agreed to ask for a higher position and better hours at his restaurant job. At this point it sounds like they're just trying to find a way to make it happen.

I say all this to show that promotion doesn't have to be a battle, but neither is something you have to sit back and wait for after putting in your time. You can start in a job that's beneath your skill level and work really hard at it, go above and beyond, and show yourself as a valued employee. That makes it a lot easier to ask for more responsibility, especially if it seems to be a good match for your skills. And I think that even if you don't love your job, if you're really committed to your customers, clients, or students, that can be all the drive you need to stand out as an employee.

Anyone else have tips to share about how to get others rooting for your success at work?


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