If you’re currently in fulltime employment, the change and uncertainty that has come hand-in-hand with the COVID-19 pandemic may have understandably left you with a feeling that you need to somehow prove yourself, or, position your role as ‘indispensable’. After all, this is a highly pressurised time and will inevitably lead many to worry about the future. Failing to manage this situation in the right way, however, could leave you feeling overwhelmed, overworked and burned out.
This raises the crucial question: how can you prove your value in your current business and in your present role, without burning yourself out in the process?
1. Get an understanding of how your organisation is changing due to the pandemic, and how you can personally add value: Proactively ask your manager or a member of the senior leadership team how the strategic objectives of the business may be changing, how your current role may evolve, and importantly, how you can personally prepare for that evolution, now. If they are unsure, you could perhaps suggest that you work together to craft your role so that it is as relevant to the post-COVID-19 era of work as possible. It’s also a good idea to understand how value might be measured in the future. By taking a pre-emptive and creative approach here, you’ll be demonstrating to your employer that you are adaptable and will bring a growth mindset to the inevitable challenges and opportunities that are around the corner as we embark on the next era of work. Not only that, but also, by taking the initiative here, you’ll feel a sense that you’re gaining back an element of control.
2. Demonstrate your personal commitment to learning and establish yourself as an expert: Once you have an understanding of the current and future direction of travel for your organisation, ask yourself how you can apply your unique strengths, skills and competencies to help it thrive. Think about how you can further build on those unique strengths, skills and competencies via further learning to establish yourself as the ‘go-to’ expert in a given area. In addition, develop an understanding of the new skills you may need to acquire in order to play a meaningful part in helping your organisation to tackle the likely challenges or solve the problems on the horizon. Commit to, and ‘own’, your learning journey, while freely sharing your knowledge – both existing and new – and helping others in your team to both upskill and reskill. Remember to communicate and document your learning as you go on, by updating your manager, your CV and your LinkedIn profile.
3. Perfect your remote working etiquette: You are more than likely working virtually right now rather than face-to-face, but that doesn’t mean your standards of etiquette should slip in any way. Regardless, it’s still possible to practise perfectly good meeting etiquette via video, in addition to being responsive to email and Skype messages, and building constructive and supportive relationships with internal and external stakeholders. You should also strive to perfect your remote work ethic, doing everything that you can to remain productive and on track with key tasks and projects. Note, too, what your triggers are that may divert your attention from your work, so that you can devise a new routine and healthier habits to ensure your engagement and output.
4. Maintain your visibility remotely: As we transition to what is likely to be an ever-more hybrid new era of work, you may find it more difficult to increase your ‘visibility’ in the workplace. You may not be physically in the office as often and may not therefore be interacting face-to-face at the same level, building relationships in the same way as you once were. It will therefore be especially vital to routinely and regularly communicate with your manager and colleagues, particularly about the specific projects you’re working on, but also about successes and milestones achieved – including any feedback you’ve had from your key stakeholders. When it comes to improving your visibility with your boss, don’t be afraid of a little self-promotion – you must get comfortable speaking out about your successes and achievements. You may also choose to send your manager a weekly summary outlining all the tasks that you have completed, and the results generated to date. When you do so, draw attention to the tangible results as evidence of the impact you have made. It may also be a good idea to proactively schedule regular catch up meetings, if they aren’t in the diary already. Communicating regular updates will also assist with your preparation for your next performance review, so that you don’t forget what you have achieved in these recent, busy months.
5. Build and strengthen relationships with key internal influencers: Identify the people within your organisation who have previously been an ally for your career development, and who may be so in the future. Consider asking them to be your mentor or for their thoughts on how the organisation is likely to change in the future, and how they recommend you go about adapting. In return, go the extra mile to help them whenever you can, crediting them for their work and thanking them for their help. Also, don’t hesitate to network within your business, including introducing yourself to new starters and positioning yourself as their ally from the outset – even if only remotely – they will remember you for it.
6. Understand how performance will be measured in the new world of work: As many organisations change both where they work and how they work in light of COVID-19, traditional performance metrics and targets may need to be reviewed and refreshed. It’s crucial to grasp an understanding of this at an early stage, so that you can work towards the latest metrics and targets, including refocusing on specific areas if needed. Understanding what future performance metrics will be will also allow you to determine whether you are doing a good job, or are capable of doing so, and in which areas you may need to make improvements. It’s also a good idea to find out whether or not your previous, pre-COVID performance appraisal processes will still remain in place, or if these will change too.
7. Don’t try to be a solo superstar: You may be working well as part of a ‘hybrid office’ arrangement – whereby some team members are in the office and others work from home – or even completely remotely, but you must never forget that ultimately you are part of a wider team. You are a key part of a team that is working together to achieve a common goal. So, it’s important that you remind yourself of that – always have your collective end-goal in the back of your mind. The success of a team is never down to the contribution of one person, so you should be aiming to turn your team into a collective of “we” thinkers, rather than “me” thinkers – a team motivated and guided by the same shared goal. This, in turn, will serve your individual career goals much better than trying to be the ‘solo superstar’.
8. Learn to say ‘no’ when needed: Proving your value in your current role is not about saying ‘yes’ to every project that comes your way. As you progress through your career and you start to get noticed, new projects will naturally start coming to you. To strategically manage your career, though, and to build on the success you’ve achieved so far, it’s important that you realise that you simply can’t do everything yourself, and you certainly won’t be able to please everyone. If you’re able consider each task requested, and say no in the right way and to the right requests, you’ll gain respect and further establish your value in the workplace. After all, saying ‘yes’ to too many projects will soon overwhelm and frustrate you, which will only harm your chances of success in the long-run. To find out more about when and how to say no, read COO of UK Government Investments, Susie Timlin’s blog, ‘Do you know when and how to say no?’
9. Stay positive and be optimistic: While these are challenging times, a positive and optimistic attitude will help you to get through it thriving. Not only is positivity contagious within a team, and indeed, throughout the organisation as a whole, but it also breeds success. So, be mindful of how positive or negative the language that you use is, and practise compassion with your colleagues, including celebrating successes and supporting them to succeed. Don’t forget to laugh and try not to gossip about your co-workers. It may also help to remind yourself of your organisation’s purpose and reason for being. That way, you can be clear in your head about how your specific role delivers value and gives you a sense of meaning, which will reinforce those positive thoughts. It’s also good practice to set attainable goals for the day, so that you feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete them, and importantly, enjoy a reward when you do.
10. Be an ambassador for your organisation: It may seem straightforward enough to cultivate a certain culture or ‘personality’ at your organisation when everyone is in the same office space. But what about when you aren’t? The longer-term transition that many organisations are currently making towards hybrid ways of working poses challenges to the time-honoured notion of ‘camaraderie’ developed under one roof. So, play your part in overcoming those challenges. Devote yourself to living your organisation’s values, internally and externally, and help to build a supportive culture within your immediate team, whereby you look out for one another. As you do, share your positive experiences across your business’s social media channels, so that you are actively broadcasting your brand’s message.
11. Look after your wellbeing and establish some balance: You won’t be able to fully and effectively prove your value at your organisation if you’re working long hours and failing to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing. You’ll simply feel too exhausted much of the time to be able to continue performing at your best. So, make sure you look after yourself and establish some balance in your life. When you do, you’ll find it much easier to do all of the above.
If you’ve ever heard of the phrase ‘work smart, not hard’, you’ll probably know something about how the people who make themselves most clearly valuable to their employers are also often those who are the most skilled at avoiding stress and burnout. The two go hand in hand.
Follow the above advice and you’ll be well on your way to undeniably demonstrating the unique value you can provide in your professional life in the months and years after the COVID-19 crisis.
About this author
Christine Wright is responsible for the growth and expansion of the Central and West US Region and leading national strategic projects. This is the latest function in her extensive 25-year career with Hays where she has lead the establishment, turnaround and management of high performing businesses across 4 continents. Prior to her current role Christine was the Managing Director of the Asia region where she was responsible for the day to day operational management and significant growth of Hays in Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India. Christine has also played key roles in the management of Hays’ business in Australia and in the United Kingdom. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Statistics and Computing, has attended business programs at IMD, Ashridge, De Ruwenburg business schools and is a member of the Director Institute of Australia. Christine lives in Denver with her husband and is an executive mentor in her spare time.
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