When it comes to getting ahead in your career, many people share the all too familiar advice: “You have to add value to your network.” But what does adding value really mean? How do you put it into practice every day at work? If you’re a hard worker, shouldn’t your work and years of experience speak for itself? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s address a few misconceptions. Many times we define value as something tangible like buying a product or achieving your sales goals. But the value you deliver to your customer or employer is often related to your ability to make someone’s life easier. Secondly, value is not related to time, especially in business. In fact, in many cases “value” trumps your “years of experience” or “years on the job.” While getting a degree and working hard may get your foot in the door, the right relationships can take you places, your credentials cannot.

Here are 4 ways you can increase your value at work.

Choose the attitude you bring to the workplace. Just like you wake up every day and decide on the clothes you’re going to wear to work, you have the power to choose your attitude. Your attitude is about the energy or vibe that people feel when they connect with you. People hire, promote, and do business with people they like. And believe it or not, it starts with your presence. So a super simple tip for the workplace—greet people before they greet you. Also, consider the following:

  • Adapt to change – Whether you work in technology, fashion, or healthcare, change is inevitable. So demonstrating an ability to adapt without “complaining or turning into a killjoy on the team” can translate into value for an executive or manager. Train your mind to find the brighter side of things and learn to respond not react. This can position you as a trusted leader who inspires performance in others.
  • Manage your emotions – As you climb the ladder of success, your emotional intelligence (EQ), becomes more important than your IQ. EQ is your ability to manage, and express emotions as well as your capacity to sense how others feel and adjust your response accordingly.
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Simplify an overcomplicated process – Train your mind to go from blame to ownership. Ask yourself, can this frustrating and time-consuming work process be simplified or updated so that it reduces stress, time, and costs? Can you streamline the business workflow so that it requires fewer touch points, reduces delays, and improves your customer’s experience? When you decide to create rather than complain, it positions you as a resourceful team player. Even if you don’t have the authority to approve changes, recommend or propose solutions.

Say no with options. Let’s say your manager asks you to volunteer to organize a softball event at work, but you’re unavailable. Instead of saying “no, maybe next time,” recommend someone as your replacement and offer to do a virtual introduction. This shows that you’re thoughtful, resourceful, and care about the team’s success.

Get to know the sweet spot for each person on your management team. When I worked for a management consulting firm, I had three managers for one client project. Each manager had a different sweet spot—a goal, frustration, or initiative he/she was most concerned about. For instance, while my direct manager was concerned about hours and budgets, the other manager was concerned about product safety and compliance. So, although I was primarily responsible for implementing communication campaigns, I often created or recommended solutions with each manager’s needs in mind because 1) it demonstrated my holistic approach to process improvement for the entire business—not just my role. 2) I was able to refer to these experiences and showcase my performance during my negotiations or discussions for a pay raise.

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