“If you overhear other negative conversations, just avoid actively participating in them.”
At my first job after college, I wound up working on a data organization project. Originally, this was to be at least a three-person project, but shortly after the project began, the third member of the team was let go.
This was fairly distressing, because the third member of the team was supposed to be the expert on the data we were organizing. She was supposed to understand what the data meant, I was supposed to build the interfaces, and the other guy actually kept the database running – the database administrator, in other words.
So, for most of a year, the database administrator and I were shuffled away into a separate office from the rest of the team. There were definitely some overtones that the project was in trouble, not from our own efforts, but from events going on outside of our control.
Unsurprisingly, over that year, I began to build a really strong relationship with the database administrator. We spent a ton of time studying the data that we had, figuring out relationships between the data sets. We looked at lots of different interfaces for similar data sets and tried to borrow from the good things about those interfaces.
It worked. Our project did spectacularly well at each and every review milestone and we changed the perspective of some of the decision-makers higher up the food chain. Eventually, we were offered much more permanent jobs.
So, why am I telling you this?
The database administrator, the one who was crucial in making all of this work, was trained as a high school teacher – and not a computer science high school teacher, either. He taught agriculture classes at a rural high school in Iowa.
So, how did he wind up as an Oracle database administrator? He didn’t have a degree in computer science or information services. How did he get there?
The truth is that he simply applied a bunch of skills that were completely unrelated to computer science in order to get there. He applied skills that everyone already has. The only difference is that he actually applied them.
If you want to move up in your career or switch to a different career, going back to school can certainly help. However, you likely already have most of the skills and traits that you need to make that shift.
Here are seven skills and traits that you already have that you may not be applying as well as you could. If you can execute these things, you’ll have a massive leg up on the people in your field and find it easy to get your foot in the door if you want to make a career change.
When someone needs something from you, do you come through for them? Do you only call in sick when you’re legitimately sick – and that’s pretty rare? Can people depend on the fact that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do at work?
Surprisingly enough, reliability is actually pretty rare, even at higher level jobs. I know many people that, when you email or call them for a particular task or item that you need from them, will say “sure!” and then never deliver anything. Similarly, I know many people who seem to never go to work – they’re always out “sick” or “on vacation.”
Those people aren’t reliable, and the people in their workplace are bound to notice this and be adversely affected by it. You can be the most skilled person in the world, but if you’re not reliable with those skills, they’re not really very useful.
Almost every organization in the world would prefer to have someone reliable and relatively unskilled at the desk than someone highly skilled but unreliable. The reliable person might not be able to produce amazing things, but when you ask them for something, they’ll produce it; they’ll also be there when you need them. The unreliable person? They might produce something great, but they also might just produce nothing at all.
What can you do to improve your reliability?
- Show up. A big part of success is simply showing up. Yes, everyone wakes up sometimes with a desire to not go into work. Everyone has days where they’d rather hang out around the house than work. A reliable person goes in anyway, and in doing so becomes more valuable in their workplace.
- Keep track of the things asked of you and fulfill them promptly. Maintain a to-do list and spend your time working through that list as efficiently as you can. Put a priority on things that other people are relying on to do their own work.
- Don’t waste time. There’s always something you could be doing, even during the down times. Work on tasks that will make it easier to deal with the challenges during the busy times. Keep your workplace organized. Build skills.
BE A GOOD LISTENER, ESPECIALLY IN MEETINGS
Yes, many workplace meetings are incredibly boring. Most of the time, you’d rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. Of course, it’s that very unwanted nature of meetings that makes them such a valuable place to be.
All you have to do to stand apart from the pack is pay attention when you’re meeting with others, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or a large group meeting. Stay as focused as you possibly can on the moment and react naturally to what you see and hear.
Here are three specific steps that are well worth taking.