Many gifted people choose entrepreneurial career paths in order to accommodate their unusual working style and speed. But if you can't or don't want to take that leap, there are many things you can do to turn your traditional job in to a 'mini-entrepreneurship'. In this article, Trent Rhodes shares how you can use your gifts strategically to move from being a 'company employee' to being a 'company asset', and creatively construct a unique and satisfying career path from existing traditional ingredients.
by Trent Rhodes
DO YOU DREAD BEING AN EMPLOYEE?
In today’s U.S., being an entrepreneur or the lone-gunner who creates a wealthy corporation is an influential fad. And why wouldn’t it be? Entrepreneurship (the successful kind!) brings with it a host of fruits for the labor:
- Financial longevity, health or independence
- Time freedom to pursue experiences outside of the work
- Personal fulfillment
- An opportunity to create something that adds value to people
But what if you aren’t yet prepared to venture out on your own to become an entrepreneur? What if you don’t yet have the means, time or mission to create a large brand that spans cities, states or even countries? What if you just aren’t interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Does that mean you cannot add value?
Friends, having a gifted mind and disposition can put us in a unique position to transform our current employment status from one of a mere employee to an asset. If we don’t feel the entrepreneurial bug crawling behind our ear whispering, “Build a company!” we can use our minds to become an “asset entrepreneur” at the workplace we invest in.
EMPLOYEE VS. ASSET
The basic definition of asset according to ole’ Merriam Webster is “someone or something that provides a benefit.” Applied to professional life, an asset is someone who offers a benefit to an organization, client, customer or partner. This means being an asset is a step beyond just doing the assigned duties. If you wanted to recognize an asset versus an employee on a resume, you’d check the job description for an example like:
June 2010 – June 2015
Served as a manager for the restaurant, handled the cash, made schedules and responsible for the overall restaurant.
June 2010 – June 2015
Hired 40 staff within 5-year tenure; trained 15/40 to assistant manager level for sister locations; created new online customer service training modules for new staff to increase relationships; responsible for increasing restaurant revenue by 70% within first 1.5 years.
The asset differs from the employee in how much value she adds to the position and organization. In order to accomplish this, she has to “see” where opportunities exist, and there are many, and we tend to call them “problems!”
I believe, as being gifted, we have a unique set of qualities that allow us to move ahead faster and gain strategic positioning with greater accuracy, because the gifted mind is naturally attuned to discovery, foresight, problem recognition and innovation. By employing these abilities, we can turn our current jobs into mini-entrepreneurships that can manifest new opportunities within the same organization.
Some of the abilities we possess and that can quickly shift to our advantage are:
We can easily see this as a weakness to succumb to, but activated (being aware of), our deeper empathy enables us to understand others in multidimensional ways. We can detect their problems, needs or interests before they may be able to articulate them. This wonderful capacity can help us connect deeper with our peers, customers and those we need to persuade during group work.
Simply, we have faster processors! The brain-mind-computer allows us to collect information rapidly. We may do this in various ways according to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Very useful with project work and gaining knowledge on a new skill, process or situation faced in the organization. We can learn faster.
This is our ability to combine those huge volumes of information, perhaps from various sources into something coherent and unique. This is a critical skill with regards to seeing new solutions on the job, presenting unique angles peers and even managers aren’t recognizing and establishing oneself as a go-to person for creative problem solving. Do this enough times and we position ourselves as 'The Asset'.
ELEVATING EVERYONE VIA YOUR EFFORTS
One of our challenges with giftedness at work is the potential response from colleagues who feel offended, insecure or otherwise ego-driven to put down our expression. Seeing from their perspective, someone is stepping up to the professional plate to demonstrate their skills, show ambition and refuses to accept a limiting role in the organization. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but what I’ve learned is inclusion helps to create more empathy with colleagues.
Working with my first employer, I found myself in a limiting position after transitioning from Employment Advisor role. It was a departmental shift that used more of my innate skills, and I performed well, but it included lower compensation. The scale of my influence grew, as I was able to assist college students, mentor my peers, provide them guidance and participate in leadership-level committees. These additional responsibilities and support were way above my pay grade and job description. But I saw an opportunity. I started filling gaps where I saw no one else pursued. Assisting with marketing, being open to student challenges and sharing my insight on matters affecting the campus, I positioned myself as an asset, a professional the campus needed to retain rather than just have fill a role. In the leadership team’s mind, my contribution was no longer seen as replaceable.
I then created a new position, typed it in Microsoft Word. I gave it a name, roles and responsibilities and described how this new position would benefit the campus and provide a gap for the student engagement challenge (retention) we faced. Sent it in and didn’t hear back about it for some time. That was until a new position was created, which closely resembled what I designed. I interviewed for it among a few other candidates and secured the position. In a sense, I made my new job! And my peers provided total support. This wouldn’t have worked if I cultivated unproductive relationships with my peers and leadership team over a period of years.
When arriving at a creative solution, present on how it elevates everyone rather than only oneself. The employer will be examining the bottom line among other factors when studying the possibility of your solution. By also adding how it strengthens your team, you can show that you’re aiming for collaborative growth.
Giftedness in the workplace can be like Prometheus bringing fire to humanity, or the fire that can burn down a building. My friends, let’s be Prometheus.
DARE TO CREATE YOURSELF
Here is a strategy for upping your professional level:
Find a notebook and make it your Professional’s Journal
This will become your primary source for recording your updates, realizations, connections and new accomplishments in professional life. We’re quite used to owning a journal for personal thoughts, but there’s also a rich amount of information we experience at the job everyday and may take for granted.
When clients or students have trouble creating a job description, I find this tends to be the reason for it. We’re just not giving attention to our day-to-day responsibilities and completing them in a half-aware way.
When faced with this kind of block, I typically make a few suggestions to have it all pour out.
“Pick any day of the week and start from the morning. Tell me what you do at work. As much as you can.” is a common request.
“How many? How much? When? Do you have to meet goals?” are common questions.
I’ll make mental notes about the noteworthy skills and experiences overlooked. For example,
"Administrative Assistant: Responsible for handling the phones, setting appointments and duties as assigned"
This is a general description, but with enough probing I can help unmask all of the other experiences that tend to happen like:
- Coordinating meetings
- Setting schedules for events, the supervisor, trips
- Exposure to budgets, organizing that information in Excel (mentioning Excel is a skill hint and tells the reader you know how to use it)
- From your exposure to budgets, you gain an indirect skill of how to do checks and balances, learn the financial trends for the company, how to allocate funds and resources (all from just examining that little budget!)
- Event planning, and this can include building relationships with vendors, current partners, making site visits (and if you’re visiting places, you then gain the skill of analyzing event spaces, knowing what to check for, crossing T’s and dotting I’s)
- Greeting visitors (this is also underestimated, but if you’re in this kind of role, you have a huge client-relations job! Anyone walking in the office sees you first and you have the power to influence their feelings during their stay. During the visits you have opportunities to engage conversation with them while they wait for whoever they’re supposed to see, learning about what they do and absorbing that info for yourself)
- This list can go on...
Just from this example, we can see how keeping a journal can benefit you. You’re tracking the daily responsibilities, any new tasks that pop up and the data points mentioned earlier (how many visitors per day do you meet? What kind of budgets are you exposed to? How many events do you plan or participate in? How often do you make purchase orders for the office?).
As you accumulate this information, your gifted mind will likely start poking, prodding and analyzing it, seeing the patterns and any openings for opportunities. Which brings us to the next step!
Shift Thinking from “What job do I have now?” to “What kind of job do I want?”
Altering perception in this way will help to frame your mindset from tactical, monotonous work to strategic thinking about the reasons you have the job and record in your journal. It will also help you to make connections between the skills you have, the new experiences you record and any gaps in the company you recognize can be influenced by you. You’re setting the direction instead of letting the job do it for you.
HOW DO YOUR CURRENT SKILLS MATCH UP?
It’s highly likely that you’re bringing in previous skills into your current or new job. If they aren’t being used in the current position…that’s great!
These are additional skills you can use in new ways that do not connect directly to your job description. Let’s say you’re the administrative assistant and have some design skills on Adobe Suite. You notice the flyers the team creates are basic looks on Microsoft Word. With your skills, you can improve them. An opportunity to expand your influence:
You: Are the flyers usually made on Microsoft Word?
Them: Yeah we’ve always done it this way. It’s the fastest for us.
You: Ok. What if I could make them look a bit nicer? It might help our marketing. A good image can say a lot about what we do!
Them: I know, but we don’t have time for that. It’s an extra task we don’t need right now.
You: I know Adobe and can help.
This is a crossroad, because you may feel nervous about even reaching this point. It may feel like stepping over a boundary, so my recommendation with this strategy is to both ask and do: ask if you can help and then do the help even if you don’t ask!
Leadership teams may or may not be actively looking for people to fill spaces like this, but trust me, based on my experience, they do notice when someone does. And if they didn’t reach their positions by nepotism, it’s likely they went beyond to establish themselves by thinking outside the box as well.
In the flyer scenario, you would just take the extra time to create the flyer on Adobe, present it to your manager and explain the benefits. If it’s accepted, congratulations! You just added a new experience to your journal, which can then be added to your resume, which can then be converted into expanding your influence! Now all you have to do is, repeat!
- We shift from employees to assets when we focus on making ourselves more valuable.
- To become more valuable, we offer skills and abilities that become irreplaceable to the organization.
- We have an advantage to become an asset by having a gifted mind and nature. Our unique combination gives us an edge for seeing patterns others miss, faster thinking and understanding others’ needs more intensely.
- Journaling your job experiences will give you more info than realized to begin building for your next position.
- Use your gifted awareness to find ways to apply non-current job skills to contribute. Then capitalize on that experience.
To learn more about Trent Rhodes' work, visit www.iamtrentrhodes.com