I’ve been doing quite a bit of interviewing over the last year for a variety of positions – both junior and senior. One of the questions candidates always ask is, “What’s the profile of someone who is very successful in this role?” or “What are the attributes of your ideal candidate?” or “What do people who are very successful in this role do?” And while I can give specifics to people that ask, in general, I just want to tell them, “Say yes.”
If I look back at all the moments that have “made” my career so far, or colleagues I’ve seen be successful, or even the members of my team whose work I elevate and advocate for, there’s one big thing in common: the ability to see beyond the clearly defined roles & responsibilities of their “job” to the possibilities of what could be for their career. It’s being the person who says, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.” Or the person who says, “I’d love to take that on.” Or even better, the person who says, “I’ve been thinking about X and feel like it could be addressed by Y. Can we talk about it? I’d love to take it on.”
I get really frustrated by people who say, “That’s not my job.” It shows a lack of initiative and a lack of imagination about the possibilities of what could come. It also smells a little of laziness.
A personal anecdote: at my first grown-up job, the VP of marketing sat in one of the few offices in the building and, occasionally, after 5:15 when the majority of the office had cleared out, he’d come out and talk about projects that were going on or ask for perspective or help. One day, he came out and said, “Jennifer, have I got a project for you!” In my head, I thought, “Oh wow, this is it. My first big opportunity to contribute to a high profile project; bring it on!” Instead of asking for a new market analysis or a product launch plan, he said, “I’d like you to plan the Christmas party for this office.” Now, technically, this was my job because my job was to do what the marketing leadership asked of me but… I spent six years in business school to coordinate caterers? I enthusiastically responded that I was on it and over the next six weeks meticulously coordinated the details of a fantastic party – from digging out the massive fake tree out of storage, to recruiting & rehearsing a group of people to sing some company themed carols, to buying the company gift for multiple locations, to managing the budget. It was a huge success. Six-ish months after that, I was asked to take on a leadership role in our national sales meeting. The next year I was put in charge of the largest customer-facing event (and second largest annual marketing expenditure). My unfailing ability to say, “Yes!” put me in a position to demonstrate skills needed to take on much larger tasks.
So, for those of you looking for promotions or new opportunities, don’t underestimate the importance of just saying yes.
How about you, any great examples of how saying yes paid off professionally?
(Disclaimer: Obviously, some things just aren’t your job and it’s okay to get those tasks to the right people.)