Many employees feel unhappy with their jobs for different reasons. They can be upset about negative interactions with their boss or specific colleagues. Maybe the work hours are too long, the tasks tedious and repetitive, the pay just not worth it.
But often, if you dig deeper, the underlying dissatisfaction has something to do with a person’s unfulfilled potential. On a gut level, we can sense when a job is providing us with experiences and opportunities to learn. When those things are lacking, we eventually realize that it’s a career dead end.
The problem employees face in today’s world, however, is that career progress isn’t a straightforward matter. We all want growth, so there’s a lot of competition for desirable work. At the same time, not everybody views themselves in the context of value generation. Here’s what you can do about that.
Work on your core
When an entrepreneur starts their first business, they usually have limited funding, especially if they are bootstrapping. The focus will be on making profits. Even if it means selling merchandise designed and printed by someone else, at least you’re generating revenue.
However, this early business model needs to evolve. By sourcing much of the process to others, you’re losing control. And you’re only working on the margins. If you could make your own designs and buy a heat transfer press from Insta Graphic Systems, you could take over the value-generating core.
You may not be business-minded, but if you want to further your career, you can start by thinking like an entrepreneur. Understand that employers will always be looking for the value you can provide. Then you won’t just be working hard; you’ll be working to improve yourself in ways that greatly impact your future prospects.
Find what creates value
Many startups fail within the first few years. The reasons underlying those failures can offer valuable insight into what you need to get right in terms of value generation. A business fails if it can’t provide the right solutions to its target audience. It also fails when consumers can’t differentiate it from its competitors, or when it doesn’t have a clear business model.
You’ve already gone through the exercise of listing your skills as you apply for jobs. But now you need to consider what makes you unique. What can you provide that no one else offers to a specific audience, and at a specific price point? And what is your unique method of operation? How do you best fit into an organization?
When you manage to define those aspects, you’ll be able to realize exactly what you’re looking for in a job. You can avoid forcing your way into contention for vacancies that wouldn’t make you happy. Time and effort saved will let you focus on the applications you really want. And since you’re aligning your career path with the things that make you valuable as an employee, you maximize your odds of moving forward each time.
Take concrete steps
But what if you can’t find something that sets you apart? This is actually a common scenario, especially if you’re just starting out or had been working through your career like a series of monkey bars instead of the proverbial ladder. You might be good at a few skills, but those are the same things most other candidates have to offer.
Author Cal Newport recommends building what he calls ‘career capital.’ People are more likely to get what they want from employers if they first master skills that are rare and valuable. But almost by definition, getting to that point will take a lot of time and effort. How can you take those first steps and work your way up?
If you feel as though you lack in terms of competitive edge, do something to differentiate yourself. The secret is that it has to be something concrete. Anybody can become good at some skills in a school or by following online classes or tutorials. If you stop there, you’re no different.
Get involved in volunteer work, and you’ll have a chance to apply your skills. Or, if you prefer to participate in online communities, find a project to which you can contribute. You don’t have to be responsible for the whole thing. Even in a limited role, you can pitch in and provide value to a group effort.
You want to generate value, but as an employee, you also function as part of a whole. By demonstrating both to your prospective employers, you take concrete steps towards mastery and landing better jobs that let you grow.