Imagine that you’re getting coffee with an acquaintance, catching up on work and life. When you talk about your job, they ask you, “Are you good at what you do?” Hopefully, you’re able to answer with some confidence: “Yes, I’m good at what I do.”
Now, imagine that the same person asks you a different question: “Why are you good at what you do?” You might find this question a lot tougher to answer. After all, most people don’t sit down at the end of every day, week, month, or even year, and document all the ways they added value at their jobs.
However, the next time you’re interviewing for a new position or negotiating a pay raise, you might find it helpful to be able to speak directly and confidently about why you’re good at what you do. You know you’re a valuable employee, but it takes some concentrated effort to think through the areas where you have had the greatest impact throughout your career. Being aware of those areas, taking the time to write them down, and getting comfortable talking about them are helpful habits to develop as you manage your career growth.
Here are three ways to get started:
Quantify Your Accomplishments
There are three primary ways employees create value in the workplace: making money, saving money, and solving problems. Think back through your projects and accomplishments from the past 5-10 years, and identify ways that you either made money, saved money, or solved problems for your employers, clients, or customers. Be specific: the more detail you can include, the more impactful the statement will be. You might have finished a project 6 weeks ahead of schedule, saving your company $4 million dollars on the budget. Or you might have developed a training system for new employees that improved first-year sales rates by 12%. Write down your most significant achievements, and practice explaining them out loud so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to speak about them clearly and easily.
Be Honest With Yourself
Even if you’re excellent at your job, no employee is perfect. As you track the ways you create value as an employee, you might notice gaps or opportunities for professional development. That’s not a shortcoming; it’s yet another way to show your value. Employees who are willing to speak about their professional weaknesses or skill sets they lack honestly show prospective employers that they’re willing to grow and learn, which is one of the top traits hiring managers look for in new hires. In addition, even if you’re not looking for a career change, identifying areas where you don’t currently excel is a great way to set new professional development goals for yourself. Is there a software program you could benefit from mastering, or a certificate that would help you stay on top of new developments in your industry? Set a goal to learn something new within the next year and increase your value-add capabilities in your current role.
Check Back In Regularly
Once you’ve started the process of writing down and talking about your skills and achievements, schedule a time every 6-12 months to come back to the question. This doesn’t have to be a long or complicated process; just take a few minutes to think about recent projects or things you’ve accomplished at work, and add them to your ongoing list. Thinking about the ways you create value at regular intervals can help you keep your memory sharp and your project list up to date, so that if the time comes when you want to interview for a new job, ask for a pay raise or a promotion, or set individual professional development goals, you’ll have all the information you need to make a strong case for yourself.
It’s easy to know that you’re good at what you do – but it’s more complicated to think and talk about why. By writing down and talking about the quantifiable, specific ways you add value on the job, being honest about areas where you can continue to grow professionally, and keeping on top of new projects and achievements as they arise, you can take charge of your career development and maximize the value you bring not just to your employer, but to yourself.