The Western world contains a surprising amount of unhappiness. We may not be war-ravaged. We may be relatively free to enjoy our lives. Most of us have more than enough to eat. Still, remain unsatisfied.
One reason for this is that we don’t enjoy our jobs or feel valued in them. Enjoyment and value are closely linked, and yet many people fail to acknowledge the connection. We want more responsibility. We want our ideas to be heard. And we really wanted that promotion that went to the guy who talks too much in meetings.
But maybe he’s onto something: Nobody gets their dream job by sitting quietly in a corner.
To get where you want to be, you need to make yourself valuable to an employer. You need to become an indispensable part of the operation. If you can do that, you will unlock options for flexible working, promotions, pet projects and exciting new ventures; you will be able to build the job of your dreams. Here's how to do it.
Be proactive and innovative
Never wait to be told what to do. Instead, always take initiative and find innovative ways to be productive. Anticipate problems and solve them before they become a bigger issue. Never do things "because they've always been done like this." Question if that's the best way and propose improvements to your team. Get managerial support to experiment and see if you can improve something.
Think like an entrepreneur
Treat the organization you work for as if it were your own business. That means not making decisions that fulfill your own interests, but those that serve the company as a whole. Try to develop business awareness and act with the big picture in mind. That way, you will be the one already presenting a turn-key solution, when others are just beginning to realize the problem.
Take control of your education and knowledge
In the past, it was enough to study and have a degree. Now, what you learn at university is already outdated by the time you finish your degree. In the modern skill economy, you need to take education into your own hands, learn whatever skills you need for your next position and tell your employer when you're ready for that change.
Take responsibility and lead by example
To become a leader, you have to start by taking responsibility. When you do that, other people will start following your lead and come to you for help and advice. As a leader, it is equally important to look after your peers and ensure that they're happy, and also motivate and push them when needed. Create value by encouraging others to step up and support them as your right hand.
Manage yourself as you would manage others
Managing, organizing and prioritizing work are key for people in management and leadership positions. However, it is equally important for anyone else when it comes to self-management. Make sure you always have a good overview and understanding of what is expected from you, and ensure that you're able to achieve those goals. Being organized without external oversight and able to communicate well are the first steps to be considered for a leadership position.
Once you’re invaluable, the rewards will follow.
You’ll notice a common thread in the advice above: you need to take matters into your own hands. Most people actually feel under-utilized, as their sterile workdays stretch into eternity without stimulating the mind. If we hate work, it’s because we’re not challenged enough. Freed of the worries of famine and war, for many people, there is literally nothing worse than sitting in front of a computer all day doing nothing of any importance.
That’s why it’s always worth doing more: taking extra responsibility, volunteering ideas, helping others, making an effort to communicate and network. What’s the worst that can happen?
If you start doing all the things you want to be doing at work, eventually somebody will notice. Then more responsibilities and creative possibilities will follow. You’ll be invaluable and valued. You’ll watch the sunrise and think: what shall I do with my life today?