When it comes to being a young professional and wanting to excel and develop in your career there’s one piece of advice that beats all the rest. It was given to me my senior year of college and has framed my mentality since – no matter where you are or what work you are doing, make yourself an asset.
In other words, it’s the simple behavior of making yourself indispensable to those you work with. Make yourself a person that is viewed by everyone as hardworking, going above and beyond, doing the work no one else wants to do. It doesn’t sound glamorous but its the best thing you can do for yourself, and here’s why:
You’ll learn a lot about yourself.
Working in the nonprofit world has exposed me to the mantras, “doing more with less”, working in a “small shop” and “wearing multiple hats.” I’ve learned that to make myself an asset has been taking on projects that go beyond my call of duty. I may have been tasked with writing appeals and working with donors, but I’ve worked on events and marketing initiatives, managed volunteers and sat on committees.
Working on these “other duties as assigned” has allowed me the chance to learn an infinite amount of lessons about what I am capable of accomplishing, the strengths (and weaknesses) I bring to the table and the work that does (or does not) fuel my passion.
Taking on the “grunt” work that some people tend to feel they are above, has allowed me to learn so much about myself and became an asset to my team. It has even allowed me to see the paths I want to steer my career toward, and the areas I want to avoid. It has shown me where my strengths lie and the areas I need to work on. Overall, making yourself an asset is like taking a magnifying glass to your professional soul and growing in your own self-awareness.
You’ll earn the respect and admiration of a lot of people.
It is next to impossible to not be noticed when you go above and beyond your job description. People notice when you stay late, come in early, volunteer to lead a project, or step forward to take a seat on a committee.
Throughout my young career, I’ve thrived on relationship building and doing my best to be respected and liked. When it comes to fundraising another mantra you learn is that people give to people, but I think it should be rephrased to people give to people they like.
There wasn’t an opportunity I would turn down when offered the chance and it allowed me to meet and interact with people outside my immediate office and to learn and understand their role and purpose within the organization. So when I would volunteer for things aside from what was expected of me, it was a natural way of meeting new people and to allow them to see me as a team player.
When people come to depend on you, they naturally respect and admire you. When you earn those accolades from your peers and supervisors, it goes one step further because they won’t want to lose you. People want to not only work with people they respect and admire, but also people who are involved and committed. Right there you’ve made yourself an asset.
You’ll understand and appreciate the importance of everyone’s role.
Taking this one step further, our culture thrives on hierarchy and power. We glorify the doctor and don’t appreciate the nurse. We idolize the lawyers and forget about the social workers. When you make yourself an asset, 99% of the time you can’t do things solely on your own. There are people you need to lean on and people whose help you need. No matter the industry you work there are certain roles that are glorified, while others aren’t seen as glamorous.
When you dive in and want to learn other areas, or understand what someone else does you are making yourself an asset. You’re giving yourself an opportunity to appreciate someone else and the impact they have on your organization’s output. If you’re a person who has done multiple jobs at once, you become very thankful for future positions where you have the support of others. But in the meantime don’t be afraid to learn about someone else and what they bring to the table, or volunteer to help them with a project they are working on. After all, when you begin to understand the parts of the machine, not only do you become an asset, but you become a more efficient and knowledgeable part, yourself.
You’ll feel the fatigue of frustration.
Making yourself an asset is something I recommend, but it is not without its frustration. Not everyone is in the market for going above and beyond and instead will try to get by doing as little as possible, aside from showing up and taking up space. So you will get frustrated – it’s inevitable. This art of making yourself an asset is not one that is easy but I believe it is worth the frustration.
I believe it is just as beneficial to learn through successes as it is through failure, and even through positive experiences as much as negative. When you are busting your butt to make sure a project is successful you will meet people who will not go above and beyond for you (remember those group projects in high school and college?). You will meet people who will abandon you when things fail, and steal your sunshine when things go well. You will meet people whose main contribution to the office is breathing the same office air. You will meet people who frustrate you and who may, in turn, make you question your career.
Do not be disappointed when people frustrate you. This is a necessary step in making yourself an asset. There will be negative personalities all around you no matter what organization that employs you. There will be lazy people, negative people and manipulative people. But in meeting those folks and learning who they are, you allow yourself to see the professional you do not want to be. Greet these people with a smile, and learn the most you can from them – like I said negative experiences (and people) can be just as insightful as the positive ones!
You’ll develop what it takes to lead.
Leading a team whether that is an office or an entire organization is incredibly hard. There are multiple personalities, work ethics, and opinions to manage. When you look at the reasons above as to why it is good to make yourself an asset, it is setting the foundation for your own leadership. Yes, there are frustrations in the process, but you learn how to work despite those. You learn how to work with problematic people. You learn how you do not want to treat other professionals. You understand other people and the importance of their role to not just your office, but the organization as a whole. You realize that people respect and admire those they like and those who work hard. All in all, you learn about yourself, what you are capable of, and how you can be successful.
Making yourself an asset is a way of paying your dues. Do the work now, volunteer for the extra project, give more of your time to those relationships you want to nurture, take the time to understand someone else’s role, and embrace the frustration that comes with it all. Because this is what builds and shapes a resilient, empathetic, efficient and most importantly successful leaders.
I feel I have a strong work ethic and one that has guided me to where I am now. A place that I am learning through collaboration and teamwork. I continue to try and make myself an asset because it has allowed me to work with amazing people, learn more about myself and my own capabilities. It has even shown me the leader I do not want to be, and how I should never treat another professional and human being. I’m happy to maintain great relationships with people I’ve worked with in former positions and build and create ones with current colleagues. It has created for me not only a great network of professional relationships, but real human friendships.
Making yourself an asset can be as much fun as it can be frustrating, but all in all, you will nurture more relationships, learn an incredible amount about your work and yourself, and be an even better leader than you could have imagined.