Today’s article by Katie Douthwaite.
Every classroom had one. First hand raised, the right answer to every question, and a perfectly painted solar system science project to top it all off—the token overachiever.
And while you may have scoffed at his or her overreaching ways, let’s be honest: Whenever the teacher had a special assignment, reward, or treat to give out, it usually went to that one kid who always went above and beyond.
Turns out, the office isn’t much different. When you want to prove your worth (e.g., during your first week on the job or while you’re gunning for a promotion) you’ll want to be that person. Of course, you don’t want to be that annoying person, drawing attention to yourself for the sake of showing off—you want to demonstrate your value by making a genuine impact on your team.
So, how do you do it? To get you started, here are four ways to go above and beyond at work—without going over the top.
1. Put Feedback Into Action
One of the most impressive things you can do in your job is to strive to continually improve. (And alternatively, one of the worst things you can do is to make the same mistakes over and over again.) To do this, start by listening to the feedback you get from your manager and co-workers—and actually use it.
When your boss casually mentions that you left out the index page of your report or that you seemed a little timid in your presentation, pocket that information for later. The next time you have a similar assignment, put those corrections into action. As you continue to improve, your boss will be impressed that you’ve put that feedback to good use—and will realize that he or she doesn’t have to worry about proofreading your work or putting you in front of a big meeting anymore.
2. Anticipate Needs
“I’ve actually already started on that” is music to your manager’s ears—it means that instead of waiting for him or her to ask you to do something, you’ve already thought of it and taken action.
And while it may be impossible to always read your manager’s mind, start by thinking back to your previous projects. When you turn in your monthly report, does your boss always throw in a “Can you also you graph some of these numbers for the PowerPoint slides?” Instead of waiting for that question to arise—again—complete the charts and turn them in with the report.
Along the same lines, try to think about your department or company on a slightly higher level. Are you launching a new software update next week? You’ll probably need to get your department’s newest hire prepped for the impending influx of calls. Instead of waiting for your boss to ask you to go over those details with the new employee, take it upon yourself to teach him.
3. Bring Your Ideas to the Table
If you have an idea that’s going to improve efficiency, help you and your teammates perform your jobs better, or produce a financial boost for the company, your boss wants to hear about it. But to help you and your idea stand out even more—and increase the chance of it actually being executed—present it with a plan.
I often have employees who will casually mention, “We should really improve this process.” But the main reason that process never actually gets fixed is that no one makes concrete suggestions as to how it should be done. But one day, a pair of employees came to me with a documented process, typed out step-by-step. They explained they had been working on it here and there in their spare time for the past few weeks, and thought it would be an excellent solution. And you know what? It was.
If you bring an idea to the table with a plan, you’ll show your team and boss that you’re prepared, innovative, and dedicated to constant improvement. And as a bonus, those ideas are much more likely to be turned into reality.
4. Go Out of Your Way
You’ve probably heard some pretty crazy customer service stories—like the steakhouse that delivered dinner to a weary traveler as he arrived at the airport after a long flight—simply because he had posted a tweet requesting a steak just hours earlier. Or a grocery store that offered to deliver groceries for a snowed-in WWII veteran—even though the store didn’t actually have a delivery service.
And I know what you may be thinking: I’m not allowed to make extreme gestures like that. But no matter your company’s resources or the leeway you’re given to interact with your clients or co-workers, you can still go out of your way to make your interaction a little more memorable: When it’s 4:50 PM and a client calls, answer the phone—even though you’d like to just ignore it, pack up, and head home. When a customer makes a slightly strange request, see what you can do to make it happen instead of just replying, “Sorry, I can’t do that. Company policy.” When you show this kind of commitment—everyone will notice.
When you consistently incorporate these things into your daily life at work, you’ll quickly rise above the ranks. But more than being known as the employee who’s just trying to elbow his or her way to a promotion, you’ll be seen as the employee who genuinely wants to see the department and team succeed.