“I don’t know what to do! I just spend an hour at a time sitting around waiting for an opportunity to do something. Nobody is giving me work or presenting me with training.”
If you’re an ambitious young person in a job where you know you can absolutely kill it if only you were given the chance, you probably have felt like this before. You come in hungry and ready to take over the world only to find that there are systems, and there are rules, and there are managers, and coworkers, and all these other things in your way.
You imagine that if you were just allowed to do what you love doing, then the company would immediately turn around and you would be lauded as the savior. You would rake in the customers, increase efficiency, and truly win at your job.
Eventually, you start to give up when you are snubbed at every turn. A catty coworker thinks you’re taking over her space, a disgruntled manager tells you that you need to be patient. You slowly accept your place and your job turns into the drab, dull 9-to-5 that it is for most people.
Does it have to be this way?
No, it doesn’t.
I’ve heard this story far too many times from young people who want to really take control at their jobs. They think that it’s a matter of their managers or their colleagues keeping them from really taking control. They think that they don’t have a place for their ambition.
What are your options?
You can become bitter, angry, kick your way around your coworkers and colleagues, burn your bridges and use up your social capital. You can take up a victim mentality that it is you against the world. “These people just don’t appreciate me!”
Or, you can create value.
How do you do this when you haven’t been trained, provided with obvious assignments to do so, and find yourself grappling at the dark?
Easy, you look at these three things.
1. Understand Boundaries
In well-operating businesses, there are boundaries and systems set in place so that people have an idea of what each person is to do. Roles exist for reasons and the people who occupy these rules often have decision-rights over the things that fall within their boundaries.
The wrong way to go about creating value is to see where your colleagues are missing value and go in and do their jobs for them while they are doing their jobs. They will see this as you overstepping your boundaries. They will see this as a young person thinking they can run the world. They will see this as something to make their jobs harder and to make you a threat.
Looking for places to create value in an organization is good and important. A valuable employee thinks in this way — it’s the entrepreneurial mindset. But sometimes the cost of acquiring that value is so high that it actually doesn’t net you value. Instead of telling your colleagues how to do their jobs, consider talking with them about the things that you’ve noticed. Use a kind and curious tone. Make them think you are curious about them in a positive way. Do not be critical (this will just lead to defensiveness). And absolutely, above all, do not gossip. People who gossip within companies just signal that they have nothing better to do but to complain.
Understand boundaries so that you don’t stir things up. Then find the value and opportunities sitting on the floor outside of everybody else’s boundaries. Go for it.
2. Find the Sitting Value
Once you’ve figured out what everybody else in the organization is supposed to do, find opportunities to add value that are not currently owned by anybody else. If your entire organization is focused on handling inbound sales and you can’t find anywhere outside of other people’s areas to add value there, start doing outbound sales. Bring new customers in, write a proposal for your manager about how you could better prepare the inbound cycle to take new customers.
Don’t be secretive about it — if you are, then your colleagues could still get envious. But take ownership over something that has no obvious owner until told otherwise. Once this is a clear opportunity to add value to your organization, propose that it be formalized. This might require handing it off to somebody else who is better skilled to take control of these things, but you found it in the first place. Take pride in that and hand it off. This is the process of finding value sitting on the floor. This is the entrepreneurial mindset.
3. Be an Active Listener
After spending so many years in schools, it’s no surprise that most people expect to be given formal development or assignments before they can go out and create value. Unfortunately, with small, growing organizations, there is rarely an opportunity for owners and entrepreneurs to really formalize these processes. Instead, you can find new ways to add value and impress your bosses and the owners by being an active listener.
Consider the following scenario:
An owner expresses her desire to hit a high sales quota by the end of the year and all the ways that she can imagine new customers are prospected and captured. Unfortunately for her, she is busy running other elements of the organization — maybe she is raising money for a new round or doing the hiring and big-picture organizing — regardless, she just doesn’t have the time to do it.
A schooled employee would hear this kind of frustration and think to themselves, “well that would be a great thing to assign to the team! I don’t know why they don’t do it.”
An entrepreneurial employee would hear this frustration and think instantly to themselves, “this is a great thing for me to go out and start doing right now!”
They don’t wait for assignments. They don’t wait to be told exactly how to do something. They go out, do it, examine the results of what they tried, and correct for the course. They become entrepreneurs in their own roles.
Want to learn how to think entrepreneurially? Apply to Praxis today!