This is a written version of the video in this post by Isaac, the CEO of Praxis, about how to adopt a value creation mindset.

Getting good grades, listening to adults, and being obedient will get you ahead in school.

In the real world, only two things matter when building a career:

  1. The ability to create value.
  2. The ability to convince people that you can create value.

If you can create value but nobody knows about it, then it won’t matter.

If you can sell your ability to create value, but you can’t live up to it, then you won’t last long.

How can you accomplish both of these things?

Drop your permission-based mindset. Adopt a value-creation mindset. Living and breathing this mindset is what will allow you to create more value than you cost. That’s the goal.

1. Creating Value

Value is not objective.

Everything you do is valuable only to the extent that it leads to value in that given situation. Every situation is different. Being good at SEO is only valuable in certain situations, just like mopping the floor is only valuable in certain situations.

Value is not inherent. Your ability to create value depends on your ability to assess the situation and prioritize what needs to get done most. When you’re just starting out in your career, your opportunity cost is low. This means that sometimes the most valuable thing you can do is take a menial task off of someone’s plate who has a higher opportunity cost. Offer to book someone’s travel, take out the trash at the office, or do anything that will free up their time to do more high-priority things.

Value is not dependent on difficulty or complexity.

It doesn’t matter how hard or easy a task is. Easy things can result in more value than difficult things in certain situations.

The complexity of the task does not matter. Simple things may lead to more value than complicated things in certain circumstances.

It only matters that the action you take results in a valuable outcome.

Figure things out for yourself.

When I need a specific piece of data or information, the easiest thing to do would be to shoot a quick message to our Operations Department and have them pull up the information for me.

Instead, I check through our CRM, I look in our marketing software, I search my email, and I take the time to do my research. Since I’m not working with data most of the time, it takes me a little bit longer to find what I’m looking for. But by doing it myself, I’m creating value by saving someone’s time.

Nine times out of ten, I’m able to find the information I need without asking. When I can’t, I go ahead and ask, knowing I’ve already exhausted my resources.

Learn to the task (not the test).

When a change needs to happen on a landing page but you’ve never done it before, figure out how to do it. Use Google and Youtube. Play around with the software until you get the hang of it, and once you solve the problem, stop.

You don’t need a Hubspot certification, and you don’t need to have any extra knowledge on the subject outside of what helps you accomplish that one task. The only thing that matters is that you learn what needs to get done to complete that task. No more, no less.

Turn “we should” into “I did.”

Value creators don’t suggest things. They do them.

Ideas only matter if the application of them creates value.

It’s easy to chase the high that comes with praise for your good ideas, but that wears off. In fact, it lowers your motivation to implement that idea because you already feel accomplished for merely suggesting it.

The next time you have a brilliant idea that you know will create value, don’t suggest it. Just do it.

Afterwards, let people know what you did.

Interested in transitioning from student to entrepreneur? Download the Praxis program guide to learn more.

Just get stuff done.

Be reliable. Be consistent. Do your work. Get your stuff done on time, every time.

2. Selling Value-Creation Ability

Everything is a signal.

Realize that everything you do signals something about who you are. You send signals to the world whether it’s from a Facebook page, a blog or a college degree.

With this in mind, build a signal that you can create value.

Build your personal reputation.

How do you present yourself when you meet people? What’s your story? Do you look people in the eye when you talk to them? Are you interested in what others have to say? Do people leave conversations with you wanting to know more about you? Are they happy to leave? Can you describe yourself without referencing your titles or certifications? What are you interested in?

Cultivate your online reputation.

This is easy. What is the digital footprint people will see when they search you on Google? Build it by publicly engaging with ideas.

Write posts on Quora, start a personal blog, start a podcast, or write Amazon book reviews. Use Facebook content selectively publishing ideas that represent your value-creation potential.

Start small.

The small stuff goes a long way. It all starts with being on time, taking out the trash, covering the little things that nobody else wants to do. By being on top of the small stuff consistently, you build a longer leash for yourself and gain the trust of the people around you.

Tell, don’t ask.

Asking things constantly is a signal that you seek permission and lack independence. It shows people that you have trouble doing things on your own without asking for validation. It shows that you don’t trust your ability to get things done.

Instead, tell people what you are doing. It’s still good to ask questions, but don’t let anyone else act as a bottleneck between you and your results.

Don’t stress people out.

People should feel at ease when they know you’re in charge of a task. They should never stay awake at night wondering if you’ll get something done or finish the task you started.

You can create this reputation quickly by simply getting things done on time from the outset. Demonstrate that you’re on top of it. After 3 or 4 positive examples, people will start to feel relaxed when they know something is in your hands.

Be consistent.

Don’t stress about building something huge. Don’t stress about doing the most complex, sexy project that creates value. Lastly, don’t stress about having the best book or the best website out there.

Just be consistent. If you choose to create a blog, write every day. If you decide to start a podcast, do it every week. It’s easy to create when inspiration is abundant. What sets you apart is being consistent when you don’t feel like it.

“Value creation.” “Develop a value creation mindset.” “Create value.” We use these terms often at Praxis. But what is the practical application of value creation? What does the mindset look like in the professional world?

What is the Value Creation Mindset?

Rule-following and being “right” don’t matter in the real world. Outside of the classroom, compliance and waiting for permission are weaknesses, not strengths.

The Only Two Things That Matter in the Market

  1. The ability to create value for others.
  2. The ability to persuade others of your value creation potential.

That’s it. Can you create more value than you cost and can you convince others that you can?

It’s not your school, your grades, your network, your knowledge, your talent, your skill, your experience, or anything else you may have been told. Those things are only useful insofar as they help you do #1 or #2.

This is the most empowering revelation in relation to your career. Don’t let it scare you. Value creation opportunities are everywhere, for every level of skill and knowledge.

The Ability to Create Value For Others

At its core, the value creation mindset starts with just getting sh*t done.

What does it look like in practice?

  • Responding to emails immediately, and never taking longer than 24 hours to do so.
  • Showing up for everything you’ve said you’d show up for.
  • Finishing everything you’ve said you’d finish and on time.
  • When you say “I’ll read that book,” or “I’ll check out that website,” or “I’ll send my resume,” doing it. Immediately.

More Resources

Creating Value at Work
There’s More Than One Way to Create Value
There Are No Educational Alternatives for Value Creation
The One Skill that Beats Talent Every Time
The Secret Weapon of Young People on the Job Market

The Ability to Signal Your Value

Here are two ways to signal your value that are relevant today:

A) Build a digital paper trail.
Here’s a general operating principle for establishing this paper trail early on: documentation.

It’s easy to get focused on particulars but when you’re getting started, a good rule to follow is to simply document your activities.

Read a book? Do a short writeup about it and put it on Facebook and Amazon. Learn something new? Answer questions on Quora each time. Travel somewhere interesting? Put it online.

At Praxis, we like our participants to start off by blogging for 30 days about their work experiences and the things they’re learning in their education modules. It’s a great way to get started building a paper trail that lasts.

B) Learn how to create a value proposition.
Trying to get a job? Don’t rely on your resume. Set yourself apart and build something better.
Here’s what you want to prove with a value prop:

  • You’re worth more to them than the money they’ll need to pay you.
  • You can create value for them on day one and you have an action plan to do it.
  • You have the skills, experiences, and/or mindsets to do the job you are hired for.

More Resources

Want to Do Cool Stuff? Build a Better Signal
How to Create a Useful Digital Paper Trail
How to Get Started Building a Digital Paper Trail and Taking Control of Your Online Brand
How to Get the Job
Throw Your Resume Away: Simple Steps to Developing an Effective Value Proposition