Look, no one wants to use a buzzword. And then they do. And they just kind of acknowledge it inside while ducking ever so slightly in the hopes no one else caught it. I’ll own up to each of them along the way. Here goes …
“The printing company said they could meet the deadline AND would package with our custom, handmade wax labels at no extra charge. Solid value-add.”
People and companies alike are always hunting the mythical value-add. On the other side of the deal, it’s often called “the cost of doing business.” One side gives a little more—not necessarily more than is expected, but more than is paid for. Face it, we expect a value-add, whether it’s from our day-to-day vendors or the restaurant we visit once every two years. We pay for a thing, but we expect more than just that thing.
Recently, I realized this applies not just to vendors and services, but to employees. Everyone is paid to do a job, so when employees do what they’re paid to do, that’s table stakes. (Hit me.) Sure, you can do a great job, but you’re still doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing. This can certainly take you a long way, and if somehow you can prove that you’re doing it better than anyone in your building or, better yet, your field, then you’re golden, Ponyboy.
You certainly should strive to do your job as well as you can, and hopefully that means it’s better than anyone else can. But while you’re doing that, what’s your value-add?
Interns, shadows and colleagues have asked me about the career-path topic countless times, and I find my answers have gotten pretty consistent. Maybe it was living through newsroom layoffs as long as I did, but my goal has always been to make myself as valuable as possible while doing a great job. I did my job and learned how others do theirs so that, when the time came that a person was out sick, quit, laid off or otherwise unavailable, I was in a position to help in a way someone focused only on their job description couldn’t.
Beyond doing work—mine or others’—I demanded that my value-add include my perspective. When your job performance earns you a seat at the table, use it. You may be in a room with different departments, colleagues who would otherwise never see your face, and you have an opportunity to add something to the conversation. It takes time to have confidence enough to throw out an idea on how someone else could do their job, but it’s next-level value-add right there.
If you can’t state it, form it as a question and own the fact that you don’t know the ins and outs of someone else’s job. At worst, it’s a learning moment where they tell you why that idea has been considered and won’t work. But at best, you’ve contributed to a new way something gets done. That’s value.
I learn what I can from the smart people in other departments and then challenge them when I can with ideas that range from 101-level stuff that they left last year to “Wow, I never thought of it that way.” Most times, it’s not a game-changer, but so what? If it shifts the conversation slightly, they could make the jump from a good idea to a great one. That’s value.
So yes, do your job and be great at it. But don’t silo (Ugh.) yourself from the big picture. (Big finish …) Integrate and collaborate to foster synergy and promote efficiencies with cross-departmental benefits that impact the ROI of your career.
Seriously, though: The value you have is the value you add. Leverage it. (Done.)
Paul Gangarossa is a public relations and content manager. And social media account lead. And video content developer. And chronic perspective sharer. Contact him here or follow him here.