One word has the power to unlock your career. That word is “yes.”
Looking around at my colleagues where I work, I can only admire their natural intelligence. They seem to have been gifted at birth with a sparkling intellect and can easily grasp new technologies while I have to put effort to gain the same knowledge.
Sparkling intellect: this is not me.
Some of my other coworkers seem naturally motivated to excel. They did well in school and got an amazing job offer (six figures!) before even graduating. After a series of promotions, they’re VPs in the large and successful company that I work for. And they’re not thirty yet.
Naturally motivated: this is also not me.
There are many natural gifts that aren’t innate to me, and maybe you’re in the same situation. If so, that’s ok – they’re overrated anyhow. There is one thing that trumps any of these advantages and more. Sure, brains are nice. So is natural talent, a supportive family, a fat inheritance from a rich uncle, or winning the lottery. But…
None of those things are within your control.
One thing that is 100% in your control, though, is the ability to say yes more. You can be the guy or gal that says yes to those tasks that no one wants to do. And trust me, there are plenty of those in IT! These can be anxiety producing, such as being on point for the audio/visual setup of a really important firm-wide meeting. (If you mess up, you’ll be struggling to get the meeting running again while everyone at the company watches you. If that doesn’t terrify you, I salute you!) Other tasks can be just plain boring, like taking asset inventory or e-wasting hard drives that are no longer needed. And most of these tasks have something else in common: there’s a perception that people with a certain status won’t be performing them. For a lot of folks, these tasks are… beneath them.
Let me drop some wisdom on you:
There are no boring tasks, only boring people. These tasks are important, so take them seriously. If they weren’t important, your company wouldn’t be paying you to do them. Focus on their importance and they won’t seem boring to you.
Failure is not the end of the story. Yes, you can fail in front of your entire company. This means you can also succeed in front of your entire company. So that life-or-death meeting you’re responsible for just crashed? If that’s the end of the story, sure, that’s bad. But you’re going to jump up and go fix the issue. In two minutes flat, the meeting will be back on track. Later on, your boss and coworkers will tell you they admired how quickly and decisively you handled the issue.
Pursuing status is a sad way to exist. Pursue excellence instead. Once you’re excellent, the status will come by itself. So volunteer for those “beneath me” tasks. Because they’re not beneath you. They’re going to make you a more valuable employee than the other guy who says “no” to them and cherry-picks the tasks he wants to work on.
So learn to say yes more. It will change your life.
PS I read the book Yes Man (affiliate link) some years ago and whole-heartedly recommend it. It’s not an IT book, but it does explain the power of saying yes in an easy to read and humorous way. If you’re looking for something light but impactful to read, I’d recommend giving it a go.
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