“How’s the job going?” – How do YOU respond?

Among family and friends at gatherings and holiday parties, nearly everyone who works is asked about the status and trajectory of their job. Mom and dad ask. Siblings and friends ask. We’ve all experienced the dramatic pause after “How’s the job going?” This question is either fun to answer or an exercise in euphemisms. The bottom line: Good managers make sure their best people know the answer. Have you heard anything recently? This leads to some interesting questions and decisions, doesn’t it?

What has your manager communicated to you lately? Silence is not golden. Good managers make sure their top talent knows their value and their career track status. Is your manager doing this? If you do not have a clear answer to our party question, you have some work to do. Unfortunately, if you haven’t received the nod, the blessing of hearing “You’re part of our success going forward.” Why is that? Some honesty and self-reflection is important here. Frankly, you can assume at least one of these two circumstances is in force: 1) The company doesn’t believe you are a key component to its future success; 2) The company isn’t worried about losing you. I’ve owned and managed several companies and I can assure you, out of a company’s selfish interests, it will make the appropriate gestures to its most important contributors. If a company fails to do this, it’s competitors will. Top talent and key contributors are pulled aside regularly and reassured.

It’s important to note that only a minority of staff within any company are “key”. Most companies could change out 65% of their team and still keep the customers happy. Are you in the valuable minority? Results rule the day to be in this club. Yet, we all believe we are achieving good results in our work. But there is a big difference between staying employed and being valuable. The added label that makes all the difference is “essential” – as in, you provide an ingredient deemed essential and hard to replace. Your knowledge, talents, interests and creativity will lead to discovering how to become essential. In every department, there is at least one person who is anchoring the department and is deemed essential. This is how managers and ownership think. The company’s primary functions are secured by a minority of key players and those folks get the pay increases and have the discussions about good results and future growth. The rest of us, well…

So, if you’re not yet in the valuable minority, what can you do about it? It is important to note: Good managers are rare and mediocre managers are plentiful. If you believe you deserve the nod, go get it from your mediocre manager. This isn’t about money. Inquire about your role, the work you are assigned and its essential nature. You may be on a dead-end track. Ask how you can become more essential. It is mutually constructive to inform your manager that you fully intend to be considered essential as you have a conversation on how you can take on more valuable work. This is a notification of your motivation and self-worth. One of the best lessons I ever learned from an employee was from a salesman who looked me in the eye and calmly said, “I know what I am worth. Do you?” While this is a little aggressive, for a salesperson it was the right move. His statement was made after he had closed some great new business – an important timing factor. So the success formula is: 1) Get into the critical work; 2) Achieve good results; 3) Have a conversation.

Being confident and fearless is as important here as in a world poker championship. You will gain clarity as a result of being brave enough to request more valuable work and discuss your future. Clarity saves you time and assists your decision making. If not this company, get moving toward a company that will value you more highly. Combine this resolve with the 1-2-3 success formula above and your job will be something you are happy to discuss with anyone who asks. Cheers!

Of course, for career and other big decisions, I merrily suggest reading my new book, The Decision Makeover!


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