Eight ways to mold yourself into a workplace MVP
Now that you’ve landed the job, know what your responsibilities are, and are performing at your usual high level, it’s time to take the next step and become an MVP employee. So now you ask yourself, “How can I make myself valuable and be that employee everyone wants on their team?”
When you really think about it, office MVPs have more than great IT skills — they also have that crucial soft skill of positively interacting with others. Becoming a valued employee mostly centers around the things we were always told to do, but may have let slip while pursuing degrees, certifications, career networking, or just running our latest project. Here are eight tips to help you become the go-to office pro.
1. Share your knowledge
Don’t hoard tasks, or seat yourself unapproachable atop reams or arcane knowledge. Instead, spread what you know to your coworkers. You may think that if you are the only employee who knows how to do something, then your job is secure. Well, you’re wrong.
Being the only one who knows how to handle a process, or meet a crucial need, can, over time, have a negative effect on coworkers. It can lead to resentment on the part of others when they have to constantly depend on you for an important task. Other employees have deadlines too, and having you act as a bottleneck in their plans won’t win you any friends.
Hoarding knowledge also ties you to tasks and can eventually make people want to just “bite the bullet” and find out how badly it hurts to lose you. Remember, work is a team sport, and no one likes a ballhog.
2. Check your ego
People also don’t like tech jerks. Don’t be a “know-it-all” or talk down to others. You can avoid this pitfall by teaching others. Nothing settles an ego like a training session or a walk-through. Take time to show others how to do something new and you will find this haughty urge will quickly go away. Teaching others is also a great way to clarify your thinking and keep your knowledge sharp.
3. Live up to your word
It only takes a single lie or missed engagement to ruin a year’s worth of relationship building. No one likes uncertainty. Following through on projects lets others know you’re dependable. In the long term, it shows others that you are credible and can be trusted to do more than just say, “Yeah. Sure.”
Be careful, of course, about making promises. Never make one that you don’t intend to keep. Never promise anything that you know you can’t accomplish. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do. Start small, just don’t open your mouth if you doubt your ability to follow through.
4. Be available
Showing up is half the battle, and being around is the simplest thing you can do on your way to becoming an MVP. If someone needs you, or there is something you can do, always be there. Volunteer when you can and, if you’re the boss, always keep office hours.
Booking time for others is first, but be sure to also make time for yourself. Insofar as it is possible, build in some downtime to help balance your workload. Schedule your breaks and understand what helps you be your best, whether it’s a 15-minute cooldown, or a one-hour lunch. Whatever it is, keep your schedule. There is a lot of trial and error to getting this correct, but once you do, you’ll be surprised at how beneficial it can be.
5. Fill your gaps
This is the most IT-related thing you can do to make yourself an MVP. If you have a technical area in which you need to improve, or an IT skill that needs to be developed, do it. Jump into that technical void and fill it with knowledge. IT is an ever-evolving field. The benefits of learning a new tech skill are well documented and ultimately, no knowledge is wasted.
6. Build relationships
Excuse me if this sounds like the start of a President Trump speech at the United Nations, but building relationship is a “huge” strategy in business and IT. People don’t have to personally like one another to have a good relationship, they just both need to get value out of their interaction. The sooner you appreciate this fact, the happier you will be in life and business.
You also don’t always have to come out ahead from every interaction with others. Spend a little time understanding what other people want — as well as honestly asking what you can do to help them get it — and your relationship skills will go through the roof. Stockpiling emotional Intelligence, the ability to identify and manage your own emotions, and the emotions of others, is perhaps the best way to go about building relationships
An emotionally aware individual can harness and manage the emotions of themselves and others and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving. You can read all kinds of books on how to build emotional intelligence, but it really only develops with practice and experience.
7. Make a decision and stick to it
President Harry S. Truman used to say that making decisions is easy: If he made right one, great. If he made the wrong one, it would come back to him and he could make another decision.
A decision, in any direction, is a direction — the start of a plan and the foundation of credibility. In my experience working in IT, people who can settle on a plan and then execute it are rare. The reason for this is that business skills, not technical skills, are usually what is needed to make decisions.
To develop this skill, I suggest you read and digest some books on business and critical thinking. Or take a class on the subject. The best tip I have ever read for making a decision is picturing yourself as an old, wise version of yourself. Really get into character and then pose the decision to your older, more sagacious self. What would you do if you’d already had 20 years to make big decisions?
8. Dial it back
For me, this is the toughest tip to take to heart. Knowing when and how to dial things back isn’t easy. It requires accurately gauging situations and a temperament for not always displaying your “full” personality.
Too often, people have said to me, “How can you be happy right now?” or “Not everything is a joke.” Believe me, individuals with a strong, outgoing personality aren’t doing it on purpose — they just have trouble reigning it in when the mood or situation isn’t appropriate to over-the-top verbosity. If you are one of these people, try to read the room and tailor your responses to the majority before shooting from the hip. If you know one of these pedal-to-the-metal types, have patience, give them some room and, if you can, some guidance. You’ll both be better for it.
To be an office MVP, your drive must be absolute, surpassed only by your humility. Don’t be afraid to give up being a good employee to become a great employee. The results are worth the effort.