Are you new to the workforce or just getting started on your career path? While many of us dream about our ideal job or plan what it will be like when we’re leading our own company, most of us will spend the majority of our careers not as the boss, but in important support roles for others.
Over the last 22 years, I’ve worked various jobs in sectors ranging from corporate and government offices, to now, my local church. In each new role I’ve taken on, there are guiding principles I come back to that have helped me increase my value as an employee and find success in the job I’m in. Here are just a few tips that can help you as you navigate your own career path.
1. Learn the basics.
I landed my first “real” job when I was 15 and promptly traded walking to after-school babysitting jobs for bus rides to a downtown law firm to “Bates-stamp” documents for two hours a day. If you were born after 1982, you’re probably wondering what Bates-stamping even is. Well, let’s just say it involved stacks of legal documents, a number stamp, and copious amounts of white-out to fix your mistakes when you accidentally skipped a page.
My first introduction into the workforce was an entry-level job, but it was an important experience that taught me basic office skills and corporate office culture. Sitting in a room stamping papers eventually turned into making coffee for board meetings, running errands and ordering office supplies. In turn I was promoted to office assistant, and this prepared me for jobs I would have down the road. Often we want to skip the small stuff and go right to the role we think will give us the most impact and influence, but I’ve found the tasks that might seem meaningless at the time are usually the ones that give you the best foundation for future jobs.
2. Do your work with excellence.
You can’t go wrong giving everything you do your best effort. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before Kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” The Message paraphrases it this way: “Observe people who are good at their work - skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don't take a back seat to anyone."
When we work with excellence, it makes room for our talents to shine. In turn, this creates room for favor and promotion in our life. Simply defined, excellence means superior, first class or very good at its kind. If we are excelling at something, it means we are surpassing the average achievement.
As I grew in my ability to perform basic tasks, I took on more responsibility, and in turn carried those skills into my future jobs. I certainly haven’t stood before a king yet, but by excelling in my work, I was given the opportunity to work for a ranking member of Congress for ten years and then became the Director of the Mayor’s office in my hometown.
3. Make meaningful contributions.
Make meaningful contributions to your workplace by leaving things better than you found them. Improve it, and while you’re at it, you’ll improve your own work habits. Sometimes those improvements will go unnoticed, but they matter.
Maybe you’re a data-geek (like me) and can streamline and clean-up your organization’s database. Maybe you took over a job for someone and there was little guidance or training offered to you, and you could put together instructions for whomever will take on that role after you. Maybe a process or system is outdated and you can offer ways to improve it.
When I am unsure of what kind of contributions I can make, I look for tasks and projects that others don’t have time to get to, or would rather not do, and offer to do them.
Whether you thrive in a support role or you dream about leading your own company one day, take the time to learn the basics, do your work with excellence and look for ways to make meaningful contributions to your workplace. Just these small things alone can help you be successful right where you’re at.
Kristina Sabestinas lives in Spokane, WA where she enjoys drinking really good coffee and raising her three boys alongside her husband, Justin. She has spent most of her career in government and political work, and has recently transitioned to working with her parents at the church they have pastored for over 25 years. You can hear some of her messages at victoryfaith.org/faithcast.