SHOW DATE: AUGUST 28, 2013
Every once in a while, someone does something so outlandish and bizarre and so completely different from what people are used to, that no matter how awkward or mediocre the actual execution, that someone becomes an instant cultural phenomenon. You might have guessed from the title that we’re talking about Miley Cyrus’s… kinetic performance on last Sunday’s VMAs.
What’s our point? If you want to be phenomenal on your job, be like Miley.
Before you start throwing your old Hannah Montana DVDs at us, hear us out. If you get down to the nitty-gritty, Miley accomplished the very goal she set out to achieve: she reinvented herself and got everyone talking about her.
This is exactly what needs to happen at your office: people must talk about the risks you take, the unconventional ideas you bring to the table, the fearless approach you adopt in your execution. If you’re flying under the radar, diffidently pushing that same button day in and day out, afraid to stir things up, let alone shake them (or twerk them, if you will), then forget about it—you’re not going to get anywhere in your career.
You’re left with two options: you need to speak out or get out. Find a new job, get a different career. Because if you’re afraid to bring new ideas to the table, you’re never going to move ahead.
Miley certainly spoke up last Sunday. After all, she’s a pop star and that’s her job: to get noticed, to keep people’s attention centered on her, to be the talk of the town.
You can either view Miley as attention-hungry trash with no class, or you can view her as a smart employee. We suggest the latter. With her performance, Miley has made millions of dollars for her label. That’s the kind of employee that all employers salivate for: someone who can take extraordinary risks that make the company lots of money. In the days following the VMA performance, Miley garnered over 200,000 extra followers on Twitter, over 200,000 more likes on her Facebook page and around 90,000 downloads of her new single.
How long did we need her to be Hannah Montana? Miley created her own promotion, and that’s exactly what you need to do.
You’re sitting in your office. You’re a researcher, a junior analyst, a receptionist, whatever. You’re going through the usual quotidian motions: clock in, do what you’re supposed to do and clock out. How long do you think you will do this before getting a promotion? Five years? A decade? Probably never.
It’s time for you to speak out.
We know it’s hard to change. Just like it’s hard to imagine your straight-laced mom twerking and your dad grinding against her, or your coworkers witnessing you outside of your usual role. It’s the whole, “Johnny is the receptionist, and he’ll always be the receptionist” thing.
If you don’t want to be in the same position ten years from now, you need to step up and change the way you’re seen in the office.
Okay, so you’re all pumped up and ready to take the necessary risks and present your new ideas to everybody. There’s just one condition: you have to own them. After all, your ideas will most likely get shut down. But as long as you stick with them, we guarantee you that you will never be seen as the same person again. No one will ever just say, “Oh, she’s great in the mail room,” or “He’s good at answering the phones” again. You will be the person who tried to change the company for the better, even if your attempt fell flat.
So far, embracing change has been an abstract concept. We understand that you want some concrete examples, and we have ‘em. Here’s a smattering of tips to help you change the way you’re seen in the office forever:
Change your appearance: You can begin by sprucing up your aesthetics. Not only does this work on a symbolic level, planting within you the seeds of change, but it can change the way people view you in the office. If you wear the standard lax shirt-and-khaki getup, start coming into work with a jacket and tie. Or if you already do so, modify your appearance in other, smaller ways: always iron your clothes, come in washed and neat, straighten your posture. You may understandably feel self-conscious and become frightened of what may people think of you. This is normal. Over time, notice the way people listen and react to you gradually change. It’s this shift in perspective that distinguishes you from other employees and puts you in the radar for a promotion.
Take a leap towards change: Say you’re a receptionist. You have a certain way of answering the phones and you’re great at it. Good. Step one is mastering the job basics—you don’t shower the office with your reign of reform if you can’t do your basic job tasks. Master the old stuff and then begin to see the flaws in the system. If you see faults in the messaging system at your receptionist job, send a memo out or make the suggestions directly to the supervisors. It’s about getting noticed and getting others on your side. Physically go up to your higher-ups and ask them what they’d like to see done with the messages. Make a poll, or a vote, or a suggestion box. Just don’t be afraid to act.
Add value to your company: The above case is a great example of how to contribute value to your company. Here are a few more great examples of value-giving: if you’re part of a new group of hires—junior analysts or restaurant workers or whoever—use your training experience to compile a new-employee handbook and distribute it among all new hires. If you’re a salesperson, come up with a plan for everyone to reach a new segment of the population. Instead of taking value and wasting company resources by doing the bare-minimum that any shmuck can do, contribute something new and fresh that will help not only you, but every employee. Adding value is not complaining about the gap—it’s about filling it.
Adopt Failing Up as a personal mantra: You can get promoted for thinking big, even if your idea isn’t that great or doesn’t play out as well as you thought it would. From ashes of failure rise opportunities for success. Once you take the risk of speaking out for the betterment of your company, you will get noticed by your boss as someone who brings ideas to the table. Even if the ideas don’t pan out, you’ll be a much better candidate that Joe Shmoe over in the next cubicle, who never failed at anything because he never attempted anything new and never took any risks. Your idea might land poorly, they might not work at all. But it’s no catastrophe. When you adopt a Failing Up mentality, you’ll be seen as the person who tried. And that’s a whole lot better than not being seen at all.
It’s only scary at first: We know—all this change stuff is scary as hell. You’re stepping out of the pack, putting your neck out into foreign country. Some people may talk under their breath, think you’re brown-nosing or showing off. Others may find the change of attitude strange and uncomfortable. But all this fear and discomfort slowly melts as you step into the role of a leader. Getting the ball rolling is scarier than when you’re actually leading the charge. When you’re at the helm, things begin to get fun and exciting. Now the hardest part becomes getting people on board, which brings us to our next crucial tip.
Find your allies: Having others—especially your boss—back you on your ideas is the best way to ensure the changes you proposed see the light of day. One great way of converting employees into allies is finding a problem everyone complains about but nobody does anything to solve. Basically, seek out the elephant in the room and jump on the opportunity to do something about it.
If you’re not willing to change and take risks, you’re basically condemning yourself to a life you don’t love. Go ahead, be quiet, slip past everything. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? But realize that the pain of having to walk in every day and press the same button and do the same things will never go away. Nothing will change.
This isn’t what we’re about at Job Talk. We’re about playing big, kicking ass and taking names. We want you to come into the fray roaring, not whimper in a corner for the rest of your life. Be like Miley and reinvent the way you are seen in the office. Take the risk: no one will ever see you as the same employee ever again.