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SHOW DATE: SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

We’ve been obsessed with a recording of a customer service call that’s gone viral.

A guy called his security company’s customer service line after the service technician failed to show up for his appointment. When he tried calling to reschedule the appointment, he was scuttled around the system from person to person for three hours, growing more and more impatient, until finally his anger culminated into the following—admittedly hilarious—diatribe:

Our first reaction was to tip our hats to the rep. He remained calm and composed, despite the man’s banshee-screeches and threats of gun violence. Then we noticed the systematic pattern of the rep’s speech. Yeah, he was following a robotic script, but that’s his job, right?

Exactly. That’s the rep’s job, that’s what he’s supposed to do—the requirements, the minimum. You can see where we’re going with this and how this can be a big problem in the long run. We’re all about playing big at Job Talk, and this rep—no matter how placid—still only aimed for the lowest common denominator—he stuck to the script through and through. What this ultimately translates to is that he was afraid to try something different.

Okay, now imagine if the rep had said, “Wow, I totally get where you’re coming from,” or, “Sir, I’m sorry, that sounds horrible.” Not once did he say something genuine or empathetic, he never stopped to actually listen to the customer. The rep should have tossed the script and responded from the heart. Instead, he regurgitated lines like a robot, infuriating the customer even more.

If you stick to the minimum, you’re not getting anywhere—you’re not getting more money and you’re not getting a promotion. Two things will happen if you keep sticking to the script: you’re either going keep your job and wear that headset for your entire career, or you’re going to get fired because eventually management is going find someone who can do better. And that’s not very hard when all you’re doing is going through the motions.

You follow scripts in all aspects of your life, not just on your job. There are major scripts that you process in your head to make life easier: “I’ll be the nice guy so people won’t yell at me,” or, “I’m going to be the tough guy so people don’t see how I really feel.” These are the scripts you follow to stay under the radar, to stay safe and hidden. You can always fall back on your “minimum” requirements: “I was just being who I was,” or, “I was just doing my job.”

But in this economy, doing no more and no less than your job description just won’t cut it. Eventually, you will have to get off the script, whether it’s your boss’s or your own, and think bigger.

Here are three simple guidelines to help you start thinking outside your daily scripts:

Understand your responsibilities: This applies directly to millennials. It’s what Auntie Evan calls the “Millennial Deserve,” that stuff that seeps out of most college grad’s pores as soon as they enter the work force, that putrid stink of “I should be getting more important work,” and, “I don’t need to do these minor tasks because I’m way too educated.” You deserve nothing—you don’t have the broad skillset and you don’t have the experience to back up the entitlement. Your boss smells that stink from a mile away. Prove that you have the fundamentals covered. Do the menial, “uneducated” tasks well and beat him to the punch by asking him if he needs anything first. Only then can you begin to think of tearing up that script. 

Stop flying under the radar: For most employees, their modus operandi in work and in life is to act a certain way to get by life unnoticed. Most employees don’t like attention and would rather play it safe by following their assigned scripts verbatim. And, granted, you must perform your script well before you do anything to change it. The script is there to help with your job responsibilities, whatever they may be. It’s a launching pad, it gives structure and foundation. But it’s not a permanent fixture. If you limit yourself to the bare minimum just so you won’t have to confront any challenges, you’re limiting yourself in life and in your career; you’re condemning yourself to a life you don’t love.

Inject creativity into your script: The problem with the customer service rep was that he was so disconnected from the customer that his responses appeared robotic. While you can’t always take things personally, there must always remain a human element. When you inject creativity into your script by listening to what’s happening around you and react accordingly, you start to get noticed. Take some stuff from your personal life and utilize it: when talking to a customer, try using some of the phrases you use with your best friend. Going the extra mile gets you notices, and gets you in line for more money and promotions.