In the same way that you should take a job posting’s requirements with a grain of salt, do the same once you are on the job. Here, I’ll tell you how:
1. Dive Deep
First, dive in to be sure you become an expert at what you are meant to do before trying to change the world. This will give you credibility to fall back on once you do start to think differently and make improvements. First understand the context of your team in the broader organization, the industry, and the way your team connects to others. Then…
2. Question the Work
Think differently about what work you even should be doing. Yes indeed you can question this. Is the industry changing? Is something you are doing now completely pointless? With a good case and proof, you may just shine as a bright new star to your manager as someone who is thinking ahead.
You also can and should be thinking about all aspects of your job — that can include the experience of your team or new joiners (the people aspect). Or, enhancing the “client” or user experience aspect, controlling the inherent risk that may be apparent in your work, systems and technological improvement, commercial and strategic projects, and more.
3. Question the Process
Think about the ways, methods, and approaches you take to getting your work done. Improving your current process and which tools you use will show that you want your team to be more efficient, effective, and thus leave even more time and space for innovative thinking.
4. Think Outside
If you have the luxury of time (and even if you don’t) you should be spending ~20% of your time at work improving your own work. This means thinking as if you were your manager with questions like, “Is there something out there your team is missing / isn’t looking into that would be a value-add?” Also thinking about concepts like: Where is the team going, where is the industry going, what innovative new tools would be helpful to you and your team. Read online, learn, and adapt.
If you get ahead in this way and share it with your managers, but don’t let it be a detriment to the quality of your initially required work, you will stand out.
5. Get Ahead
If you don’t do these things, how do you plan to be perceived as ahead of anyone else? Likely, some of the questions above are what your senior manager are already thinking. When you show them you’ve also done some good research in these areas, this is when you may just be pulled into more and more senior conversations.
Staying in the status quo, doing what the job requirements tell you, is not enough. Your team, your company and the industry will evolve overtime. This essentially means your job requirements will, too. The unstated piece of every set of job requirements that you can be sure of is that you must be a change agent as part of this evolution process in order to survive…and to stand out.
Surprise, you were not hired to just fulfill those job requirements. A set of job requirements exists because the company had to give you a general idea and guideline of what the job will entail. However, do not mistake the job requirements with criteria for success.
6. Enjoy it!
The ability to question the work, the process, and do more, will also allow you to explore and expand your role into areas that you enjoy more. This is the unforeseen career path you are forging for yourself. It is the projects you will look back on in future interviews and talk about because you were excited about them, and crushed it.
Realistically, those future career moves are going to be based on what you enjoyed (and didn’t) about your current role. See it as an opportunity to grow yourself, grow your skills, and grow closer to your interests. The benefit is there — for both the team, and yourself. Grab these opportunities and success will follow.