I often contemplate what makes a strong individual in the workplace. I’ve always felt that introspection is important, especially in the workplace where you often won’t get criticism you need because people tend to withhold negative criticism to maintain professional/working relationships. While it’s difficult to judge myself objectively, experience in the workplace helps identify who is good to work with as well as who is bad and I want to make sure I’m on the right track towards becoming a high performing individual in the workplace; picking up good habits from professional individuals and avoiding bad habits from unprofessional/poor-performing individuals.
Without boasting or trying to sound arrogant, I believe I’m a strong employee. I’m not perfect and I’m aware of [most of] my own failings and shortcomings, but I would say that I’m one of the strongest performers out of my developer (and designer) co-workers. Now, I didn’t always think this. When I was inexperienced, I didn’t imagine that I did my job better than anyone else. But over the years, I have been recognized for my work, sometimes over others of whom I felt did a comparable job to me.
When I was a UWaterloo co-op student, I had received an “Outstanding” on 3 of my work terms (outstanding is the highest rating, above Excellent, Very Good, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory). At the time, I honestly had no idea why. I definitely did a good job but Outstanding is an exceptional rating. I didn’t really believe I was exceptional at the time but as I’ve gained more experience, I have found that there’s something that makes me special.
This is my motto. These are the two attributes that I believe lead to success in the workplace based on the experiences I currently have. It may be incorrect, naive, and/or incomplete but this is what I believe.
When I look at any resume, I often see descriptive words that highlight an individual’s strengths. Enthusiastic. Leadership. Detail Minded. Takes Initiative. Ability to Multi-task. Organized. Team Player. Resourceful. etc. In my opinion, all of these attibutes are a means to an end. An end of getting the job done well. I believe that Reliability encompasses all of these (as necessary pertaining to the job). I’ve found that personality can be very important in job interviews; finding a person that can fit with the team. However, from my experience, no amount of “good personality” can save a person if they can’t get the job done. In the workplace, getting the work done is always the number one priority. A skilled professional with social shortcomings is more useful than the nicest person who is terrible at their job.
So I believe that part of what makes me special is my reliability. I believe that people enjoy working with me because I give them peace of mind. Because I didn’t let them down the first time I worked with them. And I didn’t let them down the second or third. And they’ve come to expect that I won’t ever let them down regardless of the project, timeline, or obstacle. They have faith in me, trust me and I haven’t given them any reason to feel otherwise. I will get work done and get it done well. It’s as simple as that. Reliable to succeed.
However, I believe that if you want to do very well, reliability won’t take you far enough. You can be good at your job but what happens when new challenges arise? What happens when you’re faced with something you’re not familiar or comfortable with. You could take it as it comes but you’ll no longer be as reliable. You won’t have the answers immediately, you will be playing catch up like everyone else. You need to be prepared for new challenges ahead of time. You need to know what will come to you at work before it gets to work. This is where the second part comes in: Passionate to excel.
While I’ve felt that there are cases where I’m not as passionate as others, I am definitely more passionate about this field than most. I work all day as a developer and then often go home and code. Or design. Or blog. Or read (development books). Or participate in social media. In the workplace, there are technologies I generally don’t get to use. PHP and jQuery are examples, because they are open source. But it’s important to know things that aren’t within the workplace because you never know when you might need a job or when something new will be introduced in the workplace. But when are you going to learn these things, that aren’t available in your workplace? And this is where the passion comes in. You have to use your personal time to learn. You have to sacrifice the time you’d use to relax, sleep, or go out, and just study. Or practice. And learn. But without passion, you will generally never do something like this regularly and when you need to do it, it will be too late.
In my eyes, this is what makes the difference between doing a job, and doing an outstanding job. It is the added, extra experience you can’t pick up on the job, the experience that takes practice and time and rewards you with knowledge and best practices. It is being resourceful, using experience to offer new solutions and out of the box thinking.
I also believe that passionate people help everyone excel. When I see someone using their time productively, it entices me to work. Just the same, when I passionately describe the work I’ve been doing off-hours, it [sometimes] makes others want to work. It’s the kind of environment that makes everyone better.
If you’re in the working environment, I would advise you to take a moment and think about the tough questions.
What are my strengths?
What are my weaknesses and how can I improve? [the latter being the more important part]
What do I want to excel at?
Who is strong around me and why
Who is weak around me and why but also, how can I avoid these traits [again, the latter being more important]
It’s not good enough to simply identify your faults. You need to address them, create action items and resolutions. Though odd, ask people what you can improve on. Ask them to be honest and they might. And honest feedback is always the most important.
In the workplace, I live by Reliable to succeed. Passionate to excel. but what’s your motto? Create one and strive to meet it.