“I gotta spread the news that if it feels this good getting used…Oh, you just keep on using me…until you use me up.” – Lyrics from “Use Me” by Bill Withers
What comes to mind when you think of getting used? Someone taking advantage of you? Pretending to care about you when they really only want what you have? In that context, getting used isn’t very attractive. But how would it feel to get used at the full capacity you were created for professionally?
Are your talents, abilities, career and life experiences underutilized? Do you feel like you’re wasting away when you have so much more to offer? If you want to be used to make a bigger difference in your organization, here are three things you need to know:
- Know What’s Important to the Organization.What is the mission and vision of your employer? What are the top priorities for the year? What problems does your division or work group desperately need to solve? What new opportunities are being pursued? If you don’t know what decision-makers care about, you might be wasting your energy working on all the wrong things and wondering why you’re not getting your props!
- Know Your Unfair Competitive Advantage. If you’ve ever watched the beginning of a boxing match, you’ve seen the “Tale of the Tape”. The fighters are matched head-to-head, looking at everything from their age, height, weight and even seemingly random stats like the circumference of their wrists. Take a look at the data and you’ll notice each competitor’s unfair competitive advantage. Why do I call it unfair? Because we’re talking about advantages they didn’t have to work at. Being five inches taller isn’t an acquired skill – it is what it is. To identify your unfair competitive advantage, look at your Tale of the T.A.P.E. – talents, abilities, passions and experiences. Figure out how to use who you are to meet the needs of the company in a way that only you can. This is critical when it comes to managing your career.
- Know How to Speak Up. One of the biggest reasons that talent goes underutilized within organizations is because decision-makers don’t know what people are capable of. Letting your leader know that you have skills to meet a need isn’t bragging – it’s being a team player.
When I was in Corporate America, our PR agency sent out a call for audition tapes to find a host for an online show chronicling a global fundraiser with one of our nonprofit partners. None of the prospects had what we were looking for, but It just so happens that I have a background in broadcasting. I had a choice to make – I could hope someone asked me, or I could let them know I had the skills. I chose the latter and ended up doing a live broadcast from the United Nations with Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank!
Here’s the bottom line: If you know you have more to offer, don’t wait for an opportunity to fall out of the sky…take action. By knowing your organization’s priorities, how you can help meet them, and making sure other people know it, too, you increase your odds of being used in ways that bring greater value and create a career that’s more rewarding personally.
I agree with Bill Withers…it feels good getting used!