Too Good To Be Ignored

By Paul Yung

Many people manage their careers by figuring out how to get ahead without actually earning it.

This confuses me.

While there are legitimate shortcuts to getting ahead, such as learning from a mentor, building a network of collaborative contacts, ultimately it helps if you’re really good at what you do.

To be more specific, if you’re 7.2% better than your peers, you will have a hard time standing out.

Career progression is far easier when you’re 25%, 50%, or 75% better than your peers. 

By this, I mean that if the average salesperson sells 1 million a year.

You sell 1.5 million a year.

The average software developer can handle a moderately difficult project over a month, and their code performs adequately with heavy user load.

You rise to tackle extremely complex projects over the same time period, your code performs exceptionally well at scale, and it runs extremely fast.

The average consultant in your tenure can gather data, do the analysis, and present the slides.

You gather data, do the analysis, present the slides, and actually get the client to act on the recommendations and get results.

The average new hire will notice problems and bring them to his or her manager.

You’ll notice the same problem and bring the problem and a proposed, thoroughly researched solution to your manager.

In every industry, in every functional area for every tenure level, there’s a standard, or at least a perception of a standard, of performance that’s expected.

Life is far simpler when you simply exceed the standard by such a large margin that it’s impossible for others to ignore.

At best, your superiors notice you and grant you promotions and raises.

At worst, the process of excelling develops your marketable skill set to the next level — giving you marketable skills to get a raise or promotion elsewhere and long-term career security. 

You may counter by thinking that this puts you on the plate for performance punishment. In simple terms, performance punishment means the better you are at what you do, the more you will be given to do. How like that lah, macha?

My view for performance punishment is that it is short term. If your current company does not value your contribution, don’t worry, you will be valued elsewhere and have a bright career long term.

However, if you keep changing jobs in pursuit of a higher salary and it doesn’t seem to be working out, then it could be down to a few factors.

Chances are you either you haven’t found what your strengths are and how to leverage that for better career prospects, or you are overvaluing your contributions or you lack managerial and leadership skills to progress up the ladder.

My advice would be to focus on your current career, learn and do more.

Have frank conversations with your peers and superiors about the gaps you may be blinded to. Take the feedback you get constructively and focus on improving yourself and increasing your influence and gravitas.

Finally, take pride in your work, regardless of perceived status or importance. I remember a story where a CEO of a large multinational hired a petrol attendant filling his tank because of his pleasant attitude. That same attendant rose to become a vice president in one of the CEO’s companies over the course of this career. You may have heard stories like this before.

Attitude, not aptitude will define the altitude of your life.

Commit yourself to excellence and the world will take notice.