Unlocking the power of your hidden value.
Everyone is a diamond. Some of us are just more “in the rough than others.”
That roughness though, likely lies more in our own inability to see what makes us shine. Some of us are fortunate enough to be near someone who wants to, and is able to, see the potential that lies in people. Some of us have to discover it for ourselves.
Not too long ago, I took what felt like a huge risk at the time and left I job that I excelled in. I loved my job, and my co-workers felt like a family. Without reservation, I was comfortable being completely myself. I managed and cooked in a small but very busy restaurant.
Stepping out of there and into the world of programming, and eventually growth hacking (for lack of a better word I feel comfortable with)..I found myself more anxious than I anticipated. It was hard to have conversations about the work I was doing after finishing school and feel like I had a right to participate. For many months, I was very focused on all the things I didn’t know.
I wish I had written it down now, the specifics elude me. Eight months of intense insecurity and a ramping up of imposter syndrome I didn’t think was possible. My CEO asked a question one day — I’m not sure it was even related to me and I’m nearly positive it wasn’t directed at me. I do though, vividly remember standing overlooking the office, my co-workers were standing nearby. Somehow, this question triggered something huge in me.
Stepping back just a little bit, I looked at my years in the kitchen:
I was never short on challenges there — balancing many local suppliers, large food inventories, a staff of wildly varied personalities and work-ethics, huge amounts of prep work (vegetables are heavy, did you know?) and curve balls so large they seemed to come out of cartoons. A dull moment was more rare than a unicorn. Motivating and co-ordinating a kitchen staff is also a highly challenging situation. The work is hard, and the rewards are largely internal.
I thrived in the intensity of my environment. But more than anything- I loved the pattern recognition. To excel there I had to recognize the things that were being repeated, either good or bad. Reward what was working, show others how to implement it. These patterns were essential to identifying our strengths and opportunities for improvement. When something wasn’t working, it was essential to correct it, and do my very best to implement it across the staff.
I also have passion for processes, and the ability to see how they affect things. Those pieces and gears and how the affect the whole. Sometimes it feels as though I could look at the gears of a watch and in my mind’s eye, it explodes and I understand how all of the pieces fit together, and how they contribute to the motion of the hands.
But it had to have been how much I enjoyed finding ways to optimize everything that we were doing. No wasted motions. Developing processes that allowed us to do more with the limited resources that we had. Somehow the guests kept coming, and we kept turning over the restaurant faster and faster. Records were blown out of the water one night at a time.
So there I am, standing in the office, having missed the conversation that came after that question the CEO asked, understanding something incredibly crucial. The value I am able to offer the company and my co-workers goes well beyond my ability to code.
I am not a one-dimensional person — and neither are you.
If I had just asked myself months sooner what it was that I loved about working in that kitchen. If I had asked myself to describe what made me feel I was great in my position as manager there, and forced myself to remove the specifics of the actions — I might have understood this so much sooner.
Luckily though, I didn’t ask those questions right away. Their true value is completely apparent to me now. Those months of crippling self-doubt and struggle made the epiphany resonate to my core.
So I ask you, what have you done that you feel you excelled in? What are the qualities that you possess that made you excel? And most importantly, what did you love about it?
Write it down. Give yourself the credit.
Go find a way to bring that into whatever you are doing now.
It doesn’t matter if it is outside of the day-to-day tasks that you are responsible for. It doesn’t matter if it’s “your job.” It doesn’t even matter if it has nothing to do with work.
Those strengths and passions make up your unique voice. Combined with the list of technical skills and abilities that you have, they are what make up your unique value.
If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for those around you.