One in three employees in the United States are either in a different position than when they started 2020 or they are unemployed altogether, according to a recent survey by two leading universities. People are also accepting lower paying jobs, due in part to the instability created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are scrambling to learn new skills or adopt new career paths.
While little can be done with regard to the unpredictability that COVID-19 has done to the job market, there is one thing team members in any industry – especially tech – can do to retain their positions: stay valuable.
Whether you are new to the job market or you’re a veteran with years of experience under your belt, here are five tips on how you can continue to demonstrate your value to employers and possibly save yourself the headache of searching for another position.
1. Listen First, Speak Last
Analytical problem-solving skills are highly valued on any team, from any employer because they demonstrate your capacity to troubleshoot crises and implement solutions. One key component of being an analytical problem solver is knowing when to speak, and more importantly, when to listen.
We like to recommend the 80/20 rule – that is you listen 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. In order to add value, you must be able to gather information, dissect a problem, weigh concerns from multiple team members, and then pose a favorable solution that (at least most) everyone can support. That requires critical thinking and – above all – listening.
2. Ask the Right Questions
According to Harvard Business Review, asking the right questions “spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members.” With those of benefits, it’s no wonder employers see the ability to dig for information as an especially powerful tool. So what are the right questions?
To answer that, you must first be a good listener. Start with questions you know are pertinent to the problem at hand. Then, ask more related questions you know will provide valuable intel. This seems like common sense, but at the end of the day many people don’t fully understand the art of interviewing.
3. Create Bonds Outside of Your Department
In order to be seen as valuable, your value should go beyond your department. That means getting to know other veterans in your company and taking time to build relationships outside of work conversations. If you have that base, you’ll have a head start when it comes time for cross-departmental collaboration. “An awareness of the different personality types in your firm, along with an understanding of what each distinct work style brings to the table is key to successful collaboration,” according to The Business Journals.
Setting that stage can be as easy as finding common ground with other employees and building off of it, participating in cross-departmental virtual happy hours or team-building activities, or even sending occasional emails to other team members you have worked with in the past to further relationships in new ways.
4. Take the Focus Off Yourself
While selling yourself in an interview is an accepted (and often welcomed) practice, it’s best to turn that off once you’re on the job. If you’re constantly selling yourself, your talents or your solutions, chances are you’re not listening to the concerns of other team members or – worse – you’re steam rolling their opinions with your own.
Instead, try the 80/20 rule mentioned above and keep your own conjecture relevant to solving the problem at hand. If you have experience in a certain area, it’s perfectly fine to reference that experience. There’s no need to hammer your point repeatedly though – otherwise you run the risk of it being viewed as bragging. And no one wants a one-man (or one-woman) show on their team.
5. Keep Learning
No employer expects every team member to know everything about the way they do business when they walk through the door. They do, however, want their team members to learn. Demonstrating that you have the capacity and the willingness to learn shows you value keeping your skillsets up to date and that you’re taking an interest in the betterment of your work. Those qualities rarely go unseen by employers and co-workers.
At Google, for example, the company’s founders have said since its inception that employees should spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit the workplace. Doing so, “empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner,” according to a 2004 letter penned by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
No matter what your role or working environment, putting these practices in place can not only help demonstrate your value to the company; they can also help enrich your working experience. Building relationships, learning more about the work that you do (and the work others do) can go a long way in not only the way your leaders view you – but also the way you view your workplace.