2010 Career Challenge: O = Ownership

By Skip Lineberg

Ownership? How could that possibly be advice suited for a young professional? After all, in the truest sense, a new employee is about as far removed from company ownership as Topeka, Kansas is from the Adriatic Sea.

Actually, ownership is crucial. If you want to get noticed and move up the corporate ladder, you need to begin to take ownership of your assignments at work. If that still sounds like fluff, perhaps you should look a little deeper into the topic. Anyone, regardless of rank or title, can think and act like an owner. The great news is that it’s not hard to do…and you can put this lesson into practice immediately.

Case in point. You are asked to develop a guest list for an upcoming customer outing. Your boss gives you the assignment via email and tosses a half-dozen random contact lists on your desk. You could:

a) Label it as “yet another lowly, busy-work project that’s beneath me” and begin sulking. Remember, of course, to text your best friend about how your job is on a bullet train to downtown Nowheresville.

b) Go visit Trudy up in the administrative office and see if you can slough the assignment off to her. Heck, she seems to have tons of free time.

c) Decide to own this assignment and set your mind to “knock this one out of the park.” You look beyond the initial task, resolving to establish yourself as a driving force behind the best customer outing the company has ever conducted. With a sense of optimism and purpose, you happily delve into the work.

Without question, ownership begins with a mindset. It involves accepting the work, seeing the bigger picture, and cherishing the opportunity–regardless of the task. But there are plenty of ways to carry out that philosophy. Following are a few demonstrable ways of putting your ownership outlook into action:

  • Express gratitude for the assignment (but don’t go overboard, here)
  • Adopt and maintain a positive, helpful attitude (crucial yet, sadly, becoming ever more scarce)
  • Ask questions. Turn the assignment into an occasion for face time with your supervisor. Request a 10-minute meeting where you can ask questions to learn more about your assignment and to understand where and how it may fit into the bigger picture. (Note: This shows vision and accountability on your part)
  • Report back to your boss with progress updates (weekly is best)
  • Beat your deadline. Turn your work in a day early. If you weren’t given a deadline, be proactive and ask when your part of the work is due–and to whom should it be delivered.

Postscript and personal side-bar story: Technically, I am part-owner of a company. Around our office, the kitchen/break room is an important place. It’s where we gather, a place where bonding occurs, stories are told, and folks come to rejuvenate. Invariably, once or twice a week, I find a sink full of dirty dishes, and a full dishwasher. Instead of cursing the situation and calling for someone to “come and handle this mess,” I roll up my sleeves, unload the dishwasher and transfer the dishes from the sink. It’s a trivial, unglamorous, often-messy job that I have come to embrace. In my mind, it’s a chance for me to do my part, to take ownership of the situation, and to demonstrate to my colleagues that no job is beneath me.

Do you have the same outlook?

Note: This is Part 15 in a series called the “2010 Career Challenge: Becoming a Rock Star from A to Z” by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg, co-authors of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job.

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