Bosses Don’t Give Gold Stars: Pay Your Dues
Over the years, I’ve learned valuable on-the-job lessons, lessons that were amplified once I became a believing Christian. One important principle is that you’ve got to pay your dues.
In any job, it’s important to understand you have been hired to fill a position on a team with one critical mission: to make and sustain the organization’s profitability. You have a role to play in this mission, but it’s not the starring role. In fact, you have to prove yourself to the rest of the team that you are worthy of that role. It’s called paying your dues. To that end, you need to know that no one really cares about how fulfilled you are—or are not—in this role. It’s not about you, but about the organization.
I lead a small documentary film company, but it’s not unusual that I receive unsolicited résumés. Most come with sincere letters explaining how much the applicant likes film, how the applicant grew up watching film, and how the applicant loves to travel and how filmmaking can provide that opportunity.
Honestly, I dismiss those letters right away. Don’t tell me how a job at my company can fulfill all your dreams. Tell me why I need you for my company’s critical mission. Then I will know you understand the big picture and that you might make a significant contribution.
Your goal with any new job is to figure out how to add value. Know exactly how your position contributes to the company’s bottom line. Be prepared. If you don’t know, ask informed questions, but only after you have done some research. Never ask busy people questions that you have not researched. I repeat: Don’t make other people do your homework. Those of us who were already working when the digital age arrived marvel at the wealth of information available through “the interwebs.” Fire up your keyboard and do your homework so that you can come up with the one really insightful question that proves your worth simply because you figured out what was valuable to ask.
One more vitally important tip: Respond. As in, respond to your emails. Respond to your phone calls. Respond to your invitations. Never think it’s a good idea to ignore your boss, your clients or your colleagues. Or anyone who is trying to throw a party, plan a wedding, or invite you to dinner, for that matter. It doesn't matter if you “don’t do email” or you “don’t like talking on the phone.” Get a response back in a timely manner because it honors others’ work and time. These few practices will show that you understand the process of paying your dues and will help you move up in an organization.