Don’t Get Stuck at the Kids’ Table

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it has me oddly thinking of…careers. How many Thanksgivings did you spend at the kids table? Perhaps some of you are still there – “kids” may be relative in your family! Growing up though, sitting at the kids table, we all wanted a chance to sit with the big kids and the adults, but we never had to think about how we would get there, or more so, what we would do once we were there.

As professionals, we all want the opportunity to get a seat at the proverbial “table.” We may interpret “table” differently, but the underlying ideas are the same – you want your voice heard, to be asked to participate in new opportunities, to be part of the decisions, and to be recognized and rewarded for strong performance. However, unlike Thanksgiving, you don’t just get a seat at this table because you’ve outgrown the kids table, so how do you get that seat?

Perform, perform, perform

At the end of the day, performance wins out. Whether you are making copies or running a business, all you can do is do your best. Even if the task is seemingly meaningless, your reputation is built off of your performance, so give it your all. That one simple task builds into more simple tasks, which eventually transform into you doing something that truly matters.

Promote your personal brand

I wrote about personal brand and branding in my last blog post. Know what you can bring to the table if you are asked. What are your strengths, your passions? What are you known for? Take time to build your skills and carve out a niche. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in a very specific area; it can even be as simple as being known as the person who solves problems or the person who can get things done. In everything you do, leverage that brand and showcase your personal value.

Be a calculated “Yes man”

We can’t say yes to everything. There are many good reasons to say no, in fact. So instead of just being a “yes man,” be calculated about it. At times in your career, things will come up that you don’t particularly want to do or have never done before, but ask yourself the following:

  • Is this something I have a strength in or am willing to learn about?
  • Will it provide my employer or clients with a great benefit or fulfill a need that cannot be fulfilled without my help?
  • How will it impact my reputation?
  • Could this be a leveraging point or learning opportunity for me?

If you find the answer to these questions is yes, then your answer should be too. Often it is these types of situations which prove our true character and commitment and give others the confidence to give us a more important role.

Now that you have proven you deserve a seat at the table, what are you going to do with it? Don’t waste your seat sitting in the background, silently nodding your head in agreement, never having an opinion. Be informed, have an opinion, and share it. Ultimately, isn’t that why you wanted to get there to begin with?

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