Are You an Office MVP?

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

When it comes to your job, it’s easy to assume your employer holds all the cards. You depend on your boss for a paycheck, and he or she often has the final say when it comes to raises, promotions and plum assignments.

But you also are a valuable asset to your employer, and that gives you more power than you might think. No company can stay in business very long without a reliable workforce, which is why firms frequently go to great lengths to motivate and retain great employees.

Are you one of those great employees?

Here are five questions to ask yourself to find out if you are an office MVP (most valuable person):

  1. Are you checked in — or just phoning it in? Employee engagement is the Holy Grail for managers because an engaged workforce turns an average company into a great one. If you’re not showing your employer every day that you understand and are committed to the company’s mission, you may not be living up to your full potential in his or her eyes.
  2. Do you make customers your top priority? Yes, it’s true: With very few exceptions, the customer is always right. Without paying customers, a company has no revenue stream. Without revenue, the business can’t survive. And if the business disappears, so do its jobs. You can significantly increase your value to your employer simply by going out of your way to make customers happy. If your name appears frequently in Yelp reviews or customer satisfaction surveys, it’s hopefully because you provided outstanding service. Customer favorites are also employer favorites.
  3. If you see something that needs to be done, do you do it without being asked? Initiative is extremely attractive to employers. In fact, it’s one of the first qualities employers include in job postings when describing their ideal candidates. You can make yourself indispensible to a busy manager simply by being a problem-solver. When pointing out challenges or potential roadblocks to the boss, always come armed with ways to overcome them. Even the little things count. If you see a mess in the break room, do you ignore it or clean it up? I like a tidy workspace, so it’s not unusual to see me clearing off someone else’s kitchen mess. It’s not my job or my mess, but someone has to take the initiative, and it might as well be me. As for those inconsiderate coworkers who regularly leave behind spills, crumbs and dirty dishes, well, that’s a different column.
  4. Are you open to new ideas or ways of doing things? Businesses are constantly changing their processes and strategies to remain competitive and keep pace with rapid changes in technology. Being seen as someone who is flexible and can adapt to new systems without being overwhelmed can be a form of career insurance. If technology is your strong suit, for instance, try volunteering to train others on your company’s new software. If you have devised a better way to organize a project or task, share your ideas with coworkers and your boss. Above all, avoid being locked into outdated processes or ways of thinking: Business is moving too fast these days for anyone to be standing still.
  5. Does your boss trust you with key projects or responsibilities? Perhaps the biggest indicator of your value to your employer is your job description. Your boss needs people he or she can rely on. If you are regularly tasked with high-profile or highly complex assignments, it is because your employer feels you are up to the challenge. You have instilled confidence, and that greatly raises your value quotient.

It’s important to know your value to your employer because it affects your self-worth and your earnings potential. Hiring mistakes are costly to companies, and they will do whatever they can to retain their best people. This means that if you are an MVP, you have some bargaining power when it comes to your job duties and your salary. Confidence is appealing, so never sell yourself short.

Incidentally, Robert Half has a variety of salary resources that can help you determine what your skills are worth in today’s market. Our 2014 Salary Guides are available now.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

The Success Diaries: Ashley Foxx

Dear 23-year-old Ashley,

Right now, you have no idea that you are laying the foundation for your future. Seize every opportunity, knock on every door, glean from every experience.

Those dreams that keep you up at night will finally become a reality. You just have to be brave enough to take that leap of faith. You have to be relentless enough to sacrifice some sleep, nights out with the girls and even those shoes you’ve been eyeing.

Now, before you head down this path to success, let me give you my five must-remember tips:

5. For a season, for a reason – As you and your life begin to take shape, some people, places and things just aren’t going to fit anymore. You might outgrow some relationships and friendships. Never burn a bridge, but don’t be afraid to cross and walk away from one either.

4. “Fall down seven times, get up eight” – Girl, you are going to make so many mistakes. Be humble and strategic. Own up to them but learn from them. Then, seek advice from wiser council so that you don’t make that same mistake twice.

3. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – You must stay connected to your network and tap into your resources. All of those former classmates, colleagues and acquaintances have a wealth of knowledge and contacts. Nuture those relationships and remember to help others.

2. “Be your own cheerleader” – Not everyone is going to be as excited about your dreams as you. You also can’t share your dream with everyone. Don’t get discouraged. Find allies who want to hear about your vision and will work with you to help your business grow. Also, market yourself and your products outside your inner circle and start building a loyal customer base.

1. Don’t ever give up. You are stronger than you think.

Love,

30-year-old Ashley Foxx

 

Ashley Foxx, an author, educator, and artist, fell in love with children’s books while teaching  kindergarten and first grade in Memphis, TN. She absolutely loves telling stories, creating art and, of course, causing mischief. She collaborated with her sister, April Foxx, on their first children’s book, Keisha Cane and Her Very Sweet Tooth. Ms. Foxx has been featured in Glamour Magazine, Grace Magazine, The Commercial Appeal and on Essence.com, Black Enterprise.com, and Clutch.com. Ms. Foxx is also the Executive Director of Kifani, Incorporated, a small media and publishing company based in Memphis, TN. Kifani’s current project, Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama has been featured in Ebony Magazine and on Essence.com, Ebony.com, Colorlines.com and Huffington Post. Find her on twitter @foxxology, on facebook at facebook.com/authorashleyfoxx and on her website, www.foxxology.com.

Book Shelf: Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”

In our spirit of “self-awareness” this month, we wanted to bring to you Mindy Kaling. Actress, screenwriter, and now author, Kaling infuses her works with comedic reflections on her own life. Her novel Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is another avenue for Kaling to remind women everywhere that it is always OK to laugh at yourself.

Filled with the humor Kaling exudes in her television shows “The Mindy Project” and “The Office,” Kaling does not hold back in her endeavors as a novelist. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? gives readers a look into the life of this Sri Lankan transplant and the lessons she learned growing up in a house with strict, professional parents and developing a career in the world of show business.

Funny and at the same time humble, Kaling brings to light the realities behind success. She highlights her own issues with self-esteem, insecurities with men, and even shop-a-holic tendencies. With each chapter dedicated to a nuanced piece of Mindy’s life, she relays witty yet poignant words of wisdom, teaching women on how to master life-complicating topics, from best friends to boyfriends to dealing with a not-so-great boss. She even provides tips on how to handle crying in public, because lets face it, this has happened to all of us at least one time or another. Kaling’s novel brings laughter to the subtle realities women face everyday, and for that we love her.

While Tina Fey taught us it’s OK to be bossy, Mindy Kaling reminds us it is OK to be comfortable in our own skin. So pick up Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? this month and get ready to laugh, cry, and laugh again as you are reminded that life is inevitably an emotional rollercoaster; buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Transitioning Your Wardrobe from Summer to Fall

As the seasons begin to change, it’s easy to get wrapped up in creating the perfect fall wardrobe. The idea of needing to spend your hard earned paycheck to overhaul your closet with coolerweather work wear can be as scary for women as a horror movie on Halloween. But have no fear! Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean the maxi dress you’ve been wearing all summer is out of style just yet. In fact, there are many ways to convert your summer styles into autumn staples. With our tips, you will have a whole new wardrobe awaiting you this fall without spending a dime.

Autumn is all about heavier fabrics and darker colors, so the white linen suit you have been rocking at the office all summer might have to take a hiatus in October. However, that black or navy jersey sundress that you are about to pack away with your bathing suit can easily make a great addition to your fall wardrobe. The thickness and versatility of jersey fabric makes it a great year round option. Pair your once-summer sundress with a blazer and you’ve got a stylish, and seasonally appropriate, ensemble that won’t break your budget.

Many of us are also quick to put away our skirts until next year, but by slipping on a pair of tights, these items are an easy to transition into your fall wardrobe. What about the summer tank tops that you’re thinking couldn’t possibly be worn in the winter? Don’t send those into boxes too quickly either; these tops make amazing layering pieces as the temperature drops. Tank tops avoid the bulkiness that comes with trying to fit a long sleeve shirt under a cardigan and are an easy way to add a pop of color to any outfit. In fact, according to the fashion powers-that-be at Vogue, pastel colors are in this fall, so take advantage of all those summery hued shirts that normally spend the cooler months in the back of your closet.

When it comes to footwear, flats are the best non-season-specific option a career girl can find. Worn spring, summer, fall, and even winter, flats are a wardrobe staple. If you are going to invest in a new pair, our suggestion for the stylish and savvy shopper would be to pick practical colors like black, greys, blues, and beiges which can be worn all year long. From ballet flats to loafers, you can give your legs a little break from all those high heels, while still keeping your feet warm!

If you follow our guidelines, preparing your closet for fall will no longer feel like a scare tactic— and definitely won’t be a drag on your bank account. And as always with fashion, make sure to use your best judgment. Anything too short or too low-cut is too inappropriate for the office, no matter what season it is.

And just remember: clutter prevents amazing outfits from securing the spotlight in your wardrobe, so make a point to clean out your closet once a season and get rid of the things you just don’t wear anymore. There’s no need to wait until spring! Rule of thumb: if you haven’t worn it in one year, you probably won’t be wearing it next year. Use this purge as an opportunity to help your fellow women out and donate your lightly worn business attire to your local Dress for Success or clothing drive.