Not Everyone Is A Rock Star At Work. And That’s OK.

Career professionals are always advising job seekers that they need to always try to quantify their results and showcase their top achievements.

But oftentimes, when I talk to clients, something that comes up in discussions is that they frequently don’t feel like they are a rock star that has super-stand out accomplishments.

What I hear is:

“I just show up every day and do my job right.”

“My job isn’t very important – I just answer the phones.”

“We met the goals – didn’t exceed them due to the economy, but we met the goals anyway.”

“My job doesn’t have that kind of responsibility.”

But the truth is, every job exists for a reason. It has a role to play in the overall operation of the company.  Take yourself out of the equation, and a piece of the business drops out, things get missed, and possibly break down.

And this boils down to one thing: EVERYONE has value in an organization.  And you need to have mental ownership of what that value in order to be able to convey that to an employer.

But this doesn’t mean that you had to be the one who rode in on a galloping white horse to save the day.

on the job tips and goalsIt doesn’t mean that you saved the company millions of dollars.

And it doesn’t mean that you landed a top client that brought in a huge amount of revenue.

What matters is that you did your job the best that you could, and can talk about how it helped the company.

There IS value in doing your job right… day in and day out. After all, that’s what you are paid to do.  Sometimes, there simply aren’t opportunities for you to have a lasting and significant contributions to a company that has numbers attached to it, and stands out like your name on a flashing marquee.

But tying back your work to company goals shows impact.  We each control a universe that we can impact – if we do the sum of our jobs right, then that feeds into another area of the company, which then feeds into the bigger picture of the company’s operation.  It’s all there for a reason, and there is a work flow and method to the madness.

Your job is to figure out how you help things move along. And then be able to talk about it in your resume and in the interview.   If you can talk about the value of what you do in a way that is compelling to an employer, then they will be persuaded to see what you might possibly do for them.

If you are concerned about trying to make a bigger contribution than what your current work allows, then there are a few things you can do to boost your results.

  • Ask for more work.
  • Ask for more responsibility.
  • Take on special projects.
  • Step up to serve on committees.
  • Set up metrics to measure results – many companies fail in this arena anyway.

Any of these tactics can give you opportunities to have a bigger splash. But if you aren’t inclined to do so, or the opportunity doesn’t allow for it, then instead focus on how you can illustrate the work that you do that leads to departmental or organizational successes, even if you aren’t directly contributing to it.

The more you can own the value of what you do contribute, the fact that you aren’t a “rock star” becomes less critical in the eyes of potential employers.


Mike Petras

Really enjoyed reading your article this morning. When I was a hiring manager for a major corporation some of my best employees were the "steady Eddies" who day in and day out just did their job. They were the backbone of my department and I could always depend on them to deliver. They were also easy to manage because they didn't have huge egos.
I knew a small company that would only hire "water walkers". They had unusually high turn over because there weren't enough promotions to satisfy the career goals of these over achievers.

Dawn Rasmussen

Thanks, Mike. 🙂 You said it: "Backbone of the department" – many people are the "glue" that holds the division together, not the glitter. But if you have a piece of paper with glitter on it, the glitter slides right off. The glue is what gets the glitter to be where it needs to be, and is equally important.

Steve Levy

The double-edged sword of talent acquisition and management that won't be spoken about too loudly in public HR circles has to do with the battle between hiring managers and HR over the optimal percentage of superstars. On the one hand, hiring managers are weaned to believe that only superstars can get the work done (and most HR people buy into this lie) but on the other hand, hiring average with aptitude can (a) get a person into "up and running" mode quicker and (b) demonstrate to hiring managers that superstardom isn't aways desirable.

The fact is that most of the population is average – yep, average. It's a statistical phenomenon – 84% of the population – of ANYTHING – is average or worse. There just aren't enough superstars to go around and this message is one that HR has had difficulty explaining.

But the way to become better is simply to ask for more and deliver more; you might find that you have a limit or you just might surprise yourself and blast past the internal barriers that you and others have created.

If you don't try, you'll never know.

BTW Dawn…

Kelly Blokdijk

Another great article, Dawn. This also makes me think of the fact that (rock stars or not) many of us are knowledge workers that are relied upon for our expertise, guidance and leadership within our niche functions. We contribute constantly to keep things running smoothly by providing advice, counsel and coaching, yet much of our efforts and interventions are not easily quantifiable in the traditional sense.

Of course the work we do corresponds to the overall mission and purpose of the organization, but it isn't always as simple as it seems to align that with bottom-line ROI, profitability, productivity, cost-savings or other tangible metrics. Much of the time our impact is simultaneously influenced by forces and inputs beyond our scope of control, making it challenging to claim credit for positive outcomes and/or unrealistic to accept blame for less than ideal results.

In no way does that mean we aren't adding value and performing an essential and necessary role, but it is far different than the person who can directly generate revenue or show an immediate result to their work product.

As a career services provider and resume writer, I've noticed a growing push (from others in similar capacities) for job seekers to place far more emphasis on showing only "results" when in some cases doing so can actually dilute their overall message. Typically, employers are looking for evidence of basic tactical competence at least as much as demonstration of differentiation between the average worker and the rock stars.

Some of the key, day-to-day qualifications that are being sought in any given job category may not sound as sexy and exciting as the big once every few years accomplishments that people are responsible for, yet not telling a balanced story could cause that person to be overlooked if that is the resume screening criteria. Obviously, all of that is highly subjective and depends on each person's unique situation.

Dawn Rasmussen

Thanks, Kelly! EVERYONE is important and has value- it doesn't mean that the non-rock stars aren't superb performers… it's exactly the opposite in many cases. But understanding the importance of what it takes to do a job right day in and day out to the overall success of the company is really what everyone should be willing to own mentally! 🙂

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