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What Changing Jobs Teaches You — About You

If you stay within a role, you will continue to grow your knowledge. But you will find it difficult to identify your qualities and attributes. This is the importance of changing roles and having conversations about value.


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Leon Purton

4 months ago | 5 min read
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You need to learn that qualities trump skills in bringing value

Huddled around the desk in the small conference room, we discussed the importance of changing roles within work.

I talked about how much you learn about yourself in starting a new job. My mentee asked me, but what if I don’t have the right skills?

This is a common concern identified when people are seeking out new roles. But there is a secret, one that it takes some perspective to see, and that is that changing roles is significant in teaching you one key thing.

What can I do to bring value, even when I don’t have the skills?

In over 20 years in the military, I have had to change jobs every three years. It taught me about what you learn through changing roles so regularly.

I’ll explain the importance of value conversations, and what it is that changing roles really teaches you.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Why it is important to have conversations about value at work

I’m going to let you in on a big secret.

If you can do these two things, you will succeed at work. In fact, scratch that, if you can do these two things, you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to.

  1. Have a conversation about what you can do to bring value right now.
  2. Do the thing, repeatedly.

The more times you can talk about bringing value and becoming aware of how you can bring value, the more you will become valuable.

If I were to characterise why I think I continue to be successful in work, it would be because I have consistent conversations about value. For example, what is valuable, how do I contribute to it, what makes it valuable to them, how can I bring value right now, etc?

There are two practices I have put into place and are now regular parts of the conversation I have. These are the two questions I regularly ask about value; stop, start and continue, and valuable and important.

Stop, Start, Continue

This is the first regular practice I have set up. A series of three questions helps me understand what I am doing and what I am not but should be. I ask this series of questions of my mentee’s, the customers I interact with (not every time, but in a formal cadenced structure), my boss, and my fiancé. For me, it is about continuous improvement, or growth, a core value of mine.

This question series opens up a door for a conversation about improving the relationship.

These are the questions I ask;

  1. What is something I should stop doing because it no longer brings value?
  2. What is something I should start doing because it could bring value?
  3. What is something I should continue to do because it absolutely brings value?

This question series is important for many reasons. It highlights where you can maximise your impact, where you are expending energy that isn’t really useful, and where you can learn what other people are really finding valuable.

You will find that the third question is the easiest to answer, the first the hardest as it is always easier to validate the things going well than to tell someone that what they are doing isn’t effective.

This question series unearths things. The next question opens your eyes and re-enforces the positives you bring.

Valuable and Important

My mentees now know that when we get to the end of our hour-long session together, I will ask them what is the most valuable or important thing they took away from this conversation?

This is a regular closer in these meetings, and I again use it when doing customer demonstrations. I ask this question for two specific reasons.

Firstly, I am genuinely interested in what they took away as valuable or important because this allows me to reflect and bring more of that in the future. Secondly, it implants the memory of something valuable or important coming from our conversation, making them more likely to want to continue the conversation in the future.

This question is important in group settings as well, as it highlights that their perspective on value is different. Having a group of people reflect on what they took away as valuable allows the collective to realise that they extracted more value than they originally thought.

Having more conversations about value at work will bring around a realisation, a self-identity, about how to bring value. This is important for the next part of this article.

Changing jobs or roles teaches you — about you.

Photo by stefan moertl on Unsplash

As I reflected on the question that my mentee asked about their concern on whether they had the right skills for the new role. I realised that many people worry too much about skills or competencies and not enough about qualities and attributes.

This is an important distinction for individuals to make. To separate their skills and competencies, which are learnt over time and not always transferable between roles or jobs, and the qualities and attributes they bring to the role, which are part of who they are and are always transferable.

When you first start out in the workforce, you bring all what you know about yourself and what you have learnt through school and other learning to the role. As you develop skills and competence in your first role you start to bring more and more value. You seek to get better and better, learn more, and progress within your role.

However, you only learn about the ‘you’ that exists within that role. At that time, that version of you is a mix of the skills and competencies you have picked up, and your innate qualities and attributes. The things is, most of the value you can see about yourself is attached to what you have learnt. The skills and competencies you have acquired.

Not the value you bring, the value the knowledge you have brings. You need to learn how to separate what you now from the value you bring.

The knowledge you have about how you bring value is identified through understanding your qualities and attributes, those things about you that people and organisations find value.

The best way to learn this is to go to a job where you reduce your skills and competence, and have to work out how you can be valuable as early as possible. You change jobs.

Changing jobs forces you to face the fact that you don’t know everything you need to be successful, you cannot rely on your knowledge.

You need to dig in to your essence, you need to understand what it is that you can do to bring value without knowing all the information. This is where you learn about your qualities and attributes.

Your qualities and attributes are about the things that make you valuable regardless of the situation. You learn about them when you are placed within new situations.

Changing roles is the perfect mechanism for recognising these.

Are you good at organising complicated projects? Are you good at lifting the performance of the team?Are you good at asking questions, or are you a good written communicator? Are you good at organising presentations, or good at improving the flow of work?

These are important things to realise and help you understand how you can bring value without deep knowledge on a topic or within a role. Once you understand these, you will never fear changing jobs, and will take this confidence with you wherever you choose to go.

If you stay within a role, you will continue to grow your knowledge. But you will find it difficult to identify your qualities and attributes. This is the importance of changing roles and having conversations about value.

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Leon Purton

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Inspired by life. Leadership, Growth, Personal Development. Engineer and Sports Enthusiast. Top Writer in Leadership. https://medium.com/@spurtapurton


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