By Carly Rome
When starting a new job, many young professionals seek advice on how to assimilate to a company’s culture, or to office life in general. We often start out by aiming to please, devoting our entire selves to meeting expectations and fitting seamlessly into the philosophies and ways of doing things that our bosses and coworkers demonstrate from the start.
This assimilation is often referred to as “drinking the Kool-Aid,” a pretty tasteless reference to The Jonestown Massacre that pops up in LinkedIn advice articles on a regular basis.
What we’re rarely told, however, is how to maintain that behavior while not losing sight of our own self expectations and desires to grow. As a result, we run the risk of losing any skills that we may have started developing earlier – in college courses, in previous jobs or in our personal lives – that may not be immediately necessary in our new role. And that’s dangerous. None of us want to be corporate drones, and redundancy is known to crush creativity.
The truth is, building and maintaining a personal brand after you’ve landed a job is just as important as it is during the job hunt. As young employees, we often feel fortunate to even have a job and eager to do what is necessary to fit in with the company’s culture and philosophy. While that’s important, what’s more important is finding your piece of the puzzle and recognizing how your whole self can be applied to your job.
When you have a skill set that is unique from your coworkers, it makes you invaluable. So while you should never stop learning from others in the office, they can’t be your only sources of knowledge. Get out and network, talk to people from other companies and agencies, and take some free online courses. Soon enough, you’ll be offering up new insights, doing types of creative work that even your boss hasn’t tackled, and contributing at work in ways that others haven’t.
While that should be reason enough to broaden your horizons and set yourself apart, an even better incentive is your own marketability. For generations before us, workers aimed to stay at their companies for years, typically decades, in pursuit of stability and growth. But that’s not all that is important anymore.
Our generation–especially those of us in the fast-paced, startup-driven media, technology and marketing worlds–is rewriting the standards. In fact, many of us are rejecting the idea of having one corporate position and pursuing careers that are entirely freelance. If you plan on ever moving on to better things and developing a professional identify outside of your current position, you need to ensure that your job isn’t all you know.
Have an eye for design, but only got hired to write copy or do administrative work? Start learning some basic Photoshop or InDesign skills, or make your first infographic. Have a knack for social media, and work as a cashier, barista or server at a small business? Offer to help your company with online marketing and promotion.
Going beyond your job description will not only make you a stand-out employee, but it will make your work life more exciting and tailored to you as an individual.