What Is Your Value?

How does the company you work for value you? You may think it is what you know and can do, and it is when you are first hired. However, how you are valued changes very quickly over the first year.

In order to get a job, you must have experience and be able to do the job you are hired for. If you come in as a contractor, you are expected to start performing immediately. However, when you are hired as an employee, you have a few months to land in the job. Why the difference? As an employee the company is making a long term investment in you and is willing to help you fit into the company. In return they expect you will grow your skills and grow others to replace you so you can move to more impactful positions.   

When a company hires you as an employee, the company spends quite a bit of money to recruit and bring you on board. They expect you to have the skills, or at least most of the skills, for the job you were hired to perform. However, if you were hired the company also sees you as a good fit for the culture, and believes you have the ability to do more. Short term, they seek to recoup their investment by letting you use your skills to do the job, but the hope and goal is to grow you out of the position and on to more impactful roles in the company.

Early in my career I felt that my skills in my position defined my worth to the company I worked for. I saw many of my peers who felt the same way. Some would take the extra step of hoarding the knowledge that made them successful. They did not realize that part of their value to the company was passing on their skills. That is a bad approach to take. Rather, might I suggest a different approach:

  • Find a mentor. Seek out the business manager for your group and ask them to mentor you, either formally or informally. Your goal is to understand the business for your group and for the company. Learn what they value and where you fit in the company in their achieving those goals. Work with them to assess your current skills and discover what a good next position would be for you.
  • Pass your skills on. As you mentor others and they grow to be as effective as you, it will be possible to take a position that is more important to the company than your current one. Most leaders call this succession planning, and it is necessary. Leaders cannot move on until they train someone to be a good replacement for them. Most companies have a high potential program where they accelerate career growth for employees they see high potential in. One of the skills looked for is the ability to grow others and share your skills.
  • Plan your future. As you grow your skills and understanding of the business, you can look at other positions that are a good next step for you. The hiring manager for the new position will not expect you to have all of the skills for the new position, but the ability to quickly fill the gap in your skills to perform at the new level. Your new manager can help assess the gap in your skills and help you to fill the gaps and to be successful in the new position.
  •  Grow and then stop. You own your life, your goals, and your career. Grow while you want to and then stop. Once you are happy with your position and your work/life balance, you can choose to stop if you want or continue to grow. The choice is yours. If you want to be an individual contributor, do it. If you want to be a manager or manager of managers, do that.   
  • Remember, its business. Some companies will let you grow to a level you are happy with and stop. Other companies will expect you to continue to grow and when you want to stop, they will help you move out and put someone who wants to grow in your place. You are not a victim, the companies are not mean. Your goals and a company’s culture will probably not be aligned through your entire career so expect the opportunity to look elsewhere.

You own your value to a company. The immediate value is in doing the job you were hired for well, the long-term value lies in what you can do in the future. Work on both and enjoy the ride!   

Andy Ruth 
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program