In any given day at work, we are faced with a multitude of — often conflicting — priorities. We are trying to keep everyone happy, from our boss to our customers, trying to be productive and sometimes most important, trying to make some money to support ourselves and perhaps our families. Amidst all these priorities, we can sometimes lose sight of the most important goal of any day at work — to do the best work possible. For me, doing the best work possible overrides nearly every other priority.
People often ask me, “What is the most important thing I can do at my job to prevent being laid off?” As you might imagine from my introduction, doing the best work possible is high on that list. Sure, there are situations out of your control and decisions made way above your pay grade that could directly effect your job, but the one thing you can do is what you do best.
Doing your best work means not just doing the job, but reaching beyond the job. It doesn’t mean satisfying a customer, but instead dazzling them with your competence and ability to make things happen. It doesn’t only mean on-time and on-budget, but sometimes it also means creating solutions that are elegant and sometimes even beautiful. It can even mean making yourself as happy as those for whom you work. Doing the best job possible can have many different meanings, but all relate to the stability of your current and future jobs.
This is especially true if you work as a freelancer, as I do. Within large corporations you can often hide your lack of skills — or lack of love — for your job. With so many people it is easy to slack off, slow down and rely on others to do the heavy lifting. As a freelancer, it is often just you and the customer. I don’t have an assistant. I don’t have an appointment secretary. I don’t have an agent. Every customer knows me and I know every customer. This means, of course, that my clients can tell when I am not doing my best. They can tell when I am having an off day. Heck, they can probably tell when I’m not feeling well and should have stayed in bed. When I am not doing my best work, everyone knows it and some of them might not call me a second time. You can imagine the disastrous results if this goes on for any length of time.
So, if you want a test for whether you are doing your best work, think like a freelancer, no matter where you might be working today. Look at each “client” you work with today and try to make an honest decision of whether they would “hire” you a second time. If you were a plumber, would they call you back? Would you leave the house with work incomplete and water spurting everywhere or would you be one of those companies that insist their employees wear paper covers on their boots and clean the entire work site when they are done?
Of course, you may discover that you are NOT doing your best work. What then? Do you lack hard skills that you need? That’s usually easy to remedy with a few training classes or working on a new degree in the evenings, weekends or online. It is harder to solve fundamental problems with your work though. If you don’t love your work — or at least, like it — it is very hard to do your best. You need to be able to develop some small amount of passion towards your work or, on most days, you will simply be going through the motions. In fact, this is a great indication that you probably need to seek different work. Use this knowledge to your own advantage. Start looking for new work before your manager figures out the same thing.
Doing your best work — in whatever way possible — is the best way to benefit your company, maintain your position and be happy with your career. It benefits everyone involved. Your best work helps to keep your company profitable so they can continue to do business and need your work even more. It may seem a simple idea, but don’t discount the importance of it all. Building the career you deserve creates a win-win for everyone.