I’m a few months into a new role at my day job that I love, and I found myself wondering…
This is great, but how did I get here?
After looking back on my career, talking with other professionals, and reading about career climbers, I saw two major themes about the way we work propelling us forward into a position for future opportunities – you can outwork or outperform.
Outworking is straight forward. This is where you start early, stay late, and get more done in a day than your peers. This is hustle culture. It’s doing whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for what’s next. I used to use this method exclusively early in my career. Being a young manager, I was hungry to grow and to be taken seriously. It was easy to get noticed when you volunteer for extra assignments, when you can drop everything and jump on a plane, or you can give up your weekend to prep a presentation for the big boss.
Then there’s outperforming. This takes strategy. The work results have to be better, the insights smarter, and the plan more compelling. Outperforming doesn’t care how long you worked. In fact, we all know top performers are super smart about how they spend their time. You don’t find them at meetings where they aren’t adding value. They aren’t glued to their laptop at all hours. They take time to think, to plan, and to seek input along the way.
As Marshall Goldsmith famously said, “what got you here, won’t get you there.” Outworking used to be my default, and it seemed to be working as the promotions rolled in. Yet, as I progressed in my career, I also progressed in my personal life. I got married, we had children, and now my evening and weekend time took on a level of importance and value that a job just couldn’t compete with no matter how much I enjoyed the work.
I had to find a new way.
When you start to live a full life, it forces you to get serious about how to work better. If we all have the same amount of hours in the day, then we need a way of working that produced the kind of RESULTS that get noticed, and not rely on my car being first in the parking lot or my status dot staying green into the evening.
Let’s get tactical.
Ideas for how you can position yourself to get ahead by outperforming
- Deliver really excellent work for high priority items – not perfect, but excellent. This takes time and focus; time you don’t have if you don’t block it out during peak creation hours. You can’t bounce from video call to video call all day and then pull a fantastic presentation together using your 5 o’clock brain.
- Get input. Good work solicits feedback. But great work? That requires research, talking with stakeholders, pushing on their ideas and getting curious about assumptions, asking questions, and taking a step back to really think about the audience whether it’s a spreadsheet, a presentation deck, a document, or timeline and incorporating all of this into a work product that delivers at the next level.
- Be visible. If you work in a hybrid environment, it means showing up to your office when it counts, making the space in your schedule for hallway conversations, grabbing tea in the breakroom, and connecting with others. When you’re remote, it means going on camera when you’re speaking, or engaging in a discussion. Your non-verbals are important! It also means voicing questions and ideas, and supporting the ideas of others all in service of achieving a better result.
Outperforming may not be talked about as much as hustle, but I have found it is the most sustainable way for professionals to move forward in their career.
While my days on relying solely on outworking to get ahead have passed, there’s still value in leaning into an all out sprint while prepping for the big presentation, supporting a product launch, or when things go wrong. I know when I’m in this mode, it’s temporary, and rest is coming when the moment is over.
Are you ready to outperform?