In a previous blog, we discussed how focusing heavily on your flexibility (being a “Swiss Army Knife” employee) could unintentionally sabotage your career advancement. So if that’s not a good strategy, what are best ways to drive intentional advancement?

Focus on your impact, not your flexibility.  

Rather than thinking about it in terms of things or tasks you can do, think about it in terms of your approach to work.  Think about what makes you particularly good professionally – not just what you know or what you can do, but the magic of how you put it all together.  Are you really good at cutting through the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter? Do you drive people to consensus and get them to act as a unit? Do you have a sixth sense of what customers will find valuable? Do you drive efficiency and reduce costs?

Here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself to solidify how to position yourself in a focused and impactful way:

  • Make a list of accomplishments and success stories you tell about projects or initiatives of which you’re particularly proud. Review them and ask yourself: What do they have in common? Is there a common theme or approach you took that drove those successes?
  • How do your colleagues talk about you? How do they introduce or describe you?
  • What’s the impact of your work? How does it drive your company’s success or further the mission? How do you connect what you do to results? Do you have a systemic impact? If so, how do you describe it?

The trick is to come up with no more than three things that you want a hiring manager or leadership to know and remember about you. They can be specific talents or approaches, success stories, impacts, etc., but make sure they’re focused, specific, and meaningful. Make them the anchor of your story, of the narrative you tell about yourself.

Focus on the impact, not simply the tasks or skillsets. Have the courage to focus on what makes you special, what makes your work impactful. Leaders are hired and promoted because companies and organizations understand how they can drive results, not just do work. The more deeply you understand your ability to make an impact – and learn how to talk about it – the more opportunities you’ll find to advance your career.