How to Convert a Task/Duty into a Strategic Contribution

Current employment lifecycleTime and again I receive résumés from individuals who confuse task completion with accomplishment. The task completion is an expectation of your job; an accomplishment is most often above and beyond the expectation of your normal role and responsibilities. For people who load up résumés with one bullet list after another of “duties and responsibilities,” the only way to really get noticed above other candidates is to convert that task or duty into a strategic contribution that has higher value to your employer or organization. It’s a way of thinking beyond the day-to-day trench duties you are involved with; it’s assigning purpose to your efforts.

I came across a great example of this shift in thinking in a book by financial guru, Dave Ramsey, and it involved three different bricklayers:

Once a journalist happened upon a construction site where he noticed a group of bricklayers going about their jobs. As the journalist observed, he became intrigued by the various manners in which the workers performed their duties. For instance, one fellow moved as slowly as possible and looked extremely bored with his work.

“What is it that you are doing here?” the journalist asked.

The bricklayer glared back at the journalist, looking disgusted that anyone would ask a question with such an obvious answer. “What do you think I’m doing?” he bristled. “I’m laying bricks.”

The journalist noticed another worker who seemed to be enjoying his job more than the first man. He had more enthusiasm and seemed to work with more skill. When the journalist asked this man what he was doing, the worker squared his shoulders and replied, “I’m building a wall.”

A third man caught the journalist’s attention. This worker was a joy to watch. One could almost imagine a symphony playing in the background as the craftsman fluidly picked up each brick, prepared it with mortar, and swung it into position. With tremendous pride, he smoothed the extraneous mortar around the edges of each brick, careful to make sure that each brick was placed with precision. It looked as though he thought the entire building would stand or fall according to the way he did his work.

When the journalist asked the third man what he was doing, he stood up with pride and smiled broadly, “I am building a magnificent cathedral to the glory of the Lord,” he replied.

Same building, same job description, what the men were doing was the same thing, but the men had different “whys” and that changed the way they approached their daily work.

(Dave Ramsey, How to Have More Than Enough, p. 83)

So, in your day-to-day work are you laying bricks, building a wall, or doing something more magnificent? As a hiring manager, which attitude do you want to bring onboard?

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