No Task is Too Small
I recently started a new job, almost 4 years to the day from when I started my first “real” job after graduating from college. After college I joined a company of over-achievers and of people who got things done and somehow I managed to distinguish myself as an over-achiever and as a person who got things done.
Starting at a new company I was reflecting back on what I did to be successful at my last company, and I realized that many of items necessary to be successful just starting a career are also necessary when starting with a new company.
If you’re going to start out your career working with SAP, hopefully you graduated from an institution with a high caliber SAP program such as Grand Valley State Universities’ ERP Program. Hopefully, you had exceptional professors such as Dr Simha Magal, Prof Meagan Knoll or Prof Thomas McGinnis. If so, you are starting out ahead of the curve. If not, no worries, I have faith you will succeed.
When I began my career, I had about a two year jump on everyone else I started with. While they were learning what SAP was, how to log in, what a PR was and where to create one, I was executing Test Cases and doing value added (obligatory buzzword) work from day one. I had already contributed to configuring an entire companies basic business processes in SAP for a business case (I detailed the creation story of the GBI business case in a 12 part blog. Read Part 1 here). I had written documentation. I had completed testing. I wasn’t a seasoned expert, but I had some skills and I knew it.
Starting out like this it’s easy to think that some assignments your supervisor will give you are beneath you: they are too easy, they aren’t challenging, they aren’t “important”, they aren’t strategic for you, and they won’t help you get promoted. I never actually said “no, I don’t want to do that”, but I played the games: “well, I have this and that on my plate right now,” “wouldn’t so and so be better for this, they have XYZ experience”, etc.
The lesson I eventually learned was this: it is not beneath you. No task is too small. Starting out, there is no such thing as an un-important assignment. To put it another way; your street credibility is zero.
Every task, every project, every assignment is a chance for you to shine and to add to your credibility. Every task that you think is beneath you is an opportunity for you to show what you are capable of. It’s a chance for you to knock it out of the park. It’s a chance for you to show that you can be trusted, that you get things done.
If you knock the less challenging tasks out the park, the more challenging task will follow.
I probably would have continued along on my way, if it wasn’t for an article I happened to come across online (I wish I would have saved the link to it now). I’ll paraphrase it for you: stop being an idiot, no task is beneath you. So you killed it in the interview, but that was the interview, this is the job. You talked the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk. You said you have skills, now prove it. Your new boss, they probably don’t know you. They don’t know what you are capable of handling, and what is over your head. Why would they take the risk of giving you that complex assignment if you haven’t proven capable of handling a simple assignment?
After that, I changed my thinking. No task was too small. Now I said (and continue to say): “I’ll get it done.” And I deliver. Always.
For example: your supervisor just asked you to pull every PR for 5 material numbers for the last year. Easy. You can have that done in 15 minutes (depending on how fast your system is). Now go one step further. Format it nicely in Microsoft Excel, trim Spaces, make sure the data is the same font size/style/color, remove blank rows, give the columns headers and freeze the top row, add a worksheet to the beginning of the workbook and create a Title Sheet. Bam, gold star. Presentation is worth a lot as long as it is proportional to the material you are delivering.
Those easy tasks soon turned into more challenging tasks. It wasn’t long before I was given data requests that had 50 different selection criteria, required me to pull data from 25 different tables, asked for 100 different fields, and required me to match it all up in Excel in a presentable format. Why was I the lucky recipient of these data requests? I had proven I could do the job by accurately completing the less complex data requests. Simple as that.
This isn’t a black and white rule, there are gray areas. If you just graduated with a PHD in Information Systems and you’re being asked to do something from your undergraduate days, you might have other fish to fry. Generally; however, no task is too small.
All views in this blog are purely my own, and in no way represent, explicitly or implied, the views of my previous or current employer. While I honestly believe that what I’ve shared will help you, I can’t guarantee that it will get you that promotion or make your boss like you.