In managing your career asset, ask yourself “what can I contribute?”

With all the economic, social and public health upheaval we’re going through, it’s easy to feel helpless because of circumstances outside of our control. Last month my colleague, Mike Haubrich, wrote about two habits of career sustainability: networking and continuous learning. A third habit is benchmarking your skills and compensation to make sure you’re able to compete in a continuously evolving job market. Ultimately, compensation is a function of your contribution. The more you’re able to contribute, the more you’ll be able to earn.

Often, earnings are viewed through a financial lens which is important. There is also the intrinsic reward or sense of purpose and accomplishment for our contributions to consider. There are people with high-paying jobs who are miserable while others make significantly less but are internally satisfied because what they do has a meaningful impact.

Make use of online compensation resources

On the financial side, you can compare your wages and benefits with others doing the same/similar role through compensation studies or online resources such as and Knowing whether you’re underpaid (or in some cases overpaid) is beneficial in anticipation of your next performance review or job search. Identifying gaps in your skills relative to peers provides an opportunity to increase your contribution and compensation by enhancing your expertise.what you contribute

Author Tom Rath, in his latest book, “Life’s Great Question” lays out the argument for the importance of understanding how each of us can best contribute. Rath argues it’s time to move beyond our personalities and into defining our purpose which is ultimately answering the question, “how can I contribute?” Rath is also the author of “StrengthsFinder 2.0” which is another great book for understanding your unique talents.

Discover how your work improves the lives of others

Rather than trying to align your passions with your work (which is easier said than done), understanding the purpose for your work will not only help you identify how you can contribute but will ultimately increase the potential for higher income. Rath recommends moving beyond the typical job description which lists tasks and responsibilities to an emphasis on how your work improves the lives of others. He identifies creating, operating, and relating as three basic functions all organizations need. Understanding how you can contribute to each of these functions increases your value to the organization.

Serving others isn’t just for volunteers or non-profit organizations. Too often I meet people focused on retiring because they don’t find fulfillment in their jobs. Rath argues that it’s up to each of us to define how we can contribute since we’re each unique. Increasing our contribution or better understanding how our work helps others can increase the level of fulfillment we experience at work. Why wait until some arbitrary date in the future to start making a difference? What can you contribute today to help someone else?

As seen in the Racine Journal Times, August 2020

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