If you’ve ever felt that your job consisted of a series of never-ending tasks, it may be more to do with your way of thinking than the job itself.
“Missions, Not Responsibilities,” a recent article by Kevin Zhang, takes a look at why startups are effective at mobilizing a small group of people to do big things, even when larger organizations might not be able to. At a startup, a lean team is working hard toward a clear mission everyone believes in. Knowing that they’re the bearers of this mission empowers them to not only be more proactive, but also to take more ownership in their day-to-day (without being told to do so).
In contrast, many established organizations may seem to have more structured approaches that appear task or responsibility-oriented. The emphasis here is on your specific to-dos or the bullets on your job description—as long as those are checked off, your next promotion or a better performance review will be in your hands. Though this may push some of us to get things done, it isn’t very motivating for the long-term.
At mature companies, many jobs are just a checklist of daily tasks. A receptionist will answer the door, take messages, and forward phone calls. But at a startup, someone in that role might instead be empowered to think about the first impression your company makes. It’s not just answering the door, it’s how we greet potential customers, employees, and partners. It’s a branding, marketing, and public relations opportunity, not a bland or trite chore.
We think this idea goes beyond working at startups—whether you’re looking to show ownership of the job you’re interviewing for or want to get a little more excited about your current gig, you’ll benefit by thinking about your job in terms of how it contributes to your company’s overall mission, not each individual task independent of itself. You’ll feel more upbeat when lending a hand in the name of a common goal, and you’ll feel like there’s more in it for you than just a paycheck.
The best way you can incorporate this entrepreneurial mindset into your current role is to think broadly about how your work fits into the context of the company’s goals. Proactively thinking about next steps and giving new ideas a trial run may also show your understanding of where the business wants to be.
A simple change in perspective might just take you from to the drawing board to mission accomplished.