Even the best of jobs has its share of uninspiring projects and repetitive tasks.

But if most of your time is taken up by tactical and unrewarding work, it’s hard to demonstrate your value to senior management or even be visible to them in the first place.

And that’s a problem if you want to advance in your career.

Instead of letting your to-do list get in the way of your career advancement, it’s time to take charge and show you’re an impact player—someone who is proactive in finding ways to make a difference for the organization.

How to show you’re an impact player

Here are three strategies for demonstrating your value, even if you’re only given tactical projects:

  1. Show up and speak up
  2. Create your own work
  3. Go upstream

1. Show up and speak up

It’s hard to be seen as strategic while you’re sitting at your desk. If you’re anything like me back in the day—opting to skip meetings and networking events to get my work done—train yourself to choose ‘showing up’ a little more often. You don’t have to make a sudden sweeping change. Start small and grow your ‘show up’ muscles from there.

And when you do show up, speak up and contribute your ideas. For example, if the conversation turns to the challenge of meeting a tight deadline and you know your team can help, you could say, “I see a way we can speed up the process.” Then pause briefly to give people a chance to pay attention before telling them your idea.

If you find you don’t have suggestions, then ask questions that show you’re thinking about the bigger picture. Like, “Since customer experience is a company priority, I’m wondering about the impact on our biggest customers? Would it help to talk to a few of them before the rollout?”

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And when you talk about the tactical work you’re doing, see if you can frame it in the context of the bigger strategic impact it contributes to.

Let’s say you and your team prepare the dashboard of numbers for the weekly management meeting. You could report on it by saying something like, “Keeping in mind the firm’s bigger goal of substantially enhancing the customer journey, we’ve included a new metric in the daily dashboard so management can anticipate potential issues before they become complaints.”

This brings us to the second strategy.

2. Create your own work

Most managers are busy trying to get through their own to-do list and looking after their own careers, just like everyone else. And they may even feel the same way you do about their work not being strategic enough. If they’re not assigning you the big important projects, then it’s time to create your own work.

Think about your best strengths and skills and the kind of projects that excite and challenge you. For me, I loved to teach and train others. But that wasn’t part of my job, which was mostly crunching numbers and preparing presentation books. But every year, we had new MBAs joining the firm and I volunteered to run the induction program for them.

This gave me visibility with the senior managers who sponsored the program and were speakers on the program. And because it was fun for me, the project didn’t feel like extra work. In fact, it energized me so much that I was able to get my regular work done or delegated in a much more efficient way.

Creating your own work could look like suggesting a new area to research based on your interests, starting a side project outside of work, or running a fundraising campaign for a cause you care about.

Another way to create work is by telling people you’re interested in learning more about the strategic side of things in your organization. That way you can be top of mind when something comes along.

Which leads us to the third strategy.

3. Go upstream

Another way to expand your horizons and develop opportunities to work on meaningful projects is to look upstream. Trace back from your “downstream” tactical work to where it becomes strategic further “upstream” and see how you can get involved.

For example, if you’re responsible for collecting budget numbers from every department and preparing a PowerPoint deck for your manager to present, think about the ultimate users of that information.

Who are they and how are they leveraging that data to make decisions or improve results? If you don’t know the answers, start by talking to people you do know and network your way up from there.

A great way to get to know those more senior managers is by expressing interest in understanding the bigger picture. Having been a senior leader, I can tell you it’s exciting to know there are people coming up the ranks who are highly engaged, thinking strategically and hungry for ways to learn, grow and add value. They are the future of the business.

Then, whether it’s during your conversation or as a follow up, see how you can add value by providing your perspective on what would make things more efficient or deliver bigger results based on your downstream insights.

Through this exploration you’ll develop the knowledge and connections to help you get involved at a more strategic level where you can show you’re an impact player.

Just don’t make the mistake of waiting for an invitation

If you want to be an impact player, be prepared to act like one by taking the lead and putting yourself out there.

It’s tempting to wait for someone else to recognize you can and want to do more, but everyone else is busy. If your managers aren’t making it their priority to put you in situations where you can make a bigger impact, it’s time to act.

You can make an impact from wherever you sit

Even if you’re only assigned tactical work (for now), take heart. It may take some time, but it’s never too late to become visible and seen as an impact player. The important thing is to begin.

To get beyond your daily tactical work and be seen as a valuable asset to your organization, remember these strategies:

  • Show up and speak up – contribute your ideas, make suggestions, and ask big-picture questions.
  • Create your own work – develop a project or side gig that excites and challenges you while leveraging your best strengths and skills.
  • Go upstream – trace back from your “downstream” tactical work to where it becomes strategic further “upstream” and see how you can get involved.

Which strategy will you use first?

Leave a comment and let me know.

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