Career Advice

The Value Of Saving The Day At Work

If you really want your standing to rise, be the hero when something terrible happens at work.

That something could be a wayward pilot who starts behaving erratically like the one on the JetBlue flight last week, or it could be a co-worker’s heart attack or a charity event that really needs a speaker from your organization. It also could be an angry client showing up unannounced and threatening to disrupt the shareholders annual meeting or the office refrigerator, full to the brim, suddenly not working.

Truth is there are plenty of opportunities to “save the day” if we start looking for them, some of them quite small and some of them amazing and well, heroic.

Here’s how to get going, cape completely optional:

Develop a hero’s mindset.

You have to see yourself as a hero, as someone who can save the day, before you will be able to really jump in and help. This is a key message in the book Be The Hero by Noah Blumenthal. Start seeing and telling your life and work story with you cast as the hero – that’s Blumenthal’s powerful message. You choose the heroic perspective.

Cultivate a calm, problem-solving personality.

This is something that can be developed over time, with practice. You may not give up your “gee, this is a crazy stressful situation. I’m checking out” perspective all at once, but you can gradually build your perspective toward something more engaged and helpful.   

Anticipate trouble.

Some problems can be spotted ahead of time, especially if you’re observant and watch for erratic behavior or watch the weather alerts. So take some time and create a list of potential hazards and trouble spots around your workplace. Talk to a few co-workers about the biggest recurring headaches. Once you have a good list of them, pick out a couple that you could resolve. Or go to your boss and offer to develop a small project around researching and implementing safeguards or solutions.

Join the emergency planning committee.

Most big companies have a group that plans for big disruptions; think blackouts, natural disasters and the like. They develop contingency plans and know where the back-up generators are stashed. But they may need someone with an eye toward the needs of the single moms who work in the call center or factory, and are going to want to check on their kids before anything else.

Learn basic first aid.

Take a CPR class. Locate a disaster planning seminar. See what other classes your local continuing education or Red Cross has available, and start learning some tools and techniques that could be helpful.

Along the way, you want to keep your boss in the loop on your heroic actions and your efforts to become the indispensable problem-solver in your office. Document the value of what you’ve done, with time savings or customers who stayed with the company despite their initial ire. These may serve as one or two bullet points to back up your request for a pay raise at your next review, or they may showcase your skills so that you’re offered a promotion or a new stretch assignment.

After all, heroes are rare and powerful people, and their value and confidence increases with each good deed.