A version of this article also appeared on LinkedIn.
In the hilarious 1984 rock music mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, guitarist Nigel Tufnel proudly demonstrates an amplifier whose volume knob is marked from zero to eleven, instead of the usual zero to ten. "When you need that extra push over the cliff," Tufnel explains.
According to Wikipedia, the expression "turning it up to eleven" has come to refer to "anything being exploited to its utmost abilities, or apparently exceeding them."
When was the last time you felt you were exercising your abilities to their utmost? Or exceeding them?
Some people feel like they're going through the motions, ticking the boxes, and wondering, "What does it all mean? Am I really having any impact at work?"
It's a weighty question, and ultimately a very personal one that requires individualized solutions.
But I'd like to take a stab at offering some advice to those of you who are wondering what you can do to break through the stalemate you might be facing at work today.
Here are five ways you can turn your impact at work "up to eleven":
1. Hit a grand slam on a priority project.
Don't just go through the motions and work according to spec. Put everything you've got --your knowledge, experience, your professional relationships -- into a project that matters to your department, your boss, your company, to you. You'll feel good about your work, and you'll probably earn the attention and recognition of your colleagues and boss, as well.
2. Launch a new project without being asked.
See a problem that's just begging to be solved, but has no takers so far? Be the problem-solver that tackles it once and for all. Spot a new opportunity that will raise visibility for your division or company, and create new revenue streams? Be the pioneer who makes it happen. Don't have the resources to get things off the ground? Bootstrap it and get a prototype out the door. Proof of concept may be all you need to get the funding and staffing you need to turn it into a full-fledged project.
3. Go beyond the call of duty.
Job descriptions are supposed to detail your areas of responsibility and how your performance will be measured. But I've seen no job description --nor have I ever tried to write one --that covers every possible scenario, anticipates every possible problem, or foresees every opportunity that might arise during the course of one's career.
If you want to have an outsized impact on your job, don't just tick the boxes and go home. Try to think about how you can provide value in ways that are not written into your job description. What can you do to help your manager or a colleague get their job done more effectively? What can you do above and beyond what you're expected to do? What can you do that will demonstrate commitment and passion?
4. Burn the midnight oil.
I don't know when the expression "burn the midnight oil" went out of vogue, but sometimes you need to put int extra hours beyond the 9-to-5 if you want to have extraordinary impact. Whether you're an entrepreneur at a startup, or you're working in a corporate environment, it's hard to do great things if you're the first one out the door of the office every day.
5. Become the go-to expert on a topic that matters.
Pick an area that you're responsible for, and learn everything you can possibly learn about it. Read books. Subscribe to blogs. Listen to podcasts. Sign-up for webinars. Watch Youtube videos.Take courses on Udemy, Lynda, CreativeLive, or any of the hundreds of other excellent online learning resources out there.
Whether you're looking to move into a different role at your company -- or have plans to move to a different role at a different company altogether -- now's the time to invest in yourself.
Become the expert that everyone turns to when they have a question or need help with something that is important to their work. Sometimes, it just takes knowing a little more about something than everyone else.
And if, for some reason, your company doesn't acknowledge or make use of your new skills, you can add them to your LinkedIn profile and perhaps leverage them somewhere else, where you can make better use of them (and be justly rewarded as well).
Sure, you need to do what is expected of you. Yes, you should be doing what is asked of you. But sometimes -- if you really want to have impact-- you'll need to "turn it up to eleven."