One of the things that people don't often think about when they're contemplating their career life is the type of contributor they want to be in their work. Knowing your peak contribution style gives you great insight into the types of jobs where you can be most successful. Here are some examples of contribution styles for working within a company.
The Individual Contributor
An Individual Contributor is someone without direct inline responsibility. They are evaluated as individuals, rather than by their contribution as part of a team. They don't have people who report to them, and the people to whom they report usually have given them clear goals, and lots of leeway.
Best jobs for Individual Contributors: Individual Contributors often have great success in jobs such as sales, business development, research science, and in-house copywriting, as these types of jobs offer independence and are based on quantifiable results and deliverables.
Individual Contributors challenge: It is often thought that career advancement means being "in charge" of a group. For an Individual Contributor who thrives on working independently, this can be a real challenge.
Imagine a brilliant chemist who is nose-deep in beakers and compounds and is very content making breakthrough discoveries. During his annual review, the chemist is rewarded for his contributions with a promotion and a raise. The promotion takes him out of his role as an Individual Contributor and puts him in charge of managing other chemists.
Suddenly, he's not spending his days with chemicals, but spending time making sure other chemists are doing the right things with their chemicals. Frustrated and bored, he's no longer doing the work that inspires and motivates him. His waning interest leads to lackluster performance by his team, and the promotion is considered a failure.
Knowing your preferred contribution style provides you with an awareness of job types where you can be most successful. If the description of the Individual Contributor resonates with you, look for jobs that allow you to work independently on specifically defined tasks. When you do this, you will perform at your peak capacity.
The Team Player
Some people don't work best on their own. They much prefer to be part of a team. Team Players are individuals whose contribution style is at its peak when they are contributing to a shared objective with their collaborators. Team Players have specific areas of expertise, and they use their expertise to complement the work of the people around them. With Team Players, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.
Think of the difference between a sport like golf and a sport like football. Golf is an individual sport. It's just you, the ball, and the green. The decisions you make are yours alone. Football isn't like that. Everyone is playing the game at the same time, and everyone's contributions count at the same time.
Team Players work best on teams, and companies can get the best out of them when they're given shared tasks and shared goals.
Best jobs for Team Players: If Team Player feels like the right contribution style for you, look for companies that work in cross-functional teams so you can focus your energies and talents on fulfilling shared objectives.
Managers are people who like to organize, motivate, and give direction to individuals and groups. They're good with planning and the division of labor; they like helping team members overcome obstacles in order to be successful. They are, in general, "people" people.
Many Managers start their careers as individuals contributing to a team, but that is not their fully-realized contribution style. They crave to be in charge of a group, division, or project and to be a major motivator of productivity within a company.
Best jobs for Managers: Managers can be found throughout the entire infrastructure of an organization as project managers, team managers, campaign managers, social engagement managers, sales managers, operating managers and more. If this sounds like you, look for jobs where you can put your organizational and people skills to good use. Or join a company as a team member and look for opportunities to work your way into team management.
Many people think that Managers naturally make good Leaders. Surprisingly, this isn't always the case. Managers are, in general, individuals who can manage projects, people, and tasks to achieve specific results.
Leaders are people who have vision and direction, and the charisma to get people to follow where they lead. If a Manager's job is to make sure that everyone shares the ultimate vision, it's the Leader's job to create that vision.
Leaders have the ability to direct in the current moment, while keeping a keen and visionary eye on the road ahead. They make course corrections, large and small, to stay relevant, on top, or to mobilize change. Whether leading a company, a non-profit, a government, or a movement, good leaders have great organizational oversight and can envision and drive toward a future that others believe in.
Best Jobs for Leaders: If you're a career starter, chances are you aren't going to get a job as a Leader. Instead, consider looking for job opportunities where you can practice and hone your leadership potential. If you're a career transitioner and are looking for an opportunity to lead others, make sure that you're prepared to demonstrate your leadership abilities through the stories you tell your interviewers.
Understanding your contribution style
Knowing your contribution style is an essential component of knowing who you are, and it can be a game-changer in your job search. Think about how you like to interact with people at work and take some time to consider if any of the above styles resonate with you. If one does, you can use it as a filter for pursuing jobs where you will have an opportunity to work at your peak performance level.
Note: The above contribution styles apply primarily when you are working within a company. There are other contribution styles that apply to alternative modes of work that focus on entrepreneurship and self-employment.
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