What Do You Bring to the Table?Posted: September 8, 2018
As the new school year begins, seniors in high school and college are dreaming of wrapping up their experience at their current institutions, and even high school juniors are planning their next stage of life. Most people save their advice for the end of the year around graduation, but I’m going to hit you with it now when it might have a chance to do some good. Let me start with a story.
Many years ago, I studied acting. By all accounts I was talented – just how talented I couldn’t say, since nobody is an objective judge of themselves, but for the sake of argument let’s say I was talented enough to go far. That was the problem. I was used to get by on talent, and not used to having to rely on other things like skill, hard work, or even being a decent human being to the rest of the troupe.
Fast forward a few years. By the time I got to college I was surrounded by people who had talent, and most of them were at least as good as I was. I wasn’t just a little fish in a big pond at this point; I was swimming with sharks, and they were hungry. Now it wasn’t “aren’t you amazingly talented”, it was “what do you bring to the table”? Talent was a given, and for the folks who didn’t have it they kept in the running by being twice as skilled or three times as valuable in some other way. I’ll be honest: I didn’t last long.
That dose of humility was bruising, but it was just what I needed. If I had managed to get it much earlier, I might have stayed in acting a lot longer, because I would have taken the time to develop more of what I needed sooner. Fact is once you get out in the world, people will stop handing you things (and yes, believe me, whether you realize it or not people are handing you things right now). Once you are nothing but the next person in line, the question isn’t going to be “how well did you do on the test?” or “do you have a degree?” because the assumption is you passed the test, or you have a degree.
Here are the things you need to be thinking about moving forward: How well do you engage with other people? How much of a team player are you? Can you be a leader and a follower as the situation requires? What sets you apart from everyone else in your field, but in a good way? Why should an employer want you on their team?
What do you bring to the table?