There is a type of employee that is unlike other employees. I am sure you recognise them. This is the type of employee that performs above average, stays ahead of the game and has ‘well on the way to the top’ stamped across their foreheads. This is the ninja employee.
While the average employee knows he or she needs top-level skills such as project management, communication and customer care to do well at work, the ninja employee also recognises a second set of attributes that make them truly stand out.
These are the attributes that not only make the top-level skills possible, but they make them distinctive between the ninja employer and everyone else. They are what make the way you communicate or manage a project different – and, hopefully, better – than the way someone else does it. And because of this, the wise employee will seek out these skills and use them to build an extraordinary career.
Your undercover skills
We might call these skills latent skills and attributes, as they are often concealed behind our top-level counterparts. However, employee who recognises these undercover skills and begins to develop them is indeed a smart cookie.
Of course, what you don’t notice you pay little attention to, so you may have overlooked skills and attributes like courage, honesty, intuition and insightfulness as having ninja-like powers. Yes, you might know about them – but have you ever considered them as skills that could work for you on a CV, in a job interview or at work? Few do and so fully wield them to their advantage.
How did Harry Kane – a footballer who so very nearly never made it – get to a place where he is considered the finest English player since Sir Bobby Charlton?
Rejected by Arsenal after just one season, failing his first trial at Spurs, spurned by Watford, ‘outmuscled’, ‘outsprinted’ and overlooked on the playing field in favour of teammates with the height, speed and physical maturity he didn’t have, this 24-year-old found his break by focusing his energies on latent skills his fellow players hadn’t even considered. He developed in technique and guile, navigated obstacles, and built muscles in places where other players were weak.
There you go. Undercover skills.
Tools for an extraordinary career
It was Steve Jobs who said that technology is nothing but if you give people tools “they’ll do wonderful things with them”. Think of your skills like tools that enable you to complete specific tasks well, or quickly. It’s nigh on impossible to open a tin of beans with a nail file or to disassemble a scaffold structure with a butter knife but if you had a tin opener or a claw hammer, well, now you’re getting somewhere. And if you had an electric tin opener or super weight claw hammer, then you’ll be even more effective. So, if you want a career beyond the norm then surely you must carve it out with beyond normal skills.
What ninja-like skills and attributes do you have?
So, what about your undercover skills? What are they, and what could they really do for your career if you were to whip them out of your shoe like a secret agent in a Bond movie and use them to your advantage?
Scott Adams is attributed to the saying: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” And that’s the first step to unearthing your undercover skills. You must get to know yourself better and to do that you must step out, be willing to make mistakes and to try things you’ve never considered before. And then, you must analyse it all.
Do the work
Start now. Draw a blank sheet of paper and ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my major work accomplishments?
- What do I do well?
- What makes me good at it?
- What do I tend to notice that others miss (what fascinates me)?
- What parts of my job do I enjoy most, and why?
- What would I do if I could do any job I wanted?
Be honest. Go wild. No-one’s looking. Then look out for part two of this blog where I will unpack some of the undercover ninja skills that I think can truly make an average employee extraordinary.
Find out more in part 2 of this article, here.