This post is courtesy of greyzone Guest Blogger, Karen Crofton.

Michael Jordan – MJ as he’s often known – wasn’t the only great basketball player, yet he has achieved more longevity in fame and fan adoration than some of basketball’s other greats. What made Jordan’s career so sticky even as players like LeBron James dominate today’s games? The answer will illustrate how you can create a more successful career for yourself.


Check the stats

MJ extended his brand through his line of shoes and movie cameos, but those feats were only possible because of his exceptional stats as a player. Even James hasn’t surpassed MJ’s NBA record for points per game. Jordan is ranked third in all-time steals, fifth in all-time two-point shots, and fifth in all-time free throw points.


Unlike many other sports, basketball fully relies on the team. In baseball, the pitcher can strike out every batter. In soccer, a goalie can prevent every attempt. But basketball requires five players to work in concert with each other in fluidly defined positions.


Similarly, this is how most people work: as part of a team, each with different skill sets. While the goal may be clear, the pathway to get there – and your teammates’ responsibilities – may not always be clearly defined.


MJ’s records are impressive, but equally important to his story are the stats in which he was not an NBA leader: MJ isn’t in the top 100 for all-time rebounds per game and falls out of the top 40 in assists. As coaches remind their teams, “Defense wins championships.” Defensive skills may be considered a supporting role and not directly correlated to winning, but no game is purely offense. Playing defense may be less fun and exciting than scoring, but the strategy is necessary to win.


Your colleagues are your teammates

For most of us, the same scenario unfolds at work: a successful team will be diversified and allow each member to perform the tasks for which they’re best suited, yet some of those tasks may seem less “important” than others. Some of the team members will be viewed as most responsible for the success of a project, and these team members will be able to show their “stats” as direct outcomes on their résumés.


That is not to say that you will only be viewed as successful if you oversee every project or promote yourself at all times. But as you tackle every assignment or task, ask yourself “What stat will I have for myself when this is done? Am I providing a supporting role which might be underappreciated?”


How to get noticed as the star player

How can you best ensure that your assignments will be viewed as high-value activities? It’s key to have a deliberate process for accepting new projects and tasks:


  • Ask questions and ensure that you understand the strategy or goal.
  • Determine how your part fits into the overall effort. Do you have a supporting role? Could someone else easily take on this role, or do you provide a unique benefit to the team?
  • Do not assume that you must accept a role exactly as it is presented. If you are being underutilized, determine how you can better employ your skill set to benefit the team.
  • Do not, however, overcommit your time. Simply taking on more tasks than others is not a high-value activity. Overextending yourself can cause the quality of your work to suffer and will likely leave you unable to pounce on great opportunities when they arise.


Once a project has begun, create a weekly status update. (If you’re unsure what to include, there are templates available online.) Your boss may or may not ask for status updates, but it’s worth keeping records for yourself. This tool will help you ensure that you’re prioritizing your own high-value work. Remember: scoring is more visible than assists.


Once the project is complete, you will have a summary of your accomplishments, which can be added to your résumé and which will help guide you on your next assignment by highlighting what you’ve learned and where you are ready to accept more accountability.


Be like Mike

The 1992 Gatorade commercial encouraged us to “Be Like Mike.” Of course, that means we need to work hard and be great at our jobs but it also means we need to work strategically and to be sure that our accomplishments are highly visible and memorable.

Bio: Karen Crofton is a startup investor and consultant focusing on technology and energy.  Helped by +20 years of experience in product and business development through roles at the Rocky Mountain Institute and Air Products and Chemicals, Karen brings both a business and technical perspective to investing.  She holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Bucknell University, an MBA from Rice University, and a Master’s in Data Analytics from CU Boulder.  Karen currently resides in Boulder, CO serving as the Chair of the City’s Environmental Advisory Board and enjoys the many outdoor activities Colorado has to offer. You can find Karen on LinkedIn.

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