When people use the word “extra” these days, it has such a negative connotation- like “ugh, my Starbucks order is so extra since I ask for almond milk,” or “she’s so extra on Instagram, she .” Extra is kind of the new basic, except it’s accusing someone of doing too much while basic is accusing someone of being too bland. We can’t win!
IMHO, being extra should never be a bad thing. It’s about doing more than what a normal person would do, and since when is going the extra mile a bad thing? So what if someone wants to wear false eyelashes every day instead of mascara, or if they spend an extra hour at work making sure an important project looks amazing instead of just calling it a day and being okay with average?
I could go on and on about being extra in all aspects of your life, but for this post I just want to focus on where you can apply being extra to your career. Adding value where you can add value is such a (for lack of a better word) valuable skill, that it’s almost like you can’t afford not to be extra if you want to get ahead.
When you’re first starting out at a job, it might be hard to imagine doing much to bring more value to your tasks (especially the routine, administrative tasks like filling in a spreadsheet). But it’s easier than you think. It’s not even like you need that much skill to do it. You just need to add a little something. You don’t even have to go the metaphorical extra mile- you can just do like a few extra meters and it will still make a huge difference. So let’s get into some of my favorite ways to be extra, even at the entry level.
Going the Extra Mile (Or Meter)
- When you get assigned a boring, routine task, make it the best damn routine task you’ve ever done. If you’re told to make place cards for a dinner party, don’t just slap names on a label; match the color palette to your company logo and pick a cute font with a polished design, and then print it on nice paper. Have a positive attitude about everything you’re told to do, and you’ll be much happier and more creative doing it.
- Think ahead and start anticipating things before you’re asked to do them. If your job is to schedule meetings, for example, don’t wait until the day of a meeting to realize there’s a conflict- peek ahead on your calendar and your team will be amazed at how ON IT you are when you say “I noticed next week that our regular team meeting conflicts with the holiday- I’ll go ahead and find a new time for us!”
- Always try to make things visually pleasing. If you’re making a boring PowerPoint, make it un-boring. If you’re putting together a memo or writing a long email, use bullet points (see what I do here in my blog posts?). Even if you just use a fun color on your spreadsheet, that’s something.
- Learn an annoying skill and become the go-to person in the office for that skill. At my job, we have a really tricky program we use to monitor for news clips on TV, and for some reason no one ever really knows how to use it, so I took an hour one day to sit there and read through the instruction manual. It sucked and I hated it but it was just an hour of my time and now I’m like the TV monitoring whisperer. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’m kind of a big deal. (Not really but I like to feel like it).
- For more difficult, creative tasks, think of ways you can help your team beyond what you’re told to do. This is kind of a broader concept, but basically whenever you have a project, think of anything else you can add to it that will help the next person who looks at it. If I’m drafting a pitch for an announcement, sometimes if it makes sense I’ll also add in a suggested list of target media outlets to send it to (if I wasn’t already told to make the media list for it).
- Brainstorm little ways to add to company culture. Arrange a happy hour. Send out a funny newsletter. Bring donuts. The little things that make you “extra” are the big things that make you great.