Congrats, 2014 grads!

A few weekends ago, I had the great honor of delivering the commencement speeches for the University of Texas College of Natural Sciences’ graduating class. Yep, they trusted me with the responsibility of inspiring, entertaining, and not-boring a couple thousand kids to death. So I wrote down some lines of encouragement, threw in a couple jokes to win over the easily amused, and delivered. On a scale of 1 to Admiral McRaven, I’d give myself a solid 5. Whether or not those now-adults absorbed anything I said, I’m not sure. But I am sure that standing up there on that stage and delivering that speech for the mass of talented, eager (albeit bored) and incredibly crucial kids was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. In truth, “honor” is a humble word. So, thank you to the CNS for trusting me.

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But! This isn’t about me. This is about those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed grads entering the working world.

By now, grads, you’ve scoured LinkedIn for jobs, crafted your resume, given many handshakes, interviewed, and quickly learned how to work rigorously and efficiently in order to make yourself an asset to your company. Those are all great things to know and implement – but I want to touch on a lesser known subject that is so very vital for achieving a top tier, rock star status:

Job creation versus task fulfillment.

To put it simply, task fulfillment is when someone hands you a described and scoped list of tasks and you complete it, waiting then for the next task to be handed to you. Job creation, however, is when you find and finish tasks before someone asks you to do them. Clean your room before your parents told you to? You’re a job creator. Prefer to let the trash pile up so high that the slightest wrapper will bring down Garbage Mountain because you don’t really want to take it out until someone yells? You’re a task fulfiller.

As an employer and supervisor, it takes up quite a bit of time to conjure up jobs and dole out instructions so having someone who defines the scope of the task as well as completes it is immensely valuable. What’s more, task fulfillers, while typically safe workers that will rarely stray from the path of please-do-this-and-only-this, are often limited in capacity. With only so much ambition and focus, task fulfillers’ scope is only focused on the job at hand – never looking forward or thinking progressively. A job creator will not only take time off the plates of others, but will also do a better job scoping the tasks and going above and beyond expectations. They are so easily adaptable in any given situation and can be relied upon to make things happen when time and resources are scarce.

So I encourage you, both new and old, stop simply crossing things off your list and start creating jobs for yourselves. Begin thinking of the job in your supervisors’ shoes (or even better – the shoes of the CEO). What would you want done and what additional items or next steps would you want done? Propose those items or take the initiative and do them without the back and forth. Go above and beyond the strictly defined task – work smarter and harder.