What do you think makes you stand out early in your career? Maybe you’re a hard-worker or detail-oriented. Or even better, maybe you can persevere through any task (even the boring ones). Those are all important. Very important. But none of them will help you stand out if you don’t also have this particular trait.
At Koru, we define ownership as taking initiative in service of others. It’s a mindset that pushes you to own both your projects and outcomes, not for recognition, but for the benefit of everyone. With an owner mindset, you’ll spring into action when your team needs help and you won’t point fingers when things go wrong (because they will). Ownership will help you push through hardship and stand-out against your peers as having strong integrity and citizenship.
Ownership, almost by its definition, flies under the radar. But it’s easily one of the most crucial mindsets to adopt early in your career, as it will affect all aspects of your work. Here are a few lessons in ownership and how you can use it to push your career forward.
Be an owner, not a victim.
If you see yourself as a victim as opposed to an owner, you might make excuses, complain when times get tough, blame others, and take a back-seat when it’s not your problem. It’s not that you’re wrong. Sometimes things are unfair and others are to blame for that unfairness. However, an owner mindset is about taking initiative to fix problems and move forward fast. You can’t do that with a victim mindset.
It’s easier to fall into a victim mindset than we might think. When I was almost a year into my first “real” job out of college, my entire team got laid off. I found myself unemployed for this first time since I was 16, and I was embarrassed. In my subsequent job interviews, I felt like I had to explain that it wasn’t my fault I lost my job. I did not own it. I played the victim. And I didn’t realize until much later how much that mindset hurt me.
If you have an owner mindset, you’ll see the opportunity in the setback. You won’t blame others for your circumstances and instead, focus on moving forward. As a result, you’ll come across as someone who will take responsibility across the business, no matter how tough things get.
Take initiative in service of others.
Are you a “Yes” person or a “No” person? People with owner mindsets take ownership over their work, their team, and their company. They’ll jump in and help, wherever it’s needed, and at the end of the day, they’ll own their accomplishments as much as they do their failures.
This is another huge lesson I learned in my first few years out of college. I came from a solid liberal arts background (good at poetry, bad at spreadsheets), and very early in my career, I made a bad habit of waiting politely for my employers to teach me what I needed to know.
When I started working on the marketing team of a startup, I learned very quickly that in order to assert my value, I had to take ownership of my position whole-heartedly. I couldn’t wait for people to teach me or tell me what to do. I needed to take that upon myself. So, I taught myself new programs (like Photoshop and HubSpot) because I knew it would make our efforts stronger. I volunteered to tackle undesirable projects whenever I had bandwidth and got the job done with a combination of advice from my coworkers and new best friend, Google. I learned to say “Yes” instead of “No.”
And be accountable, no matter the outcome.
In the process, I made a lot of mistakes. I learned to own them. At Koru, we take “failure bows” whenever we make a mistake. We value ownership highly and therefore, we have to acknowledge that failure is often necessary before success.
How can you demonstrate ownership in a job application?
Tell a story where someone else would have assumed a victim mentality, but you took responsibility and forged ahead. A good way to do this is to talk about a time you failed and how you handled that failure. Tie the story back to what you’ve learned about the job or company that you’re applying to and show how you’d apply that same mentality in your new job.
Ownership is one of the Koru7 JobStrengths™, which are the skills and competencies proven to be more predictive of job success early in your career. Learn more about the Koru7.
Michaela Gianotti is Koru's content manager. She attended Whitman College, where she spent the better part of four years convincing her family that English majors can get jobs too. She has since found awesome work (SEE!) at 826 Seattle, msnNOW, and Koru.