Adapt and Refine Your Work

Two and a half years ago I approached the owner of Puget Systems and told him I was moving to Utah.

I explained that I wanted to remain with the company, and I proceeded to propose the work I could do 1200 miles away from company headquarters. My goal was to walk out of his office with any answer other than a “no”.

If I recall correctly, “Let me give it some thought” turned into a “Let’s give it a try” over the next few weeks. I spent my evenings contemplating what I could do for the company. Eventually, I had a pretty good idea of what I could do, and it was work I could do well.

But I had one problem I couldn’t immediately solve. I didn’t have the right software to do my job. In fact, I wasn’t certain I knew what type of software I needed. I approached the owner with my problem and his answer surprised me: start with what you know, refine it over time, and we’ll adapt once you know what you need.

I moved to Utah, and began collecting customer feedback in a Google Doc. It was far from perfect. I’m sure there were better tools for the job, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. My goal was to prove that the work I performed was providing value to the company. Once that was in place, we moved forward tailoring the software tools to my work. This improved my work, but more importantly, it allowed customer feedback to reach every department in the company.

I had one request of the owner when I moved to Utah, and that was that he’d take 30 minutes out of his week to chat with me to make sure we were on the same page. This proved to be a wise move when I was able to reprioritize my work after feeling overwhelmed 6 months into the job. The owner allowed me to recruit some help to handle the extra work while I was able to maintain my focus on the work I had initially proposed.

Last year I started my own writing and research company and have pulled in work from a number of companies. Puget Systems is still my main focus, but I’ve been thrilled to be able to work on my research and writing skills, and get paid for doing so.

Throughout my career, I’ve too often looked at a job description and wondered if my skills were a good match for the position. I made that mistake when I went to work for Microsoft in a marketing position that I didn’t really enjoy and wasn’t especially suited to fill. I landed the job because I interviewed well, but I regretted taking the position within a few weeks.

I am blessed to work for an owner whose business philosophy matches my own. He hired me back in 2011 without a specific job in mind, and I later asked him to trust me to perform a job a few states away. What started out as an experiment a couple of years ago has turned into a way we differentiate our products and services.

Instead of asking if your skills match the job description, maybe a better approach is to figure out what you do really well, and ask the owner or your manager if you can do that. It might be exactly what the companies needs.

2 thoughts on “Adapt and Refine Your Work

  1. Brett, you were wise to keep working on adding value to your employer and also to your own professional skill set. This is helpful advice for everybody.

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  2. Brilliant! I love this philosophy. I’m still looking to match my skill set to the right “career.” But in the meantime I keep exploring and taking chances, which is a big part of getting what we want out of life. Your take on creating your “dream job” is inspiring!

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