Explaining how what you do links to a bigger picture

Shifting in thinking from a task or activity perspective to a contribution perspective can take quite an effort in both thinking and language.

When I ask people to say what they contribute to by doing the work they do, they can have difficulties because either they don’t know, have never thought much about the goals that they contribute to or why they do what they do, or they shift the language back onto duties and tasks. People do this by changing ‘contribute to’, to ‘contribute by’, or by using ‘contribute to’ but referring to tasks instead of results. People feel more comfortable talking about the unit they work in and what they do rather than the purpose of what they do.

To illustrate the difference I’ll use what I do. I could say:

‘As a Mental Nutritionist I deliver workshops on how to write a quality job application.’

In this example I am describing what I do.

If you ask me to talk about what I contribute to, I could say:

‘As a Mental Nutritionist I contribute to delivering workshops on how to write a quality job application.’

Here I am still talking about tasks. The response is weaker than the first one because now I’m ‘contributing to delivering’ rather than ‘delivering’.

I could say:

‘As a Mental Nutritionist I contribute by delivering workshops on how to write a quality job application.’

I’m still focusing on tasks.

If I focus on results, then I produce a different answer.

‘As a Mental Nutritionist I contribute to ensuring staff’s ability to manage their career successfully.’

Or:

‘As a Mental Nutritionist I help organisations fully tap the talent of their staff.’

The difference is significant. If you want to convey a sense of understanding the bigger picture, the strategic objectives, then being able to say what the link is between what you do and the results you deliver is critical, particularly for more senior roles.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist® specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.