Stop Doing Average Work, It Annoys Everyone
It is a pity that we are so happy to do average work!
I often hear such whispers by
- A digital agency (in services): I am doing good but I wish I could crack that client.
- A manager: My team is doing very well, I just wish to have that kind of A-player.
- A work seeking candidate: I am doing good but I am not able to enter that company.
In all these cases, you have done something to reach the current state. Most often, you want something better without really investing in the ways to do better. (Moving from Basecamp to Asana or adding another technology stack in your portfolio does not help. Who cares?)
It is generally the:
- Same proposal document to win a new contract (bit tweaked), OR
- Same resume (one more project or skill added), OR
- Same job description (customary tweaks rarely help)
The way you plan WordPress pages, or AngularJS code, or new wireframes in Sketch is same as you have been doing in the past. You continue doing average work because it helps you pay your bills. However it does not help in your hidden desires. It does not make the difference that it should, in your life, or for the world around us. For example:
- Products: Many projects are screwed every day, everywhere in the world. Either these go over-budget because of poor planning, or are reverse-engineered for wrong reasons, or the owner runs out of the steam, the investors propose a pivot, or it can be anything. So annoying for the founders, and to their little ecosystem.
- Teams: Teams hire new people and new hires do not bring the expected value to the table. They are either assigned to some other work (it still costs the company), or managers invest in training new hires for the right skills. It means all the associated costs of bad hiring. It is annoying for everyone.
- Jobs: You want to work in company A or B but because you are not getting interview calls, you are not able to give one hundred percent to your current team. It annoys everybody.
Do you realize the real reason for all the annoyance that we see around? It is the average quality work that we so happily do. It does not benefit anyone and so it annoys everyone.
Let us see how you can do better.
[A] A Digital Agency (Services)
While writing a proposal, think outside of the technology. Forget what you know, and think as if you are a co-founder of the business (that sends you RFP) to understand what they want to do, and why.
Does the organization need an Uber for students, Amazon for organic foods, Airbnb for medical tourism, an online training school, a new prototyping tool, an app for elderly care, or what. And why? Why this business idea, and what are they trying to achieve by investing in the product? Whom they want to provide a service or solution, and how their customers will benefit by using the product?
Depending on your strengths, make a proposal to walk with the company for some areas where your competitors may not be pitching. For example:
- Identify some ideal customers (personas) who might be happy to pay for using the product (if it is paid), and talk to them. Understand how the new product can solve their problems. If you have the bandwidth, you can even run a quick survey (use Typeform or SurveyMonkey or any such service) and include the results to make it relevant to the business. OR
- Do user research (for a new product) or usability study (for an existing product, or for their competitor). OR
- Map out a customer journey — how the target customers may interact with the product (even before sign up), and even after completing one transaction cycle. Connect it with the product vision, and with business goals. OR
- Give them an option to plan email campaigns for customer onboarding, to up sell, to reduce churn, and so on. OR
- Make an offer to write all product copy (UI copy as well as marketing content strategy).
For either of the above value drivers, work on these quickly and include in your pitch. This is how I won my last contract — the product owner wanted to hire me to plan and write FAQs (it is a B2B product) and when I shared my product analysis, I won a contract for the whole UX.
Remember that the goal is to make the proposal recipient believe that you are the best person for the work, for multiple reasons. For so many reasons.
[B] Finding A Players (Hiring)
If you wonder why A-players are not applying for open positions in your organization, have you ever thought why they should apply for it? What separates you from other potential employers for those players?
Your job description (JD) is rarely a differentiator if you are writing it as:
- Relevant experience in Sketch, Node.JS, JIRA, or Drupal8…
- Need to collaborate with UX team, data scientists…
- Excellent interpersonal skills, a passion for designing beautiful experiences, and proactiveness…
So unless you are a real big organization and a dream employer, why will the A-players apply to your organizations?
What You Should Do
Write your organization’s narrative and say that it is missing out an actor to take the story forward. So, you are looking for an individual who can step into a role, for your brand story.
Make the candidates think if they fit into your organization’s culture, conduct, and coffee hours.
Personalized job descriptions are more likely to win applications from A players. Just as you are not seeking only the source code or design files from them, they too do not eye only perks. This is a value-exchange moment — show them the reasons of why working in your team can be a game changing experience for them.
[C] Seeking Work
While seeking work, what are the highlights of your resume?
- Current and past employers’ names
- Two, three, or more most relevant projects (and your role there)
- Location and contact details
All resumes that the hiring manager gets in their mailbox have same kind of details. How does your resume communicate that you may be a good fit (if not the best-fit) for the new company? Why they should call you and not other candidates?
The hiring managers are interested to know how the new hires can help the organization in its goals — by their skills, by past experience, by some problem solving skills, or by contributing to the strategy when required. Your resume is (generally) woefully short of winning this confidence.
Enter Success Stories
See how organizations such as Intercom, Buffer, InVision, or Slack invest in sharing their success stories. So for example when Intercom is in talks with a potential customer, sharing relevant success stories (say, for similar industry or geography) certainly helps them win the new contract.
While seeking work, you should invest in planning your success stories. Divorce your resume, today!
As I shared my thoughts in For Roles — For Scripts, you need success stories that can explain how you are a good-fit (or best-fit) for an open position. For example:
- There was a business problem (or how it was translated to a technology problem)
- I contributed in a (example) role for its solution
- This is how it benefited my team, my organization, the product owner, and the real customers
Once you have the story, the email is equally important. It should be targeted yet concise, and personalized yet professional. For example (from how I was writing in 2014):
Hi [First name]
This is regarding the position that I…..
I am Vinish Garg, an experienced content strategist and a storyteller. I have worked with the global product teams for their ‘content plus UX’ requirements, to add real value to their customer experience goals. Please know more about me at:
My Goal for [Company Name]: As a content strategist, I like working in groups where different teams have a common and established understanding of why they are working, and so they align their efforts towards the product vision. My goal is to contribute to the product UX team to plan and setup the right content architecture, content standards and governance model, for measurable content goals.
About [Company Name]: I have been closely following [Company Name] for its insightful and thought leadership content (or mention its products, services, research work, or anything that is a key driver for that brand). I remember [Name] responding to my request for (a talk, a podcast, an event, a guest post, or any reference that can add personalization) and it was a delight to know her thoughts.
I have attached my resume for your reference.
If my experience interests you, I will be delighted to speak for next steps.
Change the Key
The key is to change this ‘Average Key’ that does not allow you to do better— whether it is seeking business, hiring A players, or finding work.
As consumers, we feel upset at an average customer experience. But as technology practitioners, we can contribute to a better customer experience for others. Lets stop doing average work and lets reduce annoyance around us.
More in Success Stories
The team at vhite are working on something in ‘success stories’. Sign up here and I can share regular updates on where we are, and when we plan to open it for public. If you are seeking work, I will also send you an example personal success story that can help you trash your resume!