So you want to enlarge your box.  Most of us do.  Small boxes make for cramped quarters. And resigning yourself to a smaller box than necessary might just lead to a few regrets at the end of your career.  I’m not talking about the fact that your earnings will be smaller or that your resume will be less impressive (though they may be).  I’m talking more about that gnawing feeling that there was more in you and you didn’t get it out.

My last post prompted one of my former clients who I’m honored to call a friend to write me.  He’s retired now (if you call helping anyone who comes across his path, giving time to good causes, and being an engaged grandfather “retired). He had a fabulous career at a leading company in the chemical industry with impressive accomplishments in postings around the world.

Still, this was his response:

In retrospect, I didn’t stretch the box (in my career) anywhere near what I should have. Now I can’t go back and do it over…

Here’s a suggestion I’ll steal from him and pass on to you:

  • Take two sheets of paper. Label one “Have To’s” and the other “Unique Opportunities.
  • On the “Have To” page, write down the things that you must do to just meet the expectations in your role.  (If we ignore these things, we simply get fired.)
  • On the “Unique Opportunities” page, write down the unique things you have the capability to accomplish in the job beyond the have to’s.  These are the “signature marks” you want to put on the organization and on how you do the role.  (If we ignore these things, we wind up with regrets because we only avoided getting fired and didn’t put ourselves into the work.)
  • What grade do you give yourself on covering the most important things on each page?
  • Look at your calendar.  What proportion of your time and energy are you spending on each page? Have you knocked on the door of those opportunities or are you resigned to living in the very tight quarters of your box?