Be Willing to Take On the “Dirty Jobs”

Today is Wednesday, so this post in on outstanding performance. 

One way to become known as an outstanding performer is to volunteer to take on difficult tasks, or to work on important problems facing your company.  Last year, I did a podcast with Bill White, author of From Day One.  Bill had some very interesting things to say about being willing to take on what he calls "dirty jobs".

Bill:  One of the recommendations that we make in the book is to consider taking the dirty jobs, the tough jobs, the jobs that nobody wants.  If you’re working for a good company, there are always places where there are problems.  It may be a product line that didn’t take off like it should, it may be a new brand that we’re just starting to launch that has run into some difficulty, may be a factory that has problems, or may be receivables that are not easy to collect.  If you volunteer for those jobs, the chances are that you will succeed much better.  First of all, you will have a chance to make a difference, because it’s an area where somebody actually needs to have help.  Number two:  you won’t have any competition because most other people your age won’t volunteer for these jobs because they see them as dirty jobs and they want to go where the glamour is.  Number three: everybody’s going to know what happens.  If you do something well, somebody’s going to react to that and your boss will know about it.  So the phrase we use is “you can’t fall off the floor”.

Bud:  So even if you go into a tough situation and maybe you have less than optimal results, the fact that you tried is going to get you a lot of good press and publicity within the company.

Bill:  Absolutely right.  And you hit the last point right on the head.  If you don’t fix it, it’s not your fault, you didn’t break it.  People will say “well, maybe this is a problem that just doesn’t have an easy way of fixing it”, so it’s a great way for a young person to make a greater contribution to the organization and have very little downside.

Bud:  Let me bring something else up that’s similar, but different and I just want to get your opinion on it.  When I was working for a company 25 years ago, I had a similar experience.  I volunteered to head up a charitable campaign.  This particular company was very involved with the United Way.  They were really big contributors and wanted to show how they were involved with it, so one year I actually volunteered to run the headquarters campaign, which is not a lot of fun.  But it brought me to the attention of several people.  And so I guess after listening to you speak about taking the dirty jobs, what I was thinking about was there are things that are not necessarily business related, but are important to companies where there are other opportunities like that.

Bill:  Absolutely correct. 

Bill White makes some great common sense points about how to build a great career in his book From Day One.  By the way, in case you haven’t figured it out, as the title of the book suggests, outstanding performers get involved quickly – from day one, they become as productive as they can as quickly as they can. 

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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