No matter what job you're doing—be it cleaning the house or cleaning up data—the most important thing to find is your value add. That special sauce, that magic element that you, and only you, can bring to the project.
It's easy to go with the flow, to "just follow orders," or to let yourself be swept up in checking emails and other busy work. Finding your value add allows you to grow in your career, but also craft activities and projects within your current role that allow you to shine.
List Your Strengths—and Your Weaknesses
To understand how to find your value add, you must first know yourself. Listing out your strengths and weaknesses can be difficult, but is the most important step. If you haven't taken standard personality tests like Myers-Briggs or explored Mark Buckingham's strength finder, I'd recommend starting there.
Buckingham describes a strength as something that energizes you and you like doing that you're also good at. That means the emphasis is on your emotional well-being. All of us can be good at data entry, but is that your strength? Not necessarily.
To find your strengths, think about what you love doing. It might not be professional at all. If you love to play soccer, think about what about it you love most. Is it the thrill of victory? The feeling of teamwork? The knowledge that you've given it your all? Those are all strengths you can harness.
Now, the more difficult part: your weaknesses. It's important to know them and be aware of them, but not to dwell on them. If you're not a number cruncher, you're not. If you're not a public speaker, you're not. You need to know those are weak spots so you can work around them and harness the energy of your team. You can't do it all. You may still have to crunch numbers or get up on stage every once in a while, but knowing that's not what you want to do every day is just as valuable.
Map Your Strengths to Actions
Put aside your weaknesses for a moment and focus on your strengths. The next step is to map what you're good at and what you love doing to specific actions you may encounter on the job. Tailor your brainstorming to your current role first before expanding into everything; then you know what your value add is now and what it could be in the future.
For instance, let's say you chose "the thrill of victory" from my soccer example above. Sounds like you like to win, and you're competitive. What actions does that lend itself to? Negotiating deals, winning over clients, finishing projects on time, and performing in high pressure situations. Sounds like you'd be great in a sales role.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Now that you know what you're good at and what you love, it's time to tell the world. Communication is always important, especially if you're a remote worker. Your manager and your team won't be able to read your mind. Talk to them about it. Leveraging your strengths and finding that sweet spot between what needs to be done and what you're good at will add the most value.
Never Stop Learning
Though leveraging your strengths will make you valuable now, developing your weaknesses builds your value add in the future. No matter if it's a strength or a weakness, learn as much as possible, and never stop.
If you stop learning, there's no value add at all.