How To Get Ahead: Over-Deliver!

If I had a time capsule that I could send to my unborn child containing just ten bits of advice, this would be in there. If you want to get ahead, learn to deliver more than you are asked to do. University, college, work, it’s all the same. The people who get ahead are almost always the ones who deliver just that little bit extra.

So why does this work? Just about everyone you meet at your institution will be aiming to do the bare minimum – and a fair chunk of people don’t even achieve that. If you’re aiming for just one level above – the level of over-delivery – then you immediately put yourself in to a small elite class of student, and these students will get recognised.

Teachers and lecturers are supposed to be fair and unbiased – they are not! Like all of us, they are human, and humans all have biases and preferences that are uncontrolled, but also usually unconscious. As a teacher, your sense of job satisfaction comes from seeing your students take your teachings seriously, and then use it to their own benefit. You really enjoy it when your students hang off your every word. If you over-deliver on your work, your teachers and lecturers can’t help but take a shining to you. When your teacher comes to mark your paper, and it’s borderline B/A grade, they will come down on the side of their prejudices…

When teachers and lecturers favour you, all sorts of doors can be opened for you. When the teacher has a rare opportunity for only a few students, who will be picked? One of my close friends completed his degree in computer animation (making films like Pixar), and because of his consistent over-delivery on his course, one of his lecturers called him six months later and offered him a job on his team working on Guardians of the Galaxy. My friend could never have guessed his beautiful and thoughtful work would lead to Hollywood, but that’s what it did. Over-delivery opens doors.

Our life is made up of habits. Every time you take an action, it becomes just a little easier and automatic to do the same in the future. Every action you take, then, helps form a habit, so learn to foster the habit of over-delivery. Delivering more than you are asked to do is a critical skill for any profession, so I suggest that you build up this skill on your course, so that it is well carved in to your mind by the time you’re ready to work. As an employee or a businessman, giving your boss or clients more than they asked for is the fastest way to grow. See your coursework as practice for any work you might do in the future, and you should put the same love and extra 10% in that you will for your career.

Read on for a few suggestions for concrete ways to over-deliver on your course…
• Hand in your work in beautiful packaging. If it’s electronic, take time to make the text look aesthetically pleasing.
• Take a few hours every week to read ahead in your textbooks.
• Talk to your teachers regularly, and ask for their feedback.
• Find reading material that compliments your course and get stuck in. E.g. books written on the same subjects by different experts.
• Whenever you finish a piece of work, don’t stop. Ask yourself, ‘Now what can I do to make this better?’
• If your course assesses using essays or text (most do), then learn how to write like an expert.

It is well said that you get out of something what you put in to it. This is largely true. So I encourage you all to adopt a policy of continuous over-delivery. The passion that you put in to your work will be its own reward, and keeping it up will get you noticed.