April 21, 2011
How to get more responsibility at work
As anyone who's ever held a job for more than a week will tell you, being underutilized at work is the kiss of death. As if dying of boredom isn't bad enough, you also get to worry about being branded dead weight the next time budget cuts roll around.
[Photo by David Blaine]
Whether you're a rookie at your current company or a grossly underused old-timer, here are some do's and don'ts for fleshing out your on-the-job responsibilities and, with any luck, buying yourself a smidge more job security.
DO be proactive. Identify current or ongoing projects you could easily lend your time and talents to. Create a list of the tasks you could complete on those projects and other ways you might assist the project leaders and team.
DO call a meeting with your boss or the relevant project leaders to present the above ideas concisely and clearly. Don't wait for an invitation to join a project you have your eye on. Your boss is not a nanny or a mind reader. It's never too soon (or too late) to access your inner entrepreneur and play a hand in shaping your role at the company.
DO seek out meaningful, higher-priority projects that that you know are important to your boss and teammates and, and once complete, will make their lives easier. Even better if those projects have been repeatedly stalled because no one has had time to fully direct their attention to them. Avoid fluffy vanity projects that don't serve your employer's mission (for example, starting a blog or Twitter feed just for the sake of it rather than as part of a larger online marketing strategy).
DO douse around for additional chances to contribute at the office. Lunch with coworkers often. Ask what they're working on. Listen for opportunities to lend a hand with an overwhelming project or to offer your expertise on a sticky customer issue. Be mindful about coming across as supportive rather than a poacher or a threat to other people's work.
DON'T take on new projects without letting your boss know. There may be a valid business reason a particular task has remained incomplete for the past six months. Besides, you need to alert your manager and team to the contributions you're making so that your hard work won't go unnoticed. Even better if you can measure your progress in tangibles, such as new customers, revenue, publicity, or productivity.
DON'T make your quest for added responsibility about you or your boredom or your concern with your standing at the company. Make it about your employer's needs and helping your boss and team succeed. You have the availability to take on more work and the knowledge to get the tasks done, and you were hired to help, so that's what you'd like to do. End of story.
DON'T bite off more than you can chew. Set yourself up to succeed, not flounder. You don't want earn the rep of someone who can't deliver what they promised. And you certainly don't want to be sorry you opened your mouth about being underutilized in the first place.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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