Your Guide To Getting Out Out Of A Career Rut (Or, How To Get More Responsibilities At Work)

Flickr / Flazingo Photos
Flickr / Flazingo Photos

Is there anyone in your office who’d willingly do the same thing, day in, day out for years?

No one, I bet.

But that’s exactly what happens to many employees.

Career rut affects everyone, even the best and most ambitious people around. One day, they realize their colleagues are working on more challenging and exciting projects, while they’re left behind doing the same mundane tasks they did the year before.

If you’re bored at work and are ready to take on new responsibilities, here’s what you need to do:

1. Compare what you really want to what you can actually do.

Why do you want more responsibilities in the first place?

Is it because you want to be the next senior manager to get a 6-figure salary? Great, do you have any management experience or knowledge?  You want to help with a product launch? Okay, do you have any skill that could be helpful in such an important event?

Try to find a common ground between your interests and skills. If these two don’t overlap, you’ll have a hard time convincing others to give you a chance.

2. Ask your boss for more responsibilities.

See if your direct supervisor can assign you additional projects that fall in your line of interest.

But don’t just ask for ‘more work’ up front. Share your motives and your career goals first, to signal that you’re open to taking more responsibilities for the team.

Your boss can assign you anything from new initiatives, to minor tasks he doesn’t have time to deal with. Whatever the case, don’t be picky. Consider the first task as a test. If you can deliver, your boss might be willing to assign you more challenging work next time.

In the unlikely event your boss isn’t willing to give you more work…

3. Look for busy coworkers.

Your boss isn’t the only source of new projects in your office. Offer a lending hand to a teammate struggling to complete his to-do list, or a friend working on a new project in another department.

Just watch out for attention hogs that will pass on their extra work to you, and then keep all the credit for themselves in the end.

Again, don’t be picky with the tasks they give you at first. The point of this process is to establish yourself as a team player, so you’ll be the one they call once something big happens.

Now, if both your boss and colleagues have no extra work for you…. that’s when you need to get creative.

4. Create new projects and tasks for yourself.

Brainstorm ideas for new projects and tasks you can work on. Think of things that need improvement in your office, or new initiatives that could increase sales, minimize office distractions and improve productivity, save money, or improve existing procedures.

List down all your ideas then explain their benefits and importance. Are there possible downsides to your ideas? Is it expensive? Will it take a long time to implement? Don’t forget to list down the step by step plan for each project, the possible timeline, people involved and estimated costs, if any.

For instance, a plan for a new initiative to improve the onboarding process of fresh grad and newly licensed Physical Therapists in your team might roughly look like:

Benefits: faster adaptation to the clinic’s processes, more treated patients, less patient customer complaints, and less traffic in the exercise machines

Timeline: 1-2 weeks

Cost: n/a or minimal, assuming there’s no need for more training or equipment

Steps: to talk to the clinic’s managing PT, your shift manager, interview new Physical therapists in your team for suggestions and finally revise the process

Your proposal should specifically state why you’re the best person to handle the project; otherwise it might be given to someone else.

This process takes more time and planning than the other steps here. But the more you plan, the more confident your boss will be in giving you more responsibilities. From their perspective, they just want to make sure this new ‘shiny’ project won’t end up on their to-do list.

5. Don’t Give Up

You may not land a new and exciting project on your first try, but that’s okay. At least now, you know how to ask for it.

If your idea gets shot down, don’t take it personally. A lot of factors are at play here, such as budgets, time constraints and upper management’s decision. Instead, ask follow-up questions to determine what you could do better next time. TC mark

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