For the most part, the best way to move up in your career is to take on progressively more challenging responsibilities. By taking on more, you’re showing your supervisors (or potential outside employers) that you are capable of carrying a heavier load and that your quality of work won’t suffer because of it. The only thing is that if your boss isn’t actively giving you more opportunities on their own, then you have to ask for it. And, in some cases, you might even have to prove that you’re ready.
It’s essential to keep in mind that having the desire to take on more work doesn’t necessarily mean you have the bandwidth to do it. Before you approach your boss with a request for more responsibility, look at where you are both professionally and personally and determine if you have the time and energy required to take on more work. If you don’t, then now may not be the right time to ask for more because for this to benefit you, you need to set yourself up for success.
Once you’re in a position where you feel confident in taking on more responsibility, then it’s time to have a conversation with your boss and start taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Do Some Prep Work
Before going to your boss to discuss taking on more work, you’ll want to prepare to advocate for yourself. While this might not feel as intimidating as asking for a raise or a promotion—you need to take it as seriously as you would any other career conversation. You aren’t coming to your boss and asking for more responsibility out of the kindness of your heart. You have a plan. So treat this conversation with the seriousness it deserves.
First, consider what your long-term career goalsare so that you can frame your request around them. You may have shared these goals with your supervisor already, likely in an annual review, but you’re still going to want to include them as part of this conversation. As you’re reviewing your goals, ask yourself what kind of added responsibilities will help you get closer to them (don’t take on extra work that won’t benefit you at all). Come up with a few detailed suggestions that you can present to your boss to give them a clear picture of the projects you’d like to take on.
Once you have your framework put together, start developing a pitch. Just like any request, you’re going to need to sell your boss on why it’s a good idea to let you expand your current role. The pitch should explain what you want, why you want it, and how it will help your boss, team, and or the organization in the process.
While you can’t prepare for questions your boss might have, you can expect there to be some back and forth conversation after the pitch. Review your pitch (or have an outsider review it) and see if any questions pop out at you. If so, consider how you’d respond to those questions in a way that would leave your boss feeling satisfied.
Deliver Your Pitch and Prove You’re Ready
Great! You’ve perfected your pitch and are prepared to answer any questions that arise. Before your meeting, gather copies of your past performance reviews, praise/feedback from others within the company, and anything else you can find that supports you’re ready to take on more projects. Once everything is prepared, set up a meeting with your boss and present your pitch and supporting documents. At this point, be ready for some back and forth. Depending on your relationship with your boss, you may get asked about how taking on more work would affect your personal life (i.e., will it cause problems with parenting duties or your health?), so be prepared to address those concerns as well.
Your boss may be able to tell you on the spot whether or not they’re on board with this, or they may ask for some time to review everything and come up with a plan. If the answer is not an immediate yes, that’s okay. Just make a point of following up on the request regularly and providing more proof/documentation along the way.
Step-Up and Seize Opportunities
Hopefully, your boss is quick to get on board with your request and the two of you can work together to create a plan for you to take on more responsibility. If not, you might not be entirely out of luck because you may be presented with opportunities to volunteer on special projects or help when the team or the organization is in a pinch. While these opportunities will be detailed and likely not a permanent increase in responsibilities, if you are successful in these situations, you can use them as further evidence that you’re ready to take on more.
Another way you can position yourself for more responsibility is by making connections with people in other departments within your organization. Start talking to more employees during lunch or when you’re grabbing coffee, and offer to help other teams if there’s something you can do in your role that will make things easier or more efficient for them. As you get to know and collaborate with more people within the organization, your abilities will become more widely known, so your boss may start getting more positive feedback on your performance.
It’s essential to keep in mind that to do these things professionally. If your boss declines your request to increase responsibilities because they want you to improve performance in parts of your current job, focus on that first. Your boss is the gatekeeper in professional development within your company, so you need to make sure they are satisfied with you as an employee before expanding your reach.
The only way to progress in your career is by actively learning new things and taking on more responsibility when the time is right. In most cases, a good leader will do what they can to help you grow professionally. But if you aren’t making progress in your current role, don’t be afraid to start looking for new jobs. You might have to make a lateral move at first to master the skills needed for the next step up in your career, but with a supportive leader, you’re much more likely to not only grow but also succeed.
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