Going above and beyond is a great way to get your manager’s attention, stand out at work, and signal that you are ready for that promotion.
However, in today’s busy work environments, you are probably already strapped for time. If you do take on extra responsibility, you want to make sure it’s a value-add for both you and your employer. Here’s how:
Where are you now? Where are you going?
Before you try to take on more at work, you need to identify where you are now, and where you would like your next big career move to be. Then, you need to identify the skill and experience gap that exists, and how going above and beyond your current job will help you get where you want to go. This knowledge will help you pick targeted opportunities that address the skill gap in a meaningful way, not just add more work to your plate.
Consider this example: Your current role is very analytical, and doesn’t require much interaction with others, but the job you want requires a lot of client interaction and presentations. It would be easy to volunteer to do some more reporting or analytical tasks, but it would be far more valuable to find a task that will help you develop the necessary public speaking and communication skills. For instance, you could volunteer to present the daily sales results, ask your boss if you can present some updates at your next department meeting, or ask to start sitting in on some client meetings.
Add incremental value
When it comes to taking on side projects at work, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Chances are there are tons of internal processes and projects that are in dire need of improvement. You probably see tons of examples of reporting that could be streamlined and projects that have been neglected.
We all have good ideas that never see the light of day, either because we are too nervous to speak up, or too busy to bother. Next time you have an idea, propose a plan for implementing it, present it to your boss, and ask if you can take ownership of the initiative.
In the best-case scenario, your boss will say yes, and you have a great opportunity to lead a project. In the worst-case scenario, you’ve provided your boss with a resource for tackling an organizational problem that they may be able to use in the future. Additionally, they will remember your willingness to go above and beyond, and will be more likely to come to you over others with future opportunities.
Even though you might have the best intentions when trying to extend beyond your role at work, others might not always see it that way. When you think you are being helpful by taking on a new project, especially when it heavily overlaps with someone else’s role, they may perceive this as you trying to “take over” their job, or outshine them.
Always be respectful of other people and make sure you’re not stepping on any toes before jumping into something new. Make sure you have your manager’s support before going forward with a new project, so any questions and concerns that may arise can be appropriately directed.
Don’t overdo it
While it’s commendable that you want to take on extra responsibilities at work, you need to be reasonable about how much you can handle at one time. It’s always better to do a few things really well than spread yourself thin over too many commitments.
Before offering to take on something new, honestly evaluate your schedule and be upfront about how much time you can commit to a new project. It’s useful to set a fixed number of hours that you can spend on each side project or task each week, and stick to it, to prevent the scope from creeping and taking over your primary responsibilities.