Everyone dreams of the corner office and the pay raises. But none of these perks come for free—they’re the reward for taking on more responsibility.
As you advance in your career, at some point you’re going to ask the question: when is it time to take on more responsibility at work?
If you step up to the plate when you’re ready, you could end up thriving in both your professional and personal life. But if you bite off more than you can chew, you could end up imploding your career & hurting your long-term prospects.
This post will walk through some signs that you’re ready to take on more responsibility at work and give you some tips to do that effectively.
Why take more responsibility at work?
It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone. But if you don’t take risks in your career, you’ll end up stagnating; worse, you could become irrelevant.
So if you want to take your career seriously (and we assume that if you’re reading this article, you do), then you need to proactively expand your responsibilities at work, both laterally and vertically.
Here are some of the benefits of doing so:
- Expand your contribution to the success of the organization and team—make yourself indispensable
- Learn new skills to help make you into a more well-rounded professional & build your resume
- Work with different kinds of people, improving your soft skills and expanding your networking potential
When are you ready for more responsibility at work?
If you’re within the first 30 days of a new role, that’s probably not the right time to start expanding your responsibility. But if you’ve been there for two years and nothing has changed, then odds are you’ve waited too long.
So what’s the right timing for expanding your work responsibilities? There’s no black-and-white answer, but generally the more prepared you are, the more effective you’ll be. That said, opportunities present themselves at strange times, and you have to be willing to seize them.
Here are three solid signs that you’re ready to take that next step.
You’re already succeeding at your job
Take care of the basics first. If you can’t handle your current responsibilities, what makes you think you can take on more?
Focus first and foremost on excelling at the tasks at hand. Then, once you master those responsibilities, you can start taking the next step.
A corollary to this rule: if your boss is happy with your current performance, then it’s probably a good sign that you should ask for more responsibility. If they aren’t, then focus on the task in front of you, then move on when you’re ready.
You have a good relationship with your team members
Although none of us like it, office politics are part of succeeding within an organization. So if you don’t have a good relationship with your fellow team members, then you probably won’t be an effective leader.
If, on the other hand, you have genuine morale with your team—better yet, if they’re the ones spurring you on toward leadership—then that’s a sign you should consider moving upward.
You’re naturally drawn toward leadership
By this we don’t mean you like to “boss people around” or you’re a control freak. The best leaders are effective when they have a purpose to align people toward. If you naturally spend time thinking about how to improve things for the good of the organization, then you could do well in a leadership role.
A key aspect of leadership is working with people. If you find yourself drawn toward team projects and enjoy supporting and encouraging people, then an upward move may be right for you.
You want to excel in your niche
Not every person is cut out for leadership. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work on taking on more responsibility. If you’re a “head down” person who wants to excel in your niche, then you can expand your scope by becoming an expert in your area. This will make you attractive to your current organization and others, which will make your work more lucrative.
How to take on more responsibility in your job
Once the stars align and the signs point in the right direction, here are a few tips to help you expand your responsibility in a way that provides the most value to your organization.
1. Talk to your boss
Your boss is an important part of expanding your role. Not only will you need their green-light in order to move ahead, but they can clue you into the organization’s biggest needs, and provide mentorship and coaching along the way.
On the flip side, talking to your boss can be a wake-up call, if you think you can take on more responsibility than you’re ready for. They may be able to gently tell you: “you’re not ready for this yet, but let’s work on getting you to that point.”
2. Look for gaps in your current team
An organization’s most pressing needs are almost always obvious. Stressed employees, dropped balls, and an air of “never getting enough done” signal gaps in your organization’s capabilities.
Before offering to help your colleagues, make sure you’re meeting all your responsibilities, and that you have enough marginal bandwidth to help them out.
There are different schools of thought as to whether you should do this before approaching your boss. On the one hand, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. On the other hand, you don’t want to drop the ball on your own responsibilities, and your only excuse is: “I was doing someone else’s job.”
3. Become an expert—and put that expertise into practice
If there’s a gap within your organization, one of the best ways to be assigned that task is to work on becoming an expert. That way, when the conversation of “who should take this on” comes up, you’re the obvious choice.
The good news: most of this knowledge is available online for free. This will require you to spend some of your off-time educating yourself, and even practicing some of these skills. While not everyone is thrilled with that idea, remember: this is about your career. If you want to be successful, you have to invest in yourself.
Once you feel like you’re up to speed enough to start putting that knowledge into practice, then you could take on a small project at work. Then, as you provide value to your team, your reputation as an expert can start to speak for itself.
4. Hone your soft skills
While becoming an expert in your field is important, it’s impossible to be successful without soft skills. After all, you’re not just becoming more responsible for things, but people as well. Here are some areas where you should focus:
- Awareness of your areas of responsibility, and where the boundaries between your lane and your colleagues’ lie
- Integrity, a strong moral code, and expressing good and logical judgment
- Resilience in the face of obstacles—-especially stamina to continue after failure
- Accepting responsibility and accountability for the consequences of your actions
- Confident decision-making
- Determination and drive to succeed, even when things get difficult
- Flexibility in both your personal and professional life
Final thoughts on taking on more job responsibility
Taking on more responsibility can be key to succeeding in your job role. If you plan your moves strategically and focus on the value you deliver to the organization, it can be a true win-win situation.
For more information on career advice and succeeding in your current role, click here to talk to one of our experts.
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