When asked to do an extra task, you may have thought, “It’s not my job” or “I’m not getting paid for that.” But at many companies, going beyond your job description is the best way to move up. Your boss has no way to know you can perform higher-level tasks until she sees you excel at those tasks.
Some professionals never look to expand their role, says Sherri Thomas, CEO of Career Coaching 360 and author of "The Bounce Back" and "Career Smart." But even though you may love what you do and be content with your pay, there’s a danger in maintaining the status quo.
“They stay in the same job role, performing the same level of responsibilities year after year,” Thomas says. “This puts you at risk for being laid off. I believe that we’re not meant to be stagnant in our career. We’re meant to grow, stretch, leap and bounce.”
“You always want to be doing a little extra,” says executive coach Rebecca Kiki Weingarten of TradeCraft Coaching. “It never hurts to over-deliver.”
Don’t rush to expand. Yet.
But if you’re still wet behind the ears at your job, don’t rush to expand. Yet.
“When you’ve just landed a new job, it’s important to focus on executing well in your key role and responsibilities,” Thomas says. “This is not the time to volunteer for extra assignments that go beyond your job scope.”
Use your first six months to build a positive relationship with your manager and fully understand the company’s values, office culture and team dynamics. Schedule regular meetings with your manager to fully align on job expectations, responsibilities and the criteria that your manager is using to determine whether or not you are successful in your new role, she says.
“You may be eager to branch out and grow your skills or advance up the corporate ladder, but you need to make sure that you have the support of your manager,” she says.
Once you've proven yourself, look for ways to expand
After you’ve developed a solid relationship with your manager and proven yourself to be successful, then it’s a great idea to look for ways to expand your scope and influence, Thomas says.
Don’t rush into any old extra work, Weingarten says. “You don’t want to run yourself ragged,” she cautions. “Don’t just pick up the extra slack.”
Instead, think about your career goals and choose extra tasks that will move you toward those goals, Weingarten says. If there are certain types of projects you’d like to lead in the future, look for chances to be involved in or lead beyond your current job, she says.
“Choose a project that will promote you and your agenda, that will allow you and your work to shine,” she says.
Talk with your manager about specific skills you would like to learn or grow, or any type of experience you would like to gain such as team leadership or project management, Thomas says. Discuss ideas you have for volunteering or offer support to other teams or projects. Expanding your scope doesn’t happen overnight, but when you have regular professional development conversations with your manager they usually lead to opportunities, she says.
One of Thomas’s clients, David, was particularly frustrated in his job. He had been a successful project manager in a Fortune 500 company for eight years, but had not received a promotion.
“When he came to me for career coaching he was bored, frustrated and ready to leave the company,” Thomas recalls. “We discussed a few possibilities, and came up with the idea that he would volunteer for a particularly high profile project that could potentially expand his level of credibility and influence. He received approval from his manager and within a week he was the junior project manager for a critical program. Even though he was working more hours (he was still performing his regular job), he had more energy and was more productive than he’d been in years.”
Two months later, the organization did some shifting and David became the senior project manager for the highly valued program, she says. Eight months later he received a promotion, and two years after that he received a second promotion.
Make sure you still perform your key tasks
Finally, as you look to shine at going beyond the call of duty remember that performing extra tasks doesn’t make up for bad results on your key tasks. Reality check: that’s what you were hired to do.
“Otherwise, you run the risk of receiving a poor annual performance review because you didn’t execute successfully to the role and responsibilities for which you were hired,” Thomas says.