When clients come to Catch Your Big Break looking for career help, one of the most common complaints they express is “I’m stuck.” They often feel a bit bored in their current jobs, aren’t getting the sort of advancement opportunities they want, and find themselves doing work that’s somewhat repetitive and uninteresting.
Contrast that with the one and only reason anyone ever gets a promotion: that person is adding so much value in his or her current role that the boss (or company in general) is motivated to take low-value work off that person’s plate and replace it with higher-value work. That is literally the only reason. To put it in simpler language, when your plate is consistently full and your boss has higher-level work for you to do, it’s time for a promotion. I had a coach (I think it was Brian Tracy) who gave me some career help when I was younger, and it’s made all the difference in the world.
How To Get Higher-Level Work
In my conversations with clients, the next question often is, “how to I get the higher-level work?” You ask for it. If you want career help to get promoted, that’s my recommendation. Quite simply, you figure out how to get the critical daily work associated with your own job completed in less time than you have available to work during a given day. If your work day is 8 hours long, figure out how to get the work done in 7. Smart workers can usually figure out how to make this happen, especially when they’ve said the current work is boring. Boring = easy. Even for folks with average or below average intelligence (like me), you can choose to come in a bit early and leave a bit late in order to free up a bit of extra time in your daily schedule. Then ask for more work.
The majority of times (though not every time) when I’ve asked my boss for work over the years, he or she has given it to me. I simply say, “I finished all the urgent work on my plate, and I wanted to see if you had any high priority items I should address.” Sometimes the boss has inquired about particular items on my plate, and double-checked to make sure my plate really is clear. Even this can be helpful, since occasionally I’ve overlooked a task , or we have found something that was more urgent from the boss’ perspective than it was from mine. This process of syncing expectations between boss and worker is critical for long-term success and ability to promote within a company.
When you’ve practiced this for awhile, and feel confident that (1) your own work truly is done for the moment and (2) your boss trusts you to work above and beyond your basic job description, you can change the question a bit. Ask, “Is there anything on your plate that I can help with?” If you’ve paid attention to the quality of your own work, often the boss can find some boring, unfulfilling part of his or her work that can be safely handed off to you. I call that “opportunity.” And as Thomas Edison said once, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Like all the career help we give people here at Catch Your Big Break, this isn’t a magic-bullet solution, or a one-shot wonder for getting promoted, but when it’s done consistently over a period of time, it tends to work well. If you’ve ever asked your boss for more work, post a short comment below to let me know what happened. Did you get positive feedback, or not?