There will be times throughout your work life when you will feel like things are moving too slow for you. Whether it’s because you’ve outgrown your job and need a new challenge, or because you’re being asked to move at the speed of slower teammates, this feeling can be frustrating and can end up stalling your upward mobility.
Luckily, it’s also something you can control through your own actions. All it takes is the recognition that you want to speed up your career progression and the commitment to do what it takes to make it happen.
Here are three ways you can do this.
Take on the dirty work
No, this doesn’t mean take out the trash or clean up around the office, although those are both great things to do when you have a spot of free time and the rest of your team is facing deadlines. This means that you should go after those two or three projects that aren’t crucial to the company but are difficult to accomplish. They’re usually ones that no one wants to touch because, logistically, they’re a nightmare.
Whether it’s automating a system that has a ton of red tape and slows down productivity, or fixing a key inefficiency in the team’s communication structure, find those projects that will help the team do their jobs better as a whole. Do them on your free time, when you’ve finished with a project and gotten ahead of your teammates, both to fill the time and to add value.
Completing these kinds of projects - ones that no one else wants to do - will earn you a bit of respect around the office. More importantly, it will help speed up your team so that you can progress alongside them.
And best of all, it will make asking for more responsibility a lot easier. You will have proven that you have the chops to complete a project of your own initiative from start to finish, and that’s a highly attractive trait that managers love to take advantage of.
Work on side projects
If your job isn’t providing you with the challenges and opportunities for advancement that you need in spite of your best efforts, then you still have a valid option on your side. You can work on your own side projects, whether that is starting your own side venture, working on an app idea, creating a personal or professional blog, or freelancing as a consultant for various companies.
This type of work looks great on your resume, and can be the difference between impressing a hiring manager or recruiter with a diverse, entrepreneurial background and simply looking like every other candidate on the block. You’ll stand out for your ability to manage both your day job and your side projects, and you’ll learn a ton along the way.
Best of all, your side projects can help you discover a new passion in your life. There’s no bigger leap in your career than discovering that you have a passion for building products for an underserved market and making the leap into building a business. That action will allow you to take your own career solely into your own hands.
Just be sure, if you do wish to continue your career with your current employer, that you don’t allow your side projects to hurt your productivity. The point is for them to be done in your free time as a way to make you more appealing to employers, not for them to get you fired.
Ask for more responsibility
If you feel like you’re being impeded by lack of challenging tasks at work, the onus is on you to ask for more responsibility. This is a way for you to promote yourself - both in the personal marketing and the career sense - by showing off your top notch work ethic and demanding for yourself the responsibilities and tasks of someone higher on the career ladder than you.
Schedule a meeting with your boss once a month, or as often as they are comfortable with, to go over your progress and ask for more challenging work. This will allow you to both show them how efficiently you’re creating high-quality work, as well as incentivize them to give you better opportunities to add value and prove your worth to the team.
Make sure you do this on a regular basis, as you begin to feel like you’re running out of quality work. You’ll find that as you do this, the challenges presented to you can become more and more interesting and time-consuming. You’ll learn new things, make important contributions to a wide variety of projects, and put yourself on a fast track towards earning bonuses and a promotion.
And even if you don’t earn any accolades as a result, all those new responsibilities and accomplishments will look terrific on your resume, enabling you to better market yourself to various employers who need someone of your caliber.
Your career track doesn’t have to slow down just because you’re in a situation where you’re not being challenged enough. You can take action to make sure you’re constantly learning something new and growing as a professional. And as a result, you’ll open new doors for yourself, both within your team and with other companies.