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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

2 Easy Ways to Expand Your Role (Without Overstepping Your Boundaries)

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Even if things are going well at work, you can’t help but think you’d be happier if you were doing more. Maybe it’s a project you’re dying to get involved in. Or a skill you’d love to build. Or a team you’d like to work more closely with.

I’ve been there myself. I loved the ins and outs of being a headhunter, but I wasn’t fulfilled. So, I branched out, and in addition to my recruiting responsibilities, I started writing articles for my company’s blog.

Of course, as you know, doing this can be a little tricky. Every organization comes with its own nuances and ways to best navigate the landscape—a.k.a., your manager can make this really easy or really hard, depending on how much they value your growth and how much room there actually is in your role or on your team to expand.

But the truth is that your career development is on you—and there’s no reason you can’t explore your options. Here’s how you can expand your role to work on things that matter to you (without overstepping those scary boss boundaries).

1. Make it Clear How You’ll Add Value

When pursuing a new project or responsibility, consider the value it’ll have on the company’s bottom line. What problem is it solving? How is it making things more efficient? How is it helping your team or company reach its goals? How does your involvement benefit everyone?

The more you can quantify or explain the output of your new passion project, the more likely you’ll get the green light (and possibly the budget) from your boss to run with it.

(We’ve even made you this handy worksheet to plan out your pitch. Just click File > Download as > any file type you’d like to get started.)

Early in my career working in sales at a Fortune 500 company, I decided to branch out into people development. It was a far cry from my job description, but I wanted the experience, so I came up with the idea of putting together a mentoring program for the entire Southeast Division. The idea stemmed from new employees wanting to build a connection with management but unsure of how to break the ice.

As the program grew and ultimately enhanced company culture, over 100 teammates directly benefited from my work. It bridged a gap by introducing less-experienced employees to leadership, gave those who were mid-level an opportunity to lead as a mentor and network up as a mentee, and provided the bosses with an opportunity to see first-hand what their direct reports were working on. The program was set up so that everybody won.

When you invite others to participate, as well as benefit, from your work, you gain their support and encouragement (and the support and encouragement of your boss). Plus, looping others in lets you pick their brain and learn from their various expertise.

2. Capitalize on Learning Opportunities

Does your company host lunch-and-learns or workshops, or allow employees to attend conferences? Get involved in anything that piques your interest—seriously, that’s what they’re there for. If it’s not hosted by your team but is up your alley, ask your manager if you can shadow another department’s training (if you get all your work done).

Then, bring back a new approach you learned and teach it to your colleagues, or use it to improve one of your current systems, or use it as a framework for future projects. By showing that you’re becoming a more valuable employee from these experiences, you encourage your managers to want to invest more time and money into them—and more time and money into your personal growth.

If these kinds of professional development opportunities aren’t readily available for you, consider doing your own research for classes or conferences you’d like to attend and asking your boss for some allocated budget (here’s how to do that).

Remember: You might get a “no” to any of the above, but you won’t ever get a yes if you don’t ask.

If all else fails, there’s always room for growth that can be found outside of your 9-to-5. Consider volunteering, freelancing, taking on contract work, or attacking a passion project. Whether on the clock or off, when you feel that it’s time to expand, choose your path and go for it! It’s never too late.

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