Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Secret to Getting More Responsibility

We’ve all been there: You see the larger potential in the project you’ve been assigned. You know that taking initiative to expand the scope will not only make it better, but it will showcase your ambition and creative thinking. You’re confident that you have what it takes to kick the project up a notch, and you’re ready to tackle it head-on.

The only problem? You can’t take it to the next level without getting your supervisor’s approval, and she hasn’t exactly been open to new ideas lately. Perhaps she’s worried that it will pull you away from other projects, or maybe she doesn’t quite get all the “newfangled technology” involved. Whatever the case, a little hesitation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck. Here’s how to maximize your chance for success when you’re asking for more responsibility.

1. Do Your Research

Preparation is key when you’re making a persuasive argument. So come up with some tangible ways to explain how taking on more or expanding the scope of the project will benefit your department and reinforce your boss’ goals. Could it increase sales, engage customers in a new and lasting way, or introduce a more efficient way of doing things? Also be prepared to discuss any potential costs, such as the time and money required, as well as any risks, such as an unfavorable public reaction.

2. Think in Terms of the Big Picture

The higher up your idea goes, the more concerned your audience will be with the bigger picture. So help yourself—and your boss—by really thinking through the implications and potential upside of your proposal. How will expanding your project help the company on a larger scope? Will it position your employer as an industry leader or get the organization more visibility? Perhaps your plan to develop a department YouTube channel could help the company reach a younger demographic and supply useful marketing shorts, or your idea for a pro bono project could foster new collaborations with partners the company has been pursuing.

3. Break Down the Steps

At the same time, organizing your plan into bite-size pieces will make it easier for your boss and others to see exactly what’s involved. So, before you present your idea for, say, ramping up the college recruiting program, develop a project plan. List all the tasks you’ll need to do to get the project off the ground, along with how long it will take. With each task, identify what skills are needed and who has them. Are you the best person for the job, can you recruit a team member, or will training be needed? The more you’ve thought through the plan, the more seriously others will take it—plus, the more comfortable your boss will be that this new project isn’t going to pull you away from your current responsibilities or just end up on her lap.

4. Don't Get Discouraged

Unfortunately, even the best ideas get shot down sometimes. So, if you’ve done your research, made a stellar pitch, and the answer is still “no,” it’s not the end of the world. But, it is a learning opportunity. Ask some follow-up questions to find out why your idea wasn’t given the go-ahead. External factors, such as timing, budget constraints, or lack of board approval, might have been working against you.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make similar requests in the future. Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Plus, even just taking the time to plan for an expanded project is an opportunity in itself to showcase your initiative, creativity, and project planning skills. So, get yourself out there and go for it!

Photo of people working courtesy of Shutterstock.