A lot of you know you’d like to be doing something more significant for your company, but no one is giving you the chance. This is your wake up call. You don’t need to wait for someone to bestow a title on you — you can take on a bigger role right now.
The key to taking on a bigger role is to have your current job under control. If you can’t handle your current job and another one, then you have to wait until you can change jobs. But if you get great at time management then you can do your current job and start doing another one without waiting for an invitation to climb up a rung on the corporate ladder.
Once you’re ready to take on other, more interesting work, you can use this three-step process to sidestep hierarchy.
1. Find a problem area in the company that no one is dealing with.
When I was in charge of online marketing at a software company. I knew that I wanted broader, operational experience, but it wasn’t part of my job description. So I got my marketing workload under control and then looked around for a trouble spot in the organization that no one was paying attention to.
I found tech support. The people were poorly trained, it was a huge cost center, and the company was growing at a rate that meant this problem would increase by 300% over the next year.
2. Come up with a solution you think you can execute.
I wrote a report that showed the problem and I outlined a detailed solution, with a timeline. I had no idea how to manage tech support. I outlined the solution by listing best practices that I got out of a management textbook, and my schedule was as broad as possible.
My boss was happy to give me responsibility for tech support because no other managers wanted it and he didn’t have budget to hire a new manager. But he didn’t change my title. He just said, “Okay, you can do that. Thanks.” No formal announcement.
3. Convince a team to help you.
I gathered up the three tech support people and explained to them that I understood their problems – being overworked, having no supplies, having constantly breaking products to support, etc. I told them I would help them fix these problems. They liked that, so they got on board to help me.
Then, before they could start doubting my ability to manage tech support, I asked each of them what they wanted from their job. Each had different answers. One wanted more money to support his daughter, one wanted management experience, one wanted less stress on the job. I made a plan to show how each of them could meet those goals.
The outcome: By the end of six months, I had done such a good job turning around tech support, that my boss gave me seed money to start my own company.
This last part is very important. When you are looking around your company for something new to do, don’t look for the perfect, dream job. Look for a job that will let you grow and show people how talented you are. This is the kind of situation that leads to huge opportunity.