Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Five ways to try new things at work

After the honeymoon period of your new job ends, things usually settle into the mundane. You can guess what you'll be doing at any point during the week and know that you'll probably still be doing something similar six months from now (same tasks, different projects). OK, so six months isn't a long time, but what if it drags on longer and you start to get bored? Don't just jump back into the job market—with some creativity and courage, you may be able to find new and exciting opportunities where you are.

Here are some tips on how to get new projects at work. These work best if you're already killing it at your current duties (otherwise you just come across as bored and slackerish).
  1. Talk to you supervisor. Chances are, your supervisor has big plans for your department, but has been holding back to avoid over-working the staff. Check in and let your supervisor know that you're game to try new things or that you've been getting your mundane work done too quickly. Being proactive could mean getting first dibs on the fun stuff.  Be careful that you don't sound ungrateful or bratty.

  2. Solve a problem. We all get frustrated by work processes that seem outdated, inefficient, or just downright unnecessary. Instead of venting to your coworkers about how you would solve that problem if it were up to you, why don't you tell someone who has some clout and actually change things? I promise, the Kardashians will continue to provide good watercooler fodder if you find you have nothing work-related to complain about.

  3. Talk to coworkers from other departments. Find out what's going on in their neck of the woods to see if there are any opportunities for collaboration. This works best if your department serves other departments (for example, the communications and marketing department I was in at my previous job), but there can be opportunities for collaboration otherwise as well. Most companies encourage collaboration, especially if the partnership can increase results, streamline things, or save money. Bring these ideas to your supervisor.

  4. Pitch a new idea or innovation. Have you seen something really cool lately that you think might be applicable to your company? Do you research—find out exactly what is involved in implementing the new idea, what kind of results (preferably measurable) it can produce, how the new idea or tool relates to your company's goals and mission, and what  manpower or resources are required to do it successfully. And then pitch it!

  5. Learn a new skill. It's easy for a supervisor to automatically assign a project to the team member that already has a skill, but isn't that what makes work get mundane in the first place? Doing lots of things we already know? If there is a task or type of project that you're interested in working on but don't have the skill and if there seems to be a need for more of that skill in your department, see if your company will spring for some training. Try to frame it in a way that sets you apart from coworkers with similar skills (for example, pursuing video production if you already have photog coworkers to get in on media projects).
I've tried all of these methods, and each has worked for me at some point or another. There's no guarantee they'll always work, but even an unsuccessful attempt will send a message to your supervisor that you're ready for something new.  

How have you paved your own new way at work? Do you have any additional tips or advice to build on these?


  1. Great and timely post, Angeline! I was just thinking that I wanted to ramp up on a new-ish skill that would vastly improve my productivity (and the company's bottom line!) at work. I've had this thought for a while now, but it's been really nagging me lately. Combined with a few timely posts from around the blogosphere, I think it's time to just take the leap. Good advice, thanks for sharing.

  2. Angeline, I can relate to not talking to enough co-workers from other departments. The easy excuse is "who has the time?!" I'm co-chair for a generational employee network at my company, and we just hosted a speed networking event. Think speed dating, but more professional :) It was a ton of fun! I met lots of colleagues who I normally would not have ever met.

  3. @ Ashley - How are we always on the same wavelength? I say go for it!


Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.