Put Yourself to Work (Work Experience and Assignments)

Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision

We’ve all been in situations where the latest staffing crisis quickly becomes the news of the day.  This type of topic seems to possess the ability to spread like wildfire (everyone loves a human interest story), rapidly becoming the focus of workplace talk:

“Did you hear that Melanie left for a better job?  She did everything in that department; how will they manage?”

“Doug got hurt downhill skiing and is going to be off for six weeks.  He handles all of our receivables!”

“Kelly is off on stress leave and her manager is reviewing her workload.  Did you hear that her job is going to be divided into two positions?”

Although these types of newsflashes can provide a topic of discussion for lunch breaks and elevator rides, this hot-off-the–press information can actually be put to much better use.  Those who are looking to advance their career should view these situations as opportunities: to learn new skills, to put themselves in challenging situations (and succeed!), and to simply help out when needed.

When thinking about career development, it’s important to understand that making real progress is not about the length of time spent in a particular job; rather, it is about understanding the idea of putting yourself to work and taking responsibility for moving yourself forward.  This type of “Me Inc.” perspective means taking the lead role in developing your skills and experience, not just at the beginning of your working life, but also as your career progresses.  Instead of depending on an employer to recognize your abilities, it’s about making a conscious effort to invest in yourself, which, in turn, increases value; your value.

There are lots of ways to take action in building your own personal value.  Thus far in this series, we have considered the benefits of in-house seminars, training, and networking, as well as professional development opportunities.  Work experience and assignments represent another way to increase your personal value; here’s how.

Work experience and assignments

Businesses almost always need help; be it assistance to keep up with routine tasks, investigate and launch new projects, or fill in for staff members who are off sick or on leave.  Given that most organizations are continually challenged to do more with less, staff members who are willing to step up, increase their knowledge, or cross train are not only welcomed, they are valued.  This approach can be a win-win for both parties, enabling staff members to better their skills and abilities, while the company is able to develop a more talented and flexible workforce.

Put Yourself to Work

  • Keep a close watch on what’s going on in all aspects of your company. Networking and paying attention to in-house newsletters, job boards, and announcements are good ways to identify opportunities to develop new skills and vary your workload (a great way to maintain your interest level, too).
  • Make the effort to learn about all departments within your organization and what the main jobs are. It’s surprising how many employees have knowledge of only their own department, which is a sure-fire way to miss career development opportunities.
  • Be flexible, in terms of the tasks and roles you are willing to consider. Although no one likes to “go backwards” when it comes to career development, it is sometimes necessary to take a short term step back (or parallel step) in order to move forward, especially in a new area.  A flexible attitude and willingness to do what is necessary to get the job done can set you apart from other employees.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your coworkers during work assignments. Learn about their career paths and how their department operates (you might be surprised to find differences from your own experiences).
  • Make the effort to link professional development opportunities to the new skills that you learn. This approach can help to reinforce your new areas of knowledge and, perhaps, identify a career path that you have not considered.
  • Consider work experience and assignments as an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Think about it; a broader range of knowledge can only be good.
  • Keep a record of assignments and areas of new skill development. You will be surprised how quickly your competency level and range of ability increase.

Although it might mean an increased workload in the short term, prove that you are able to get the job done and you will win in the long run.  What’s more, you will be recognized as a “go to” person in your organization; someone who is flexible and has the ability to help out when needed.  Now, that’s real value!