Get involved at work
There are a lot of great tutorials on interviewing for jobs, negotiating a raise, and angling for a promotion. But what's the game plan when you've done all that, and you're finally content with your current employer and your current job?
What if you don't want a new slew of responsibilities? What if you're just itching for a little something-a better understanding of how the company operates as a whole, a bite-sized taste of an intriguing job, or, frankly, just a friend in a different department?
Well, here's your cheat sheet. Bonus: There's no stress-and very little time-required for any of these strategies.
Wanted: New Faces
Solution: Join the Club
I recently came across an old spiral notebook outlining the rules of a club I started in third grade, "The 'Sup Coolios."
The rules were hilarious in retrospect: Listen during meetings (what meetings?), use the club symbols when passing notes (crude drawing of dog meant "wassup"), and always support fellow club members (duh).
But my forming such an amazingly awesome club illustrated a desire people of all ages have: the need to be part of a community. It's comforting to know there's something that unites you other than a school (or company) name. And if you're content to stay where you are for a while, you'll do well to find-or build-some community yourself.
There's always the office softball team. Not your thing? Here are some non-sweaty alternatives.
Start a low-key book club to read and discuss short stories or magazine articles. Create a weekly java group that hits up a nearby café, and don't allow anyone to order the same thing two weeks in a row. Consider ethnic-food Wednesdays, where a group tries a new restaurant every hump day.
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Whatever your interest, create a group around it. Put up fliers. Tell your friends to tell their friends. And-unlike I did with the 'Sup Coolios-invite everyone, even other departments, to join in.
Why it's Worth It: Making new friends beyond the ones you share a cubicle wall is critical for your sanity and career. You'll get a feel for other departments, other bosses, other operations. And if you do get to the point where you're looking for a different job internally? You just might hear about it over coffee.
Wanted: New Skills
Solution: Tap Others' Expertise
Take a task you're currently working on, and consider people from other teams or departments who could help you make it better (the opposite of passing the buck). We're not talking about taking on a new project with the goal of catapulting you to the next pay grade. We're talking nice, simple steps you can take that give you a little extra on-the-job know-how.
RELATED: How to Find Time to Learn New Skills
For example, I'm a reporter. The newsroom recently rolled out an initiative requiring reporters to shoot videos with their stories, when possible. It's not a huge production; we use smartphones and simple editing tools. So I could stick to the basics, meet the requirements, and be just fine.
But I could also see the requirement as an opportunity to learn something new. I could approach a photographer or photo editor who has experience with video, and ask for tips on shooting footage and editing more artfully. Or I could ask to spend 30 minutes watching someone shoot or edit one.
Why it's Worth It: I'm not forcing myself to take on a new responsibility; I'm just doing a better job at one I've already got. And there's no harm in showing my editor how I executed a tip I learned from a photographer. Because you know what's even more impressive than taking a B+ video and making it an A? Taking the initiative to learn how.
Wanted: Greater Visibility
Solution: Become a Connector
Think back to when you applied for the job you now hold. You knew your strengths and weaknesses and why you were the perfect candidate, but you also studied up on the company-how it operated and how you could contribute both in your role and across the organization.
Well, now that you're an insider, it's still a good idea to show as many people as possible how you're contributing.
The quickest, easiest, no-stress way to do it: Show how a project your team is working on intersects with a project or initiative another team is working on. This doesn't have to be monumental or totally inorganic. For example, I could never suggest that the business reporters start coordinating with the advertising department's latest campaign; we operate 100% independently (for a reason). But if my team is working on boosting our stories' visibility on the website and getting more search-engine traffic, I could say, "You know, it'd be great to hear from one of the online team leaders about what types of stories and headlines are getting the most hits. I'll see if one of them could spare five minutes to talk strategy sometime this week."
Why it's Worth It: In this example, my role is simple and shouldn't be time-consuming for anyone involved. But it shows initiative. It shows I understand the shared goals of intersecting departments. And it gives me an excuse to brush shoulders (organically) with a different set of people.
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Of course, these aren't the only ways to get more involved in your company. You can join subcommittees and task forces. You can ask movers and shakers to coffee.
But if you're looking for some big bang for minimal effort (I mean, really, sometimes that's all you've got to spare), consider some of these relatively stress-free, low-commitment alternatives that could help you advance your career-when you're ready- and build some new friendships in the process.
Caroline McMillan is a Charlotte, N.C. native and a reporter at The Charlotte Observer, where she writes about small business and entrepreneurship. She graduated from the journalism school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent her last two years of college as the editor in chief of Rival Magazine, a joint publication between Duke University and UNC.