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Are you too comfortable?

By Carmena Wood, Managing Director, North West region

Stepping outside your comfort zone and undertaking new opportunities can be a good way to further your career. However, taking on more responsibilities shouldn’t be reserved for when you are looking for a promotion. If you find yourself feeling a little too comfortable within your current tasks, increasing the scope of your work can be a big confidence boost and capture the attention of your manager and other colleagues.

Taking on new challenges adds more variety to your role and makes it far more interesting than continuing to carry out the same tasks month after month. Any job can become dull without new tasks or projects. Learning how to work on different tasks keeps your motivation and interest levels higher.

A good boss knows that keeping staff motivated is critical for staff retention, so will be happy to support you as you take on new work.

Don’t wait until you are trying for a promotion to start taking on additional responsibilities. This should be an ongoing way of working, try and make it become habit. As soon as you have become comfortable and fully competent in a role, it is time to start seeking out opportunities to take on new tasks which stretch you. If you continue to work only within your comfort zone, you will find it much harder to step up to a promotion.

Prepare for your new responsibilities

Create a personal development plan with goals detailing what you aim to do and when. A very simple plan might state that you aim to take on one new challenge per month, and might list the types of work you would be interested in learning more about.

You need to assess the type of tasks you are ready to take on. It’s important to be honest and realistic with yourself, whilst not allowing self-doubt to take over your decision. Consider not only whether you have the skills to carry out the task, but also whether you have enough time to fit it in, whilst continuing to get through your existing workload.In order to assess your readiness for a new piece of work, it is essential that you have a good understanding of exactly what the work entails, so make sure you get a thorough brief from your manager. 

It’s a good idea to start small. Try a piece of work which will take you outside your comfort zone but will not stretch you so far that you feel completely out of your depth. It is better to deliver a small new task successfully than fail on a major project. Over time you will feel ready to take on ever bigger challenges. Your boss will also assess the risk of letting you have a go at a new challenge, and if both of you feel you are ready for the job, it’s time to push aside any doubts and get on with the work.

Review and evaluate

Once you have completed the assignment, take the time to analyse what went well and what could have been improved on. Seek feedback from your manager on the new work you have done, and use it to build on your development plan.

As you take on more challenging opportunities, your manager will realise that they can call on you for increasingly demanding work. This may well get noticed by people in other areas too, so you get known for being a capable and enthusiastic employee who is happy to tackle new projects. It is also worth recording each new achievement. When you have gained new experience and skills, update your CV with the new details.

View your additional work as an investment in your future, not as a passport to an instant pay rise or promotion. Those things may follow, but it is better to enjoy the process, and not see stretching yourself just as a means to an end.

Get past the bumps in the road

There are many things which might deter you from putting yourself forward for more responsibility. Don’t let a fear of failure get in your way. Provided you have considered the task realistically, you should not have a problem in completing it. If you need to ask for help, you should not hesitate to do so. People will expect you to need some support when you first try something new.

The majority of people are delighted to find their employees are keen to take on more work, and are more than happy to share their workload and devolve responsibility. Unfortunately, occasionally you may encounter a manager who is uncomfortable with delegating their work, perhaps because of their own insecurities or because they have a strong need to be in complete control. In this situation you will need to make it absolutely clear that you are offering to ease their workload, hoping to broaden your own experience, and not trying to tread on their toes. This will help to avoid getting into a conflict situation.

A good way to help convince a boss who is not eager to delegate work is to make a point of offering to help with tasks which you know your boss doesn’t enjoy doing. For example, if you offer to write a weekly report which your boss always struggles to complete on time, it could come as a welcome relief. Even if this would not be a favourite task for you either, the additional experience and skills you gain will make it worthwhile.

As your boss and others become more confident of trusting you with new challenges, you may be asked to take on more and more work. Whilst you clearly wish to demonstrate enthusiasm to learn and grow, it is essential to know when to say no. Take on what you know you can deliver, and reject the rest. Your manager will respect you for it, and it shows that you have yet more strings to your bow – self-knowledge and the confidence to stand up for yourself – qualities which you will need as you progress through your career.

If you are looking for support with your employment needs please contact your local office.

About this author

Carmena joined Hays in 1986 working for the Accountancy and Finance team in Manchester. After eighteen months she seized the opportunity to open the Altrincham office and her career in leadership began. Following increasingly broader management roles across the North West region, Carmena was promoted to Regional Director in 1994 for the Greater Manchester area before changing direction to become a channel lead across the North to support and build the new Office Support business. In 2011 she was appointed to the role of multi specialism Director for Merseyside and Cheshire. Carmena was appointed to the UKI Board in October 2017 and promoted to Managing Director for the North West Region in June 2018.

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