Staying Ahead of the Learning Curve—Q&A with Jodi Glickman

Part I of our interview with Great on the Job author Jodi Glickman. Jodi is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, consultant and regular blogger for Harvard Business Review. She is a faculty member of the Johnson School’s Leadership Program at Cornell and a contributor to and Business Insider. Her new book: Great on the Job, What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead has been described as a veritable master class in workplace success.

Q: Let’s face it, the workplace is vastly different than it was just 5 years ago. In the “over-work economy”, people are expected to do more for less, job security weighs heavily and many are feeling stuck in their jobs. How can people overcome feelings of resignation and helplessness and create options and real opportunities for themselves?

Jodi: In today’s economy, you’ve got to take charge of managing your learning curve, developing new skills and staying relevant within your organization. No one cares more about managing your career more than you do—if you find yourself stuck doing unexciting, uninteresting or unchallenging work, you need to speak up and find a way to make a change. Start by making a list of additional projects you’d like to work on or alternative ways you can contribute to your organization. Then, approach your manager with several ideas of how to put your skills and talent to use.

Here are four ways to frame the conversation with your boss and potentially re-direct some of your workflow:

1. Learn something new

Identify a project or task that will accelerate your learning curve.  Ask for assignments that are a stretch and highlight your desire to gain new expertise. Emphasize the fact that you want to continue to add value to your organization (you can also admit that you’re not feeling entirely challenged with your current workload). Be sure to ask for opportunities to engage in more challenging work over time as opposed to demanding a total re-design of your immediate workload.

2. Excel at what you’re good at

Offer to work on something in the near-term where you can hit the ball out of the park. If you’re a great writer, offer to lend a hand writing a report, reviewing a memo or helping draft new corporate policy. Make sure to put those writing skills to use with activities considered outside of your traditional “wheelhouse” so that you can show how great you are while getting exposure to new people, ideas or projects.

3. Assist others

Think about ways that you can assist teammates with seemingly more interesting projects. Is there a cool product launch or new marketing campaign that you’re dying to get involved with? By letting your boss know that you’re interested in helping out a team or project in need, you accomplish two goals—one, getting more interesting or meaningful work and two, showing you’re a team player and pitching in.

4. Network

Highlight specific people or groups that you’d like to work with and gain exposure to. Go ahead and be bold—tell your manager you’ve heard great things about Brian and his team or you’re eager for an opportunity to collaborate with the folks in R&D. Raise your hand and ask for projects that will give you exposure to different people or departments to build out your network and increase your public profile within your organization. Building relationships is key to maintaining your staying power.

Even if a raise or promotion isn’t in your near-term future, you want to be top of mind when new opportunities arise. Approaching your manager with new ideas of what to work on will make you look great and help you redirect your workflow over time to become more meaningful and challenging.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 this week. Subscribe to the Big Red Blog for email updates.