First-jobbers, we know it can be very overwhelming being a proper adult in a proper job. It’s hard enough just trying to keep your head above water without drowning in your workload! But it is important to spend time and effort mindfully planning your career progression. Check out our cheat sheet to help you climb that corporate ladder.
#1: Ask for responsibilities in your area of interest
You have excitedly accepted your first job and you’re hitting your Key Performance Indicators. However, you’re also starting to feel a little bored. Don’t reach out for the job ads yet!
Invest in some ‘career me-time’ to better understand your areas of interest, and check if they are currently available in your company. For example, if you are interested in data analytics but your role does not expose you to it, find out if there is scope to incorporate some of it in your current job.
Before requesting for added responsibilities, ensure that you can cope with the extra workload. Schedule a meeting with your direct supervisor. Be careful not to be seen as a bored kid wanting something new. Instead, clearly list out why you would like to take on these extra responsibilities, and how it will help you do your work better and benefit the department and organization.
Assure your boss that you can cope well, and make sure that you do. Don’t be disappointed if your boss cannot commit to letting you take on new responsibilities immediately. Be patient. Ask for a suggested deadline to check back with him/her on your request. By taking that crucial first step, you would have shown your boss that you’re ready and eager to take on more, and that in itself is a big plus.
#2: Request for training opportunities
Many people deem training as a chore that steals time away from their work. Time for a paradigm shift! Relying on skills learned in school will not be sufficient to help you keep growing throughout your career.
Whether it is to build up your capabilities to grow in your current role, or to transition to another role in the next three years, find out what kind of skills and qualifications you need. Identify potential mentors currently doing that job and seek their advice. Look up Skillsfuture to find out more about training opportunities and grants you can tap on.
Many companies require their staff to fulfil a minimum number of hours of training annually anyways. Ask your HR department about the company’s stance on internal and external training, the options you can choose from, and available sponsorship opportunities, such as the minimum length of service and possible bond that you might need to fulfil.
Armed with your research, speak with your supervisor about your desire to undergo more training. Present solid reasons and a few options that you can realistically embark on, including free, self-sponsored and partially/fully-sponsored options. For starters, check out NTUCLearningHub for their wide variety of courses.
Even if you are embarking on a fully self-sponsored course, by getting your supervisor’s endorsement, this will help you in getting leave for exams and importantly, update your company about useful new skills that you are actively seeking. A word of caution: seeking sponsorship for, say, a costly Master’s degree programme when you have barely warmed the seat at your job might cause you to be viewed negatively. Thus, only seek such sponsorship when you have established yourself and can justify that the new skill sets you will learn will benefit the company.
#3: Say ‘no’ to (some) dead-end work to make time for other career-enhancing areas
It is a rite of passage for most first-jobbers to be slapped with ‘tedious tasks’, such as planning a Corporate Social Responsibility project or a bonding session for the team. You might wonder: “Yes, it will make my department look good but for all that hard work, how will this benefit ME?”
According to Laurie R. Weingart, a management professor at Carnegie Mellon University, such work is called a non-promotable task (NPT) that benefits your organization, but not your career. Although everyone will need to perform some NPT, she highlighted an interesting research from ‘The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work’, a book she co-authored: “Women do far more than their share, and that’s because everyone expects them to.”
To help you decide if you should say no to an NPT, Ms Weingart suggests asking yourself the following questions:
• Does the task directly contribute to the organization’s mission?
• Is it visible?
• Does it use your specialized skills, or can just about anybody do it?
• Will performing it well get factored into your next performance appraisal?
• Will it help you get connections or skills that lead to promotable work in the future?
If you have more no’s than yes’s, then perhaps, it is not so ‘worth it’ to take on this NPT. However, consider carefully if you can afford to say no. Find out what are the expectations regarding NPTs in your department, particularly for junior members like yourself. Speak to a trusted senior to understand what would be a reasonable amount to take on. “Meet those expectations, but don’t try to surpass them,” advises Ms Weingart.
Weigh the risks of saying no. If the person you are rejecting has a direct impact on your career’s success, do not refuse the task. Suggest sharing the load with a co-worker or volunteer only for the parts you can do easily or are most interested in. Alternatively, Ms Weingart suggests negotiating to let go of another NPT to another colleague or request for more resources. Assure your boss that you will train your colleague to ensure a smooth handover.
If you have decided to reject this new project, do it in a way that doesn’t make you look bad, and will also help your boss out. Firstly, thank your boss for thinking of you for the project but explain why you need to decline. Support with a summary of current projects and deadlines and your concerns about the need to do these tasks effectively to meet the greater departmental or organizational goals.
Suggest potential solutions. You could recommend a colleague who has relevant skill sets and bandwidth to spare, whom you know will benefit from the exposure. But be careful; you don’t want to be seen as ‘shooting arrow’ just to get out of the work. Substantiate your recommendation and offer to share relevant contacts or tips to help get the project started.
#4: Request to switch to a different department
This can be a toughie, especially if your boss likes you and your work and may view this as a form of betrayal.
Assuming you are not leaving due to bad blood with colleagues or your boss, many people request for an internal transfer because they feel they have plateaued, would like to learn new skills in a different department or simply feel like a change. All perfectly valid reasons but be mindful of the way you convey your feelings.
Firstly, ensure that the position is currently open, and that you are qualified to apply for it. Update your resume and highlight your critical skill sets that are relevant to the new job. Practise your networking skills and find out from other colleagues if the new position and department culture suit you.
If you have decided to go for it, show your boss the courtesy and respect (and also, to maintain a good future relationship) by requesting a one-to-one meeting to discuss your career development plans, even before you apply for the position with your HR department.
Ensure that your boss knows you are not leaving because you are unhappy with him or the department. Instead, establish clear career reasons such as the opportunity to train in new skills, or why you think your interests and relevant expertise can be put to greater use in the new job. Above all, convey your thanks and gratitude to your boss for everything you have learned from your current team.
Keep the focus on career development; do not rant about any inadequacies in your department. If your internal transfer request doesn’t happen, imagine how awkward it would be for you to remain in your current team and under your boss!
The daily grind can be gruelling but remember: at the end of the day, you are the only person responsible for your career development. So, do yourself a favour and invest some time in planning it!
Subscribe to our Digi-Fam e-newsletter to access our career resources and support network including the latest event happenings and more!