Saturday, May 31, 2014

Office Life: Advancing While Staying Put

I've worked the same job in the same office for 8 and a half years.  Way back when I was being interviewed for the job, it was made very clear to me that this position was not a stepping stone to bigger things; this was it.  There would be nowhere to advance.  Some people might have been immediately turned off, but it was music to my ears.

I've never had the desire to climb the corporate ladder and work my way up to the supposedly-coveted corner office.  My goal was to find a job I like and give it my all.  I didn't want to worry about looking for the next big thing or fighting for a promotion or seeing if I could eventually utilize my experience elsewhere for a fatter paycheck.  I just wanted to get a job, be awesome at it, and stick with it.  I'm sure it sounds like I'm not ambitious and that I've become complacent, but that is not the case.

Doing the same job for several years may sound like monotonous drudgery.  I suppose that can be true, but it doesn't have to be that way.  Although I obviously deal with much of the same each day, there are ways to keep things enjoyable and to improve myself and my work and expand what I do.

1.  Don't say, "That's not my department."

I hate that statement, even when it's true.  Yes, there are times when something really can't be handled by your department, but there are better ways to phrase it.  Don't just brush people off.  I do many things that aren't technically "my department," which helps me be more useful in the office, expands my skills, and varies my workload.  Just be respectful and don't step on any toes; there are limits to helping other departments.  Sitting at a co-worker's desk and going through her email and drinking her coffee is not your department.

2. Own your job.

The person who held my position before me didn't utilize the computer very much.  I'm definitely a computer person, so my department became a lot more efficient once I made a whole ton of spreadsheets.  Information is a lot easier to find, so I can accomplish tasks much faster.  Take ownership of your job and find ways to make things work for you.  Just because something has always been done a certain way in the past by someone else doesn't mean that it is the best way for you.  Be open to trying new things and take pride in what you create.

3. Don't complain without a solution.

No one knows your job better than you do.  If you have a problem, you are the best person to fix it.  You probably need permission from someone higher up before initiating changes, but being armed with a solution when approaching a boss with a problem will make it more likely for you to get a green light.  I was unhappy with several forms in my department, as I felt they didn't require a person to include enough important information.  Before expressing my concerns to a boss, I redid one of the forms to use as an example to show the kind of changes I'd like.  The boss approved, and I was able to revamp all of my department's forms.

4. Don't let your title limit you.

Officially, my department title is Secretary.  I'm actually a one-person department though, so my title could easily be something more "important" sounding, like Administrator or Coordinator.  Some people seem embarrassed to call me "just" a secretary.  I don't care though, it's just a title.  I don't feel like that word has painted me into a corner.  Of course, I do typical secretary stuff: I answer phones, I file, I fax, I copy, I staple things together.  But my duties have expanded a lot over the years.  I attend administrative meetings that used to not involve me at all. I maintain the website and social media accounts.  I create and distribute our monthly newsletter.   Heck, I'll shovel the sidewalk in the winter if the maintenance man isn't around.

I've moved forward a lot over the years, even though I'm still sitting at the same desk and still have a business card declaring me a secretary.  I look forward to what's next, as I know that something will surely be coming.

You can also never go wrong with keeping candy at your desk.

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