Initiative and teamwork will speed your rise at promotion

Dear Joan:
I have recently returned to full-time employment after years of raising my family and running a small sideline business. I basically feel that I am overqualified for my job (I'm an administrative assistant to the senior manager of the division) but I took the job to get my foot in the door and get necessary experience.

My boss is new, too. He came from another division in the company, which was in another city. He seems to be willing to give me more responsibility because he asked me in the interview if I would be interested in using some of my past work experience (former high school teacher).

Right now I am the "bottom of the totem pole" and want to make sure my boss knows I want to get a bigger job with more status. My question is what should I say to my boss so he knows I'm really able to handle a bigger job? If I say something now will he think I'm too pushy? I don't want to keep my feelings to myself for fear I'll just be buried in clerical work (which is already becoming the case).

The best way to make it into the major leagues is to dazzle them in the minors. It'll take more than a few home runs; consistently showing initiative, responsibility and ability will win you the spot you want.

The first thing you should do is show your boss that you are able to handle the job you have.

Once you are able to out-perform his expectations, you will be given more chances at bat.

Read his mail and everything you type or file. Stay on the lookout for any information that would be useful to him. Provide information on the city, so that he can get acquainted with his new home. In short, become his right arm.

You are in a perfect position to learn along with your boss and you're lucky to have a manager who wants you to take on more responsibilities. However, in the beginning, you are likely to be buried in routine tasks because he is getting adjusted to his own job requirements. Support him by responding quickly and staying organized. He will soon come to depend on you for bigger projects.

As you learn more about what his job is, begin to take initiative on things you can handle. For example, if he receives a phone message requiring a written response, collect data or draft a letter for him. He will appreciate the extra effort and will become aware of your additional talents. If he begins to rely on you to write his letters, you will be in an excellent spot to expand your job, since you can't write meaningful letters or memos without knowing the issues.

Don't wait too long to begin negotiating with your boss on priorities. For example, if he gives you a mundane assignment while you are working on a more important one with a tight deadline, you could say, "I'm happy to do that for you but it means I won't be able to finish this proposal for that important customer." He will see you as someone who understands priorities and sees the big picture. It will also encourage him to keep you working on important tasks rather than on routine clerical work.

It will be very important to become friendly with his boss, his employees and peers. You should position yourself as a professional colleague who is willing to help them achieve their goals as a member of the same team, rather than someone who is impatiently trying to get ahead. Offer to help them if your boss isn't available and develop a reputation as someone who can be trusted with important or confidential information. In this way, you can be helpful to your boss regarding political situations and further demonstrate your savvy.

You need to discover what he was getting at when he asked you about your additional talents and how they might be used. Be alert for opportunities to which you could contribute. For example, if a new employee orientation is needed, think through what would be helpful, ask others for input and then ask your boss to let you develop and present it, "...after all, I've given hundreds of hours of presentations as a teacher and I've already developed the format..."

Another golden opportunity might arise in the case of someone who goes on a maternity leave or vacation (including your boss). Perhaps you could pinch hit on some of that person's tasks. What a great opportunity to show what you can do.

If your boss is smart, he will use your talents wisely and develop you in your job. If you find yourself on the bench after nine months, it will be time for a talk with the coach. Express your desire to contribute more, assume more responsibilities and help him to be more successful. After you've proven yourself in your job, he will be ready to listen when you say you want more. If not, you will have some great experience to take with you when you leave for something bigger.

One word of caution, your desire for more status might get in your way. For example, some assistants hide behind their boss's status to get what they want: "My boss, Vice President Charlie Bigshot wants this report FIRST THING tomorrow morning!" I have also seen administrative assistants, who work for senior managers, act superior to other administrative peers in an attempt to be a step above them.

This false status will always come back to haunt you. You can hit grand slams out of the park but no one will want your autograph. Status is something that can only be given to you by others and the best way to get it is to earn it-with a great batting average and team spirit in whatever job you have.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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