Ask for challenging work when you are ready to take it on.
When you find your first job, you will spend your first few months finding the ropes. During the first few months I was employed, I believe I learned more than I ever have before. Every day presented new challenges for me to work on.
The rate of learning in your first job is extremely high, because you are still at the bottom of the career ladder. Not only do you need to learn the basics of your field, but you also need to master the fundamentals of working. You need to learn how to work in a professional team. You need to learn about the basics of professionalism. You need to learn about taxes.
One thing I have found though is that, after a certain point, it can be easy to become complacent. Your first few months need to be spent working hard. You need to prove that you can provide value to a business. But after that point, the incentive for you to continue working as hard is less clear.
That’s why I think it is important to keep asking for challenging work, and work that you think is important within an organization.
After a few months of working on the same thing, you will start to get really good at that thing. That’s a big accomplishment, and you being good at that one thing will set you in good stead as you look for new opportunities. However, just because you have mastered that one thing, it doesn’t mean your learning should be over: you should keep going.
Over the last few months, I have made it a point to ask for more challenging work. I have started to take on more new tasks, to help me accelerate my rate of learning.
At first, I felt somewhat hesitant to ask for more challenging work. Would I be able to balance it with the rest of my workload? Once I made the ask, I felt more comfortable. I knew that I had made the right decision.
Since asking for more challenging work, I have been given a number of assignments that pushed the boundaries of my knowledge. I needed to learn about the basics of product, which I had no real experience with. I had to learn about growth loops. I am still learning so much, and hope to continue doing so for a while.
When you are working, nobody is just going to assign you more challenging work once you have mastered your current workload. You need to ask. You need to be proactive.
In a startup, there are usually many opportunities for you to take on more challenging work. If you feel like you have mastered what you are doing, and have proven that you can do that one thing really well, then I think it is a good idea to start branching out. Find new ways to build and refine your skills.
I don’t believe any manager would complain about an employee who asks for more challenging work. In fact, if you ask for more work when you are ready to take it on, you can show to your boss that you are still dedicated to your job. You can show that growth really matters to you, both personal and professional.
The people who ask for more challenging work are usually those who end up with the more important assignments. The reason why is because not only are those people usually hard workers, but they have shown the initiative to seek a challenge when they need one.
This involves being more self aware than others may be, which is why I think many people miss out on this opportunity. While getting really good at one thing is important, if you are so good at that thing that you are not learning anything else, it’s time to move on. You need a new challenge.
As I continue in my career, I want to keep asking for more challenging work. It’s not something I can do often, or want to do often -- you need to prove that you can keep doing more and more challenging work. But it is something that keeps my mind on top of things.
The content of my job has changed so much over the last few months because I have wanted to take on new challenges. I love waking up in the morning with a new challenge to think through.