Lean, Learn, Level Up Your Career!

Professional women know how to work hard for the promotions and positions we want. But when a chance comes along to leap past the next few steps in our plan, it is sometimes difficult to accelerate the learning curve to meet new responsibility expectations. If we’re not ready to push ourselves and our skills, it can be easy to be overwhelmed and discouraged doing the very work we’ve dreamed of doing.

When I was approached at my current job as Assistant Manager for Marketing, SEO & Content, I was informed that there was an open position at the executive level. The offer letter stated that I was hired for a much higher role that I had expected. I was happy and excited to take the offer but didn’t anticipate the complex nature of the responsibilities and workload that awaited me.

I started putting in extra hours in hopes of completing my tasks, yet could never quite get everything done. Since I was new to several of the responsibilities related to the new position, I was working slower than usual. I felt overwhelmed but was determined to develop the abilities and aptitude needed because I love the work and valued the position.

The new position required me to exercise more innovation and creativity than previous roles had. Now I was not only delivering work projects, I was also leading the new strategies and approaches for the projects. I now had to spend hours doing research to understand the market and design new approaches, and had to reorient my approach to think more broadly and critically.

Beyond workload and mindset changes, I also had to develop new work behaviors. Because my new projects required collaboration with a separate department, I had to manage their project progress and deadlines. This meant communicating strict requirements, asserting my authority and needs for the project, which was initially difficult and uncomfortable. I had to develop complete ownership of the project without much room for mistakes. This steep learning curve in several different areas, however,  developed me professionally in ways nothing else could have.

For those of you who are facing a similar situation at your jobs, here are few ways I dealt with the unexpected increase in the workload and professional responsibilities:

Learn
Successful women stay students throughout their careers. When new responsibilities and positions come your way, you often have to do the extra work yourself to raise your skill levels. This means putting time aside to research, practice, and reach out to experts in your area for mentoring. Though it could be tempting to cut out all extra activities to focus on adjusting to your new role, it’s incredibly important to expose yourself to any learning opportunities that could accelerate your development. Set up meetings with co-workers, attend relevant trainings–even go outside your specific focus area to acquire practice or information that could give you an edge in your new responsibilities.

For me, this meant hours after work reading. I also had to set new communication standards, and learned new habits to support my responsibilities. I have found the best way to stay motivated and cultivate a positive attitude while dealing with your workload is to focus on learning as much as you can. Most people crave the chance to learn new things and enhance their skills, but very few get that opportunity. Consider yourself lucky for being given an opportunity to enhance your career. All the hard work and sweat is going to pay you back in the future.

Stay Positive
When overwhelmed, it’s easy to keep focusing on everything that needs to be done. However, that perspective can sap all your energy. It’s important to stop the negative thought cycle, decide what can be accomplished next, and build up a positive frame of mind about the work at hand. Developing the right frame of mind is half the work towards solving the problems at hand because, once you have a positive achievement perspective, you can actually start accomplishing tasks

Prioritize

Accept the fact that you won’t be able to complete all the tasks at once. The earlier you accept this, the better. The right approach is to prioritize your work and tackle tasks that are high priority first. Prepare a to-do list of daily tasks every day. This will help you focus on urgent tasks and improve your productivity. Looking back now at my first few months in the job, I realize that so much of my struggle was in time management. I feel that if I had been an excellent time manager going in, I would have halved my problems.

Talk to your manager 

People often hesitate to share concerns with their managers. Especially when the concerns are related to workload, we can think that bringing the issue up will reflect badly on us. This is far from true.  More often than not, your boss will understand your concern. In my case, my manager helped and guided me at every step.

In addition to these four steps, I also made it a point to reward myself every time I met significant goals or was appreciated at work. And remember to take care of yourself:  a pedicure can fix your mood even when your to-do list is full of pending tasks.

Find the author, Megha Raizada, on Twitter and Google+.
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