It’s 3 p.m. on Friday and your boss has already told you that you can head out early for the weekend. You’re wrapping up a few items and planning to leave shortly when a coworker comes to you and asks you for some help with a project they’ve been working on. Your first instinct is to say you’re sorry but you have plans and need to leave early for the weekend. While that may get you a few extra minutes of weekend sunshine, you could be missing out on some valuable work experiences.
Young professionals who are early in their career should act like sponges, soaking up any and all experiences they can. Saying “yes” to extra projects will help you get exposure to new things, make it easier to meet new people and allow for you to learn new ways to work with others.
1. Exposure to new things: Oftentimes, we avoid projects that involve things that we aren’t familiar with because it makes us feel vulnerable. The problem with never expanding into new things is that we limit ourselves to specific tasks and/or functions. This might be ok if you know from day 1 that you want to specialize in a specific function but if you aren’t sure what path to take or what function is right for you, it makes sense to gain exposure to a number of different things.
On the other hand, when requesting to learn about and get involved in different things, make sure you aren’t spreading yourself too thin. You may have heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That is to say that someone is able to perform a whole host of duties or responsibilities but when it comes to identifying the expert in something, we go to someone else. Once you have identified your path, start being more selective in the projects you request to be a part of.
2. Meet new people: Taking on new projects allows for us to meet and network with new coworkers. Networking with new people allows for us to build our contacts within the organization. When you work with someone from another department or from elsewhere within your department, you have opened a door which may lead to quicker response times when requesting information from them or their department. Also, networking internally may create a positive impact on our external connections.
3. Learn new ways to work with others: When we work with team members on a regular basis, we recognize the optimal ways to communicate with them. Working with new people can help us remain flexible in our approaches. It could be that your current team functions simply utilizing email communications to collaborate on projects. If that is the case, try to seek out teams that use telephone or video conferencing to help you develop new ways of getting your point and feedback across.