Let’s face it: Some days, even if you love your job, you want to do more. You want to live beyond your desk, your inbox, your projects, and your coworkers. This is especially true when you don’t love your job. It can be hard waking up every morning, shuffling to the office, and focusing on a goal you’re just not feeling any more. So what can you do about it? Glad you asked! We’ve found that having an extracurricular activity outside of work not only boosts your mental health, but can help make you more productive at work, yield connections you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and yes, even enhance your resume.
First off, volunteer work or a side hustle can help you develop some great leadership skills that might otherwise be reserved for your superiors at your current job. For example, if you were to join the planning committee for a nonprofit’s annual gala, it would teach you fundraising skills, how to negotiate with vendors, and digital marketing strategies. You never know when those types of skills might come in handy at work, but more importantly, they'll likely expand the types of opportunities you're qualified for when you start exploring other jobs.
Okay, sure, but isn't that also work? What about an extracurricular that's just totally fun, without the stress of volunteering, endless committee meetings, and time commitments? Yup, that's great too -- it’s actually still beneficial for your career if you pursue a hobby. Let's say you enroll in a dance class. In addition to burning off calories and steam, you’ll likely make friends. And maybe your new dance BFF’s roommate works at your dream company and can refer you when there’s an opening! The more you expand your social circle, the more you expand your professional network -- and the best way to get your resume into the right hands is through a contact who really knows you ... AKA a friend.
I get it, but how is this stuff going to boost my actual resume? Well, your extracurriculars are fair game for the experience section of your resume if you're learning transferrable skills, but even those purely fun activities can be useful. We’re big fans of including an interest section on your resume to help prospective employers see you as a person, not just a list of skills. This way, a hiring manager can potentially relate to you -- maybe they dance too, or they volunteer with a similar charitable organization. Or, maybe your hobby is so interesting that they’ll want to bring you in to learn more about it -- like you play Quidditch, collect airline miles, or have run marathons in 12 cities.
Expanding your life beyond your desk is better for you as a person -- which makes it better for your career. The workforce hasn’t been taken over by robots (yet), and hiring managers are looking for happy, well-rounded people. So be happy, and take advantage of the added value your hobbies will contribute to your career!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
So you’ve been on a desk for three years and are confident that you’re a rockstar assistant. Your boss never yells at you anymore, and you’re even getting regular praise from him. Is it time for a promotion? Maybe. But being a great assistant isn’t going to be enough to get you there. Good assistants are a dime a dozen -- after all, there are plenty of career assistants who have been doing this way longer than you have. If you really want that promotion to coordinator, you’re going to have to stand out in a bigger way.
The first thing to remember as you’re striving for a promotion is that you need to figure out how to get noticed for higher level skills -- phones and calendar management are no longer relevant once you've moved up. Look at the job responsibilities of the person one level above you and start taking some of them on (this could work out very nicely if that person is also trying to get promoted -- she may be willing to hand off some of her duties to make room for her own higher level assignments). Find things that are outside the realm of administrative duties and learn to do them well. Maybe you’ve never been asked for your thoughts on a script or project, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share your opinion. At the very least, you could read/watch the content and have your notes ready to go in case someone asks for them. But if you have a really strong point of view and have cultivated your taste by reading and watching a lot of content, you may be able to impress a higher-up by offering your feedback in a humble way, even if you haven't been asked. Just keep in mind that you shouldn't offer unsolicited feedback until you have established a very solid rapport with your supervisor.
Secondly, you should find ways to take initiative. If you see a problem with the way things are run on your team, fix it. This could range from implementing some type of new organizational process that improves efficiency to generating a competitive report that will allow your department to develop content that will stand out in the marketplace. You could even find new projects or talent to bring in -- no one is going to stop you from getting coffee with potential writers or directors that could help make your team’s product stronger. If you can come up with a list of concrete accomplishments that are the result of you taking the initiative to get something done on your own without being asked, it will be hard for your boss to argue against a promotion.
As you develop yourself professionally, remember: You CANNOT let your current responsibilities slip. Your work as an assistant is essential to the daily functioning of your department, so administrative errors will be more noticeable than any achievements you may be making outside of your pre-defined role. Wait until your assistant duties have become second nature before trying to take on extra work. Your boss will recognize that you’ve put in your time and that you’re capable of handling a heavier workload, and only then will you get your promotion. And if there's no room for growth at your company, you can always position yourself to level up at a different company with your newly cultivated skills.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
These days, there are more and more positions opening up that allow you to work from home, either full-time or as part of your benefits package. Working remotely can be a real treat (who likes to wear pants with real waistbands, anyway?), but it’s also a lot more difficult to prove your worth to your boss and colleagues when you lose that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But have no fear! Here are four tried and true strategies that can help you excel at your job when your office is less of an office and more of a Starbucks.
1. Communicate regularly.
Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you can send daily or weekly recap emails depending on your supervisor’s preference. These emails should include a very general overview of your day and any exciting highlights. If you’re working from home for the day or for a week when you’re traveling, you don’t need to send a recap, but it’s a good idea to check in once or twice so your boss knows you’re actually working. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely manner and feel free to ping your boss when you complete a big project.
2. Meet all deadlines...early.
When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. But if you truly want to impress your boss, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus -- and there are some household chores like cooking and laundry that you can do while you work, so you'll have more time in the evenings to dedicate to a major project. Since you can't pop into your boss's office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
3. Don't ghost your boss.
This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not obvious to everyone. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Well, your boss does notice, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should still give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish up any outstanding work. Make sure your boss knows exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t, and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
4. Keep to a schedule.
This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself lazing around for longer than you should be or overbooking yourself because you have the freedom to make appointments whenever you want -- suddenly, it’ll be 9:00pm on Thursday, and you won’t have started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and establish a dedicated workspace. Maybe you’ll feel most comfortable working from a co-working space from 9-5. And maybe not -- there’s nothing wrong with embracing your flexible work life! If you can get all of your work done in five hours a day, there’s no need to work for eight, and as long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build whatever schedule suits you best. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions -- whether it’s a different coffee shop each day or your kitchen table. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be completely dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Working remotely is a great privilege and, as the saying goes, it comes with great responsibility. Remember to be professional, diligent, and visible and you’ll succeed in and out of the office!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan