More Responsibility, Please

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Once you’ve settled into your job or internship, you’re finally starting to feel comfortable with your assignments. Feeling slightly underwhelmed and ready to take on more? Asking your superiors for more responsibility at work is key for professional progress. Here are some different strategies for the motivated intern.

Direct Approach

Depending on your office environment, it’s necessary to discern what your office culture condones and prohibits. Melanie Halbout, a Cornell University junior, interns at a small real estate firm and approaches her office manager directly. When asking for more responsibility, Halbout explains that she’ll say, “I’ve been learning a lot and feel like I’m really getting the hang of the tasks and projects you’ve given me. If there’s anything else you’d like me to do or have any suggestions for projects you’ve given other interns, please let me know.”   Halbout also volunteers to work on tasks that she knows she will excel in to show she’s ready to take on more. The company needed a social media guru and Halbout’s comfort with Facebook and Twitter gave her the confidence to step up to the plate. Impressed with her willingness to highlight her own strengths, her boss gave her a leadership role on a new project.

Discuss, Don’t Demand

Keep in mind that the most effective way to approach your boss or mentor is to turn it into a discussion rather than a demand. Rachel Davidson, a recent Syracuse University graduate, said that she’d approach her mentor and tell him that she’s completed a task and which parts in particular she enjoyed the most. Then she would ask for a leadership role in similar work. Demonstrating your work proclivities both verbally and manually not only show your boss that you’re appreciative and positive about what you’re doing, but it also showcases your initiative to ask for what you want.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

At a larger company, interns should consider a more subtle approach when asking for more work. Michelle Gelshteyn, Cornell University junior and an intern at a large financial services firm, says, “First and foremost, I would illustrate my capability of my current level of assignments. It’s important to show you are more than capable of what you’ve already been given, rather then asking for more just because it may look better.”

Most importantly, being proactive and taking initiative is the strongest way to show that you are ready and able to take on more responsibility at work. “Is it better to ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Many business owners would rather have their employees take initiative and ask for forgiveness later. No boss wants to micromanage,” states Dr. Shannon Reece, entrepreneur and career consultant. The goal of many business owners is to hire competent people that can handle the tasks given to them as well as have the potential to bring more to the table.

Dr. Reece further advises, “If you have an idea, share it. If you see something that needs to be done, do it. The point is to take action. Don’t sit on your hands and wait for an engraved invitation. To get noticed and carve out your path toward advancement, you must always be looking for ways you can add value.”


Junior > English > Cornell University

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