How to be more engaged at work

A couple posts ago I mentioned that it was important to take ownership of your own engagement at work. I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some suggestions on HOW to do this.

The best way to be engaged is to create variety and comfort for yourself.  As a young professional we are used to action happening all around us.  Working on a report with pandora in the background is just like how we studied during college while IMing and watching a movie at the same time.  Have these extra stimuli will help generate a more comfortable environment.

Next, you can create variety by changing up your schedule.  Don’t always sit and do the same thing every day or at the same time each week.  Break projects into pieces of a couple hour increments.  If you need to make a report, complete an analysis, and make some phone calls to get important questions answered, break each task up and rotate what you are doing.  Then you can also sprinkle in some of the necessary things you have to do (reading up on relevant news, checking email, doing admin stuff).

The best way to be more engaged, though, is to come up with your own projects.  Find something you are passionate about and set time aside to research and work on that project.  At Google they require employees to spend 20% of their time (1 day/week’s worth) on something new and innovative.  Since most of us don’t work at Google, odds are we won’t have this formalized, but as long as you fulfill all your other job responsibilities well I don’t think many bosses would have a problem with you going above and beyond to create your own project. It will make you feel refreshed and motivated and it will also make you look like a proactive go-getter.

You can also improve your level of engagement by becoming involved in extra-curricular activities. Many companies have groups (based on age, geographic location, job function, ethnicity, etc) that have different purposes from professional development to community service.  Get involved in one of these, or create one yourself.  There are also many outside of work that are great.  I am passionate about education and mentorship so I am involved in both Junior Achievement (http://ja.org) and Big Brothers Big Sisters (http://bbbs.org).

One last point about staying engaged.  We have been trained over most of our schooling to view periods of our life in 3-4 year increments.  Middle school was 3 years, high school was 4 years, college was 4 years (except for those out there who were super seniors at one point :)).  That said, it is natural to start to get bored after 3 years of doing something and start to feel like it is ready for the next step (just like you start to look at colleges at the end of your junior year/beginning of senior in high school, and start looking for a job at the beginning of your senior year in college).  Many decide to go back to grad school (partially because most of us don’t have a clue what to do with our careers and this generally looks like a good way to go, more on that later…) and other find a new job.

Not saying that this is right or wrong, it just is what it is. More importantly, we should be aware of this and make sure that we are looking in the right places for the next step (since sometimes it is at the same company you are already at), or finding a way to stay engaged in things by getting involved in something new outside of work.

That’s all I got for now. Until next time… Mr. Business, OUT.

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About Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. He is also the author of the book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World (http://www.amazon.com/Young-Professionals-Guide-Working-World/dp/1601632428). Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog, http://www.ypedge.com to learn more.

Posted on August 8, 2011, in Solid Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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