Want to lead a file or a project at work: do these 5 things

A lot of jobs require experience leading a file, a project or demonstrating leadership skills. This is often challenging to gain early in your career. So how do you do this?

You know the conundrum of needing experience to get experience and not having experience to gain more experience? Early in your career this is very common.

You feel ready to take on more at work: How do you ask for more responsibilities at work for example leading a file or a project even though you don't quite have the experience?

1. Handle your current responsibilities/file(s) well

Your manager or your supervisor is not going to give you more when you aren't currently handling what is on your plate well. A lot of the time when you feel frustrated or not challenged enough with your current responsibilities, we tend to switch off and overall just be disengaged. We let our frustrations with the current responsibilities cloud our judgement so much that anyone and everyone can see that you hate your job. In order to have more responsibilities, your manager, team lead or supervisor will need to have confidence that you can already handle your current responsibilities and not just handle them but do them extremely well. Go over and above what is expected of you, be efficient in your delivery. This will provide your boss confidence that you can take on more.

2. Ask to be a part of a larger project

You are not getting a full lead on a project possibly because your team hasn't yet seen how you handle this role. In order to build that confidence, ask to support someone who is leading a file. This can work in an environment where your team is generally collaborative and eager to support growth. This may not work in a team where people are territorial about leading files or initiatives so keep this in mind in terms of the response you get. There are often team members who are willing to take other less experienced members of the team under their wings and its important to identify these people so they can. Reach out to senior members of the team and offer to help or support them with an initiative.

3. Take initiative

Rather than wait for opportunity to come to you, take initiative by proposing yourself for opportunities. Depending on the team dynamic and your confidence in your ability to handle a file or a project solo, you could propose yourself as a lead. For example if the team is looking for someone to handle a new initiative or a file, propose yourself. When you take on this new responsibility make sure you deliver on it. Being proactive is a leadership trait so don't sit frustrated about not being given a chance - reach out and take more on.

4. Be willing to learn

Over and over, willingness to learn is a trait that will serve you well in your career. In order to take on new responsibilities there will need to be new learning. How do you react when new responsibilities are proposed to you? Ask questions, be inquisitive - as the necessary questions. Be resourceful, don't just identify problems, think through what some potential solutions could be. All of these traits will help your supervisor have confidence and provide you with the opportunity to do more and eventually lead on a file or initiative.

5. Raise it during your performance conversation

You may internally want to take on more, but if you don't vocalize this, then how will your team lead know? There are many opportunities to vocalize this: at the start of your fiscal year or calendar year performance conversation, bring up the fact that you would like more opportunities to take more on and more opportunities to grow. At your mid-year review, reiterate this making sure that in the previous months you were outperforming your goals and current responsibilities. At your year-end review, bring this up again. This will provide your team with opportunities to think through how to get you involved in more.