By Gill Sharp
If your career is in need of a boost, there is a solution. Take a pro-active approach to tackling the problem. It's easy to be complacent when it comes to your career - especially if you have been in your job for a while - but recharging your work can lead to unexpected benefits, as these seven tips show.
1. Say Yes to any opportunities that come your way. The likelihood is that these will add to your skill set and be portable should you eventually be in a position to move on. Naturally, canny bartering tactics are called for here. Taking on new opportunities may also allow you to shed less exciting duties, negotiate better conditions, accumulate extra kudos, or even gain additional pay.
2. Say No. Lynne was the original "Ms Mild Mannered". She was swamped by work and stress, largely because colleagues saw her as a soft touch and would dump large loads of paperwork on her (often at the last moment). Nor could she resist students' pleas for additional help, let alone ignore assignments that had been handed in late. Eventually she realised she didn't have to spend all her evenings and weekends in front of the computer. She refused to take on any more unrealistic deadlines or unfair demands on her free time. The sky didn't fall in, no one accused her of not pulling her weight and she gained a lot more self confidence into the bargain. The experience teaches us that having the confidence to reject additional work is sometimes the best course of action and can reduce your stress and perhaps help you to leave behind an excessive amount of tedious tasks.
3. Acquire some new skills. One of the great benefits of life in the education sector is that there are all sorts of in house and external training courses available and these are usually free of charge. Use this to your advantage and remember that aiming at ever higher academic goals isn't the only option. Maggie indulged her love of French by taking advanced language classes, ultimately leading to a secondment to one of the sunnier Gallic coastal areas. Tony hated chasing funding but decided to face his fears by going on a bid writing course. Not only did he learn to love (well, almost) the task, it's resulted in a lot more money coming into the department. Even getting back to basics by finally mastering Excel or PowerPoint might make a substantial difference - and Lynne (cited above) may have taken action sooner if she had simply gone on an assertiveness course before the situation reached crisis point.
4. Take on something new - you never know where it may lead. Derek volunteered to handle some of the campus marketing and it now forms a major part of his job, enabling him to combine lecturing with spells away from the classroom. "It's liberating, rather than taxing" he reports. "Effectively having two jobs means that you don't get bored with either." Lucy became involved with organising work experience and a few years down the line, heads up a large industrial liaison unit at her university. She admits that this suits her far better than her old lecturing job - "after all, I came from the business world in the first place," but she still undertakes limited teaching duties "just to keep my hand in."
5. Look at new ways of working. This can be as straightforward as altering your hours: free up an afternoon to do some admin (even better, to give yourself some added R and R) or merely rearrange your time by starting earlier/finishing later. True pioneers will go beyond this and consider introducing new strategies and techniques into their working life - more interactive lectures perhaps or how about just taking a fresh look at a well established course? Tim confesses to being jaded with what he was teaching "but the subject was still fascinating, it was largely because my approach was stale. Then a colleague came up with the idea of team teaching and this gave me the impetus to up my game. I really enjoy it now and have learned a lot from watching my colleagues in action."
6. Give your job a new dimension. Barney, a course administrator, became interested in e-learning a few years ago when it was in its infancy. He asked to incorporate it into his duties through ‘learning on the job' and regional working groups. Fascinated and excited by its potential, he eventually became the acknowledged expert in his small university - and beyond. He's now based at college part time only and spends the rest of his week as an e-technology consultant. Laurie took on careers liaison duties because he wanted to know more about the labour market that his students were entering. This gave him a few more points on the salary scale, and, of equal importance, it has increased his enjoyment and given him a new perspective. "Beforehand, getting students thorough the degree was my end result. I've extended that into helping them progress into other courses or find suitable work."
7. Be proactive. In a way we've come full circle from point 1, which was strictly reactive. Being opportunity aware is one thing, creating new possibilities is another. Suggest. Innovate. Propose. Build a band wagon rather than jumping on it. Yes, you may need to convince people of the relevance of your idea, but if it is sound, your powers of persuasion can be combined with compelling evidence. Anne had an idea for a course which broke new ground. The powers that be were not totally convinced but based on her research and her enthusiasm they allowed her to go ahead with it. Developing it was a labour of love, but one which has generated a lot of student interest and demands for input from other institutions.
Chances to enhance your job and your marketability are out there. Be aware of the opportunities, be ready to make opportunities, and, above all, be ready to take opportunities.