A lot of people will do almost anything to avoid networking or spending more time at work -- but then again, they’re not you. You’re that special type of person who knows that getting involved at work is the best way to get the bosses to notice you and to consider you the person who’s always ready to go the extra mile.
Your added involvement doesn’t even have to have anything to do with your actual work. Just by showing your face around the office -- or making yourself more visible to certain key people -- you could make yourself more relevant and promotion-worthy. In a world where career advancement is all about who you know, a little extra face time certainly won’t hurt.
If you’re looking for ways to get more involved at work, here are some of the easiest, least-painful ways to do it.
1. Pick your colleagues' brains
Your bosses are there to take care of the more overarching details of the business -- but in a good workplace, they’re also there to mentor you and guide you to advance within the company. Use that to your advantage.
It’s not necessarily getting more involved at work, per se, but it is an extension of that to ask your boss out for coffee or invite a seasoned employee out to lunch. Let the person know that you’re looking to learn from their experience. During the meeting, come up with some specific questions about processes or philosophies behind certain aspects of the business. In the worst-case scenario it will be just a brief bout of face time that can help that person remember you as a go-getter who’s always looking to learn. But in the best-case scenario, that person will take you under their wing and continue to mentor you on the job as well. And once you’re a bona fide mentee for a higher-up in the company, you could find that you’re getting special projects and career-related invitations that will give you lots of other ways to get involved.
2. Ask questions and offer help
Also, be on a quest to find out as much as you can about the business, both in informal business situations as well as meetings and the like. When you ask questions -- well-timed and not disruptively, of course -- you’ll tend to find out more about how things work. That, in turn, can help you start to see places that you could use your expertise or your unique set of skills to help move the business forward.
As you see opportunities arise, offer to help. For example, you might find out that there’s a company fundraiser every spring, which raises funds for a local children’s charity. If you’re an amazing balloon animal maker, offer your services during the event. If you have truck, offer to haul goods to the fundraiser site.
3. Start an office happy hour
Another way to get your finger on the pulse of what’s happening at work is to get your co-workers drunk. It might sound crass, but it’s true. When the alcohol is flowing, people tend to be a lot more loose about what they’ll share. That’s the perfect time to find out the rumors about what’s coming down the pipeline around the office, to hear the latest gossip about who’s leaving and to just generally get to know your colleagues in a more informal manner. You never know how that information will come back to help you get ahead -- and at the very least, you’ll have a good time.
It doesn’t have to be a formal thing, either. Simply invite an office friend to join you for drinks after work, and then ask that person to bring yet another office friend. If you do your happy hour thing on the same day of the week -- Fridays are always good -- sooner or later you may have an office tradition going that happens even without you prodding everyone to come.
4. Be a joiner
Many companies also have “side projects” that are aimed at providing services or help to employees. Take the company wellness project, for example, or the afternoon running club. While they have nothing to do with the actual work at hand, they’re a great way to get to know your fellow employees in a way that’s more positive than long bouts of drinking.
Simply joining that running club and attend faithfully is one way to get more involved -- but that’s not the only way to do it. Those type of groups also need people to organize the meetings and send out reminders and such. If you’re going to vying for a leadership position sometime in the future, those are great ways to show that you have leadership skills.
5. Start your own thing
So what do you do if your workplace doesn’t have any extracurricular activities or groups that you can join? Start one yourself, of course. If there’s no lunchtime walking club, invite a few interested friends to start one with you. If you want to support a certain charity or non-profit on behalf of the company, talk to your human resources department first, and then offer to be the go-to for organizing an event at your workplace.
When it comes to starting affinity groups, health-related groups or any other type of fundraising effort, you’re really only limited by your own imagination.
6. Always be learning
When you’re looking to get more involved at work, what you’re really doing is looking to expand your skill set and to let the company leaders see your potential. Your effort should also include learning as much as you possibly can about the industry that you’re in. Download some podcasts that relate to your industry and listen to them while you’re on the way to work. Subscribe to some industry magazines, or tap the magazines’ blog pages to stay on top of trends.
With that new information will probably come more questions -- but it can also help you come up with new ideas for how you can contribute. Finding out about a new method of handling sales orders, for example, could lead you to pitch the idea to your bosses. And since you pitched it, you may be the one to get to head up the effort to integrate that new idea.
7. Attend a conference and share the details
In the spirit of learning new things, joining associations and attending conferences can be great ways to get new ideas. Ideally, you’ll get your company to foot the bill for that conference or to pay for your membership in an industry association. If your boss seems unsure whether to support that effort, offer to share what you’ve learned during a lunch-and-learn session that you plan and organize.
Showing the boss that you’re concerned not just with gathering new information for yourself, but also for the good of your fellow employees can paint you in a really positive light.
See also: How to be More Productive at Work
If you heed even half of the advice listed here, you may soon find that you have more on your plate than you can possibly manage. With that in mind, take it slow, integrate one thing at a time, and then add in more opportunities for involvement over time. With any luck, your bosses will notice your efforts, and will peg you as the strong leader that you know you really are.