Sally was bored with her job. She'd been a receptionist for the same organisation for over 12 years and had become stale, didn't like the pay and was becoming more and more disengaged.
She was on the point of giving up and looking for a new employer when one of her workmates said, 'Why don't you see if there's a position in the sales team? You know the business well and how the systems work, the kind of questions the customers ask, and the way the other staff in that team operate. If you go to another company you'll probably end up doing similar work and get bored with that too.'
It was as if someone had turned on the lights. Sally didn't have high academic qualifications but she loved being with people; the kind of woman who could get people enthused about her projects just because of her bubbly personality. But she'd never seen herself in sales.
Within a month she was off on a new career. Within a year she was one of the top salespeople in the company.
What would you like to learn?
What new skills would you like to acquire? What would make your job easier and increase your productivity? Or ready you for a change of direction?
Take the initiative; don't wait to be invited. Seek out courses that you're interested in and ask to be released to attend them.
If you know when the company is setting its budgets for the next financial year, talk to the person in charge of training well before they're finalised, to see if some funds can be set aside for your further education. (And a reliever to take over your work if that's necessary.) If you live in a remote location, remember to include travel and accommodation.
Not enough money?
If there's any hesitation from your boss about providing you with training, you might have to prepare a simple business case.
For instance, maybe there's a specialist computer programme you use, and which you're not highly skilled on.
• Suppose, with a few hours' training, you could save 10 - 15 minutes a day (at least).
• Calculate how much the wasted time is costing the company. It will always be more than the cost of getting you upskilled.
There's also the unseen cost to the organisation of the 'lost opportunity' price tag of other tasks you don't have time to do right now, or perhaps don't have the ability to do.
And of course, if you have a higher skill set you'll be able to train, support and coach others in the future. From there, if you show initiative, it could well become a career move to more pay and more exciting opportunities.
Further career opportunities
Some staff, when asked to take on new tasks, say, 'I can't do ...' (Excel, for instance). Instead, think ahead. If you find yourself left too far behind in skills upgrades you might find your job restructured and yourself with less hours. (Or none!)
Be proactive; plan your future and just ask. Almost every manager is delighted to see staff looking ahead for ways to add value to the business.
Top support staff are incredibly talented multi-taskers, great project managers, and able to turn their hand to most things. Many people (myself included) developed skills during their time working in low-paid support roles that later led to very exciting and well-paid work
Always think long-term - and take every opportunity to upskill.