How Extra Work Without Extra Pay Can Pay Off

This is how people get promoted: They take on new projects, increase their skills, and show that they can stretch.

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A reader writes:

I am an administrative assistant at a 10-person marketing company. My new boss just asked me to take on a project that my coworker used to do. I'd be willing to do it, but I wonder if I should. Is it a bad idea to let him give me more work that isn't part of my job description? I want to stay at this company for a long time but he isn't offering me a raise.

[See 9 insider secrets to getting hired.]

Well, unless the new project is far outside of your skill set, I'm not sure that you have a choice. This is how small companies often operate—work gets moved around, people take on new things, people pitch in. It's par for the course.

But, more importantly, I would see this as a good thing, not a bad one. This is how people get promoted: They take on new projects, increase their skills, and show that they can stretch beyond where they currently are.

It's also how people get raises—not at the outset, when they're first taking on the new work, but later, after they've shown that they can do it well.

[See how to find a mentor.]

If I asked an employee to take on a new project and she asked for a raise right off the bat, I'd be put off. I'm looking for people who are excited to grow professionally and who would see a new project as an opportunity, not an albatross. (The exception to this is if the new work causes a real hardship, such as constant travel or an horrible commute; those are cases where it's appropriate to revisit your compensation at the start.)

Some people do see new work duties as an albatross, and that's their prerogative—but it's a mindset that will limit you professionally in most cases. If you really just want to stick to your job description and never grow out of it, and essentially just want to do your work and go home (which is a legitimate choice), it might be useful to let your boss know that. It'll mean giving up larger raises and promotion opportunities, but it might get the two of you aligned on your expectations.

Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.

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