Ask Alexis | Can I Turn “Other Duties as Assigned” into my Main Focus?

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Dear Ask Alexis,

Recently, one of my “other duties as assigned” became assisting with our organization’s social media. I find searching for content interesting and exciting. I like having a say in our agency’s voice and helping to build our online presence. I enjoy engaging with our stakeholders on platforms other than email. Yet that is not the main focus of my job; my role is actually volunteer coordinator.

What do you do when something that began as a small part of your job has really piqued your interest and now you’d like to do more of that and less of your original duties? Is it time for a new job or can I somehow manage a transition away from volunteers and into social media? Obviously the volunteer coordination aspect of my job is important to the organization and someone needs to do it, but I don’t find it as fulfilling and stimulating as social media.

Thank you for your help!

Social Media Savant

***

Dear Social Media Savant,

What a great problem to have! I can probably count on one hand the number of times that an “other duty as assigned” uncovered something that I have a real passion for and interest in. So hi-five on that little surprise professional development nugget!

Now, on to your question: how can you make this newfound interest a core part of your job?

You are definitely on the right track, as there are several paths you could go down in order to land at your social media dream job. Let’s take a look at each:

Have the talk

You found something you enjoy and you’re eager to grow your expertise. This is music to most managers’ ears, trust me. If you’re happy with your organization and don’t see an immediate reason to resign and move on, consider initiating some real talk with your supervisor about what you have been doing, why you have been loving it, and where you would like for this newfound skill to lead you, professionally speaking.

Before diving into that conversation, however, there are a few things you should consider, and some information to prepare:

  • What are your current daily, weekly, and monthly tasks? Mapping this out will be helpful for your supervisor, as they may not have a crystal clear idea of what your current day-to-day looks like, and therefore wouldn’t be able to visualize how you would take on new work.
  • What are some of the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks associated with your new job duty? If you could determine about how many hours you’d like to spend on each, all the better!
  • Can you craft a work plan that allows for you to develop your new interests while maintaining the majority of your current volunteer coordinator workload? It’s okay if the answer to this question is a hard no, but a baby step toward adopting more of the social media work that you love could simply be to find the time to fit it in on top of your current work.
  • If the answer to the above question is “no” and the only way to do more social media work is to transition out of your current role, is there a natural option for a colleague who may be able to take on the bulk of your initial (volunteer coordinator) duties? If so, don’t be shy about mentioning their name when you sit with your supervisor. You don’t have to offload all of your current duties; here’s a better way to float the idea, “I know that [COLLEAGUE] was interested in developing her volunteer management expertise and since her [PROJECT] wrapped up, I bet she has a bit of extra time on her plate. She could be a great option to lend some support on the volunteer coordination front and I’d love to train her up.”
  • Are there additional social media learning opportunities that you’re interested in pursuing (webinar, workshop, etc.)? If so, bring that list to your meeting so that you can show your supervisor some low-cost (or free) ways you have identified to pursue a bit of self-directed professional development.

Once you have thought these through (and jotted down some notes) set up a time to have a conversation with your supervisor. While I encourage you to speak candidly, it’s also important that you make them feel safe and assure them (in subtle ways) that you’re not trying to leave them high and dry with the volunteer coordinator work. Here’s how:

  • Bring examples of the success you had in running your organization’s social media efforts.
  • Draft a plan for how you envision growing the efforts (if given the opportunity) and how the organization could benefit from this stepped up effort.
  • Reassure your supervisor that you are 100% onboard to either, a) Support the transition of the work, b) Continue working on some of the volunteer coordinator tasks, or c) Train your replacement (depending on how you decide to move forward).

Start the search

If, after considering the above questions, you either got a less-than-promising response from your supervisor or decided that you don’t feel comfortable initiating that conversation in the first place, you may want to visit Idealist.org and start to consider other options.

But before you jump ship, explore what else you may be able to do while remaining in your current job. For example:

  • Continue to develop your social media skills on the job (when possible) as well as during your free time by utilizing resources like Coursera and edX.
  • Start networking in order to set up some informational interviews and determine your skill gaps as well as where and how to fill them.

If you decide to move forward with the job search, here are some useful resources to start you off on the right foot.

Hone your passion, side-hustle style

If you want to stick around at your current job while also exploring other ways to satisfy your social media itch, consider expanding your interest and natural talent into a side hustle. Almost every organization out there has a need for a social media guru (be it an intern, freelancer, part timer, or full-time employee).

Just as we often recommend getting to know an issue area as a volunteer before diving in as a full-time employee, it could also make a ton of sense to explore you interest in social media through smaller freelance projects that you can work on after hours.

If you’re new to the freelance world, here are a few Idealist Careers resources to help you find your way:

***

Send your questions and comments to me at AskAlexis@idealist.org, and if we plan to publish your question, I’ll be sure to give you a heads up (and I’ll also be sure to keep your info anonymous, of course).

Looking forward to reading your stories and answering your questions!

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As a seasoned communications professional with 15 years of nonprofit experience and 6 years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.
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