Get responsibility for any budget you can find, no matter how small, and take ownership for it. Manage how the funds are dispensed, keep control of the budget, and learn what fiscal control is all about.
Take responsibility for the work of others in a situation in which some accountability is called for. Have direct contact with the work of others; expose yourself to the difficulty of giving orders, delegating tasks, taking guff, understanding the other person’s viewpoint. Here is where listening can become a real feat of skill.
Accept a role in which you must meet or relate to the public. Greet visitors, answer phone complaints, give talks to community groups, sell ads to business people, explain programs to prospective clients, or even collect taxes.
Search for opportunities to demonstrate that you can produce good work when it is required by external deadlines. Prove to yourself and to anyone else that you can function on someone else’s schedule, even when that timeframe is notably hurried.
Discover and cultivate the fine art of dealing openly and effectively with people in ambiguous situations. Learn how to bring warring factions together, resolve differences between groups or individuals and make demands on behalf of one constituency to those in positions of power.
Take a leadership role in any organization so that you are forced to talk publicly, prepare remarks, get across ideas, and even motivate people without feeling terribly self-conscious. Good public speaking is little more than the art of dramatized conversation, but it must be practiced so you can discover your own personal style.
Go public with your writing skills, or even the lack of them. There is nothing quite so energizing as seeing your own works in print. Exhilarating if they look good to you and a spurt of improvement if they look awful. Practice putting pen to paper. Write letters to the editors of every publication you read routinely. Write a newsletter, however informal, for a club or organization to which you belong.
Take charge of an event that is within your grasp; it doesn’t matter what you organize, a church supper, a parade in honor of your town’s one hundredth birthday – as long as you have responsibility for bringing together people, resources, and events. If nothing else, the headaches of organizing events or managing projects teach you how to delegate tasks to others.
Learn to acquire information from other people by questioning them directly. Start by interviewing the neighbors, your friends and other people easily available. It doesn’t matter what you ask them, but imagine you are a newspaper reporter who needs the information for a story. Discover the fine art of helping a person to feel comfortable in your presence, even though you are asking difficult or even touchy questions.
Refine your ability to explain things to other people. Since most teaching takes place not in the classroom, but in ordinary everyday exchanges between people, you should become familiar and comfortable with passing information and projecting understanding to others. Any position of leadership or responsibility involves training others to some extent.
Rick Christensen: Director, Career Transition Practice
Rick’s passion is coaching individuals through career transitions, developing career management strategies and in identifying and sharpening competencies to open doors to new opportunities. His efforts have assisted thousands of individuals achieve their full potential.