I have worked for an amazing non-profit for a few years now, my first and only job right out of college. With conceptual work and ideas I can work rather quickly and really excel, but I don't seem to be good at all the grunt work entry level jobs like mine require. I had potential opportunities to do other more interesting projects, but always missed the boat because I was behind on the grunt work. I want to do well and move beyond grunt work, but I just can't seem to work efficiently. What on earth is wrong with me?
~Grunting over Grunt Work, 26, St. Paul
Dear Grunting over Grunt Work,
Every job offers challenges and it takes being proactive to see how you can adapt your attitude and work style to be the best employee possible. This isn't to say that you and a job will always be a great match, but it sounds like you are at a company you like so you need to take some steps to bring change to your situation. Grunting over grunt work for three years and not doing anything to change it is not propelling you forward on your career path.
Communication at work is one of the most essential skills to learn. No one is a mind reader. Have you talked to your supervisor about this issue or just suffered in silence? If you have not communicated to your boss about the challenges you are having, they may be assuming you are perfectly content with where you are. Getting young employees today to do the grunt work without complaining about it everyday is a challenge for many employers - so unless you advocate for yourself, they are likely to keep you there.
There also might be a psychological element that is slowing you down. If you are judging the work as beneath you in any way this mindset will halt your progress. It's also possible that as a Gen Y member, you have been over stimulated your entire life and do not know how to deal with simple tasks. It may be that you are just bored. If you can power through these smaller tasks, then you can get to do the projects that will stimulate you. Since you say you excel at conceptual tasks, I challenge you to see if you can develop a more creative and/or stream-lined approach to what you call the grunt work.
Also, think about how work is divided at your job. Delegation and team work are crucial elements. Are there interns at your company you can give certain tasks to? Other people at your work level you can ask to take on some of your tasks throughout the day? It's not a weakness to ask for help.
All these tips aside, if you've been pigeon-holed in the same position for three years, ask yourself why you are still there. If your responsibilities haven't increased, you don't think you are in the right position, and your supervisor is not outlining for you what your future at the company looks like, start looking for another job.
And on a final note, there is probably nothing wrong with you at all, but if you really feel like you are struggling more than a normal amount with more simplistic, day-to-day tasks you may want to consider being checked out for a learning disorder. Bring it up to your general doctor and he or she can refer you to a specialist.
Grunt work does come with entry-level positions, but you've been there three years and it sounds like you are ready for a different type of challenge. You are stuck and it's incumbent upon you to figure out why you are still grunting and proactively change your situation. Stop grunting and use your talent as a conceptual thinking to chart your future.
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