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Tips For The Employed But Underutilized

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L. Lefkowitz | Getty Images

Recently an experienced entrepreneur turned employee asked me for advice about a new job where there was a lot of down time.

She already asked for more to do but wasn’t assigned anything.

Now what?

Obviously, don’t read leisurely on the Internet or run personal errands. In a new role, you have little credibility or political capital earned, so you need to be extra vigilant about managing perceptions.

You do not want to seem disinterested or worse, derelict of duty.

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Instead you want to be perceived as a go-getter and a problem solver. So go after a problem.

You’re new. You have fresh eyes.

Clearly, one of your company’s problems is that their managers don’t have time to delegate. Why are they so busy? Don’t wait for them to tell you if you ask and they are too busy to explain. Read past company news and internal memos. Research your competitors. Find the relevant trade group, scan recent newsletters and interview the organizers for their take on this industry. Your job is to contribute to the bottom line with creative solutions to pressing business issues. Be thankful that you have the time to work on these larger issues.

As the newbie, you also want to get a lay of the land, and you shouldn’t just rely on your immediate supervisor.

Talk to your peers.

Talk to people outside your department.

What are things they know now that they wished they knew when they started? Who are good people to get to know? What do they think the pressing business issues are?

Finally, remember that every new role is a transition that needs time to grow into. This particular case is a big career change: a former entrepreneur is likely used to running at break-neck speed. You need to observe the rhythms and culture of your new environment before you decide how to adapt yourself or what to try and change externally. Don’t confuse different with wrong.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a co-author of the upcoming "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" due out April 2010; Bascom Hill Books. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast's Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

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