For the world to truly beat a path to your door, perhaps the fastest route is to "volunteer" useful ideas. In no time flat the rest of the team will be asking you to participate and then take charge of making them work. This "volunteering" can take many forms, from a traditional offer to take on tasks no one else is keen to do or charitable "freebie" roles like running the office United Way Campaign to offering better ideas for resolving some work problem or even a new strategy. People with ideas that sound workable are immediately seen as leaders… and since it was their idea and no one else wants extra work anyway, they become the logical person for the group to conscript to carry them forward. You don’t even look like you’re making a play for more responsibility if you don’t make a grab for it too early.
Of course you have to think about your workload and whether you’re about to get stuck permanently with some joe-job that demonstrates nothing creative. On the other hand, a bit of volunteer grunt work shows you care and are willing to carry your share of less glamorous tasks. If you pick a couple of things you can do easily that have limited life spans, you’re more likely to be listened to on the next item. That opens the opportunity to volunteer your ideas for more creative projects.
People always want to see more done. It’s human to wish "they" (meaning "someone else") would do these things. You can often step right into a plum role before anyone else realizes it offers a good opportunity. You can only do this, however, if you’re in the habit of stepping forward. It helps if you don’t hesitate. That means building a skill I call, "Just say yes." If something sounds interesting and doesn’t immediately make you feel ill at the mere thought, it’s probably something that fits your plan to get ahead, assuming you have one. Putting forward your own good ideas is a way to ensure the opportunity is one that fits.
If it’s something you firmly believe needs doing, can you be the one to move it along? If not, consider whether it’s better not to mention it at all and end up looking like the person who wants others to act, but never offers. Focus your effort on ideas you’d be willing to lead yourself and you’re maximizing benefits all around. At least you know for sure someone could actually get it going. It’s not just theory.
There will be times in your life when you have just too much already on your plate to consider more. When the kids are young, or you’ve just moved into a much more challenging job, or…. you can expand the list. Careers move along between plateaus and then steep upward learning curves. When you’re ready to move, the upward step often begins with presenting logical, workable ideas first… and then simply "accepting the challenge" to make them work. Remember, too, that when you’re ready you can "volunteer" your ideas to the attention of other employers and organizations as well as your own. Some do this through industry and charitable groups that they do projects for. Sometimes that even draws more attention from your current employer who recognizes such contributions externally more easily than when you offer ideas internally.