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THE QUESTION

I started a new job late last summer. My six-month probation is almost over and I think I've done well; I get along with everyone and the work gets done well. But I'm not convinced there is enough work to sustain the position I'm in. I have nothing to do for at least a couple of hours each day! I have been politely asking for more tasks to fill the time but those are usually one-day filing chores. I'm about to have my review and come off probation. What do I say, if anything?

What do I do? If I am honest and say there is not enough work for all of us in my work team, I risk losing my job, no? Or do I just keep my mouth shut and try to find my own non-obvious projects to keep myself occupied? I really don't know what to do.

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

A review is not the place to tell an employer you aren't busy in your job. If the managers haven't figured it out, it is not your place to tell them, unless you want to be let go.

If you like where you work then look for projects and tasks that will improve your skills and add to your tool kit.

Scrutinize processes and procedures to see if you can come up with efficiency strategies; build a data base of resources you can call on when equipment fails or glitches occur.

Offer to sit on committees, initiate a fundraiser and volunteer for any task that has you meeting decision makers in other parts of the company.

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Work on raising your visibility to promote your professional wonderment – in other words, get out from behind your desk and look for ways to make a difference. Make phone calls instead of sending e-mails when appropriate.

Is it possible to step outside your immediate department to see if you can be of use to a busier work unit?

Probably the last thing you want to do is conduct another job search after only six months, but that is an option. If you aren't growing and learning then you will eventually suffer "rust out."

This starts an unpleasant cycle of mistakes, resentment, regret and eventually being let go. Make a real effort for the next six months.

If nothing changes by then, re-evaluate your situation and decide what course of action to take.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Heather L. MacKenzie

The Integrity Group, Vancouver

"I don't have enough to do at work" is not the kind of complaint one usually hears from an employee.

I am going to have to assume your concerns are around job security, and to some extent, job fulfilment.

Are your team members/colleagues having a similar experience with their workload? Perhaps you are more efficient than the rest. Maybe you are being given less work because you are junior.

Or maybe the business has a distinct "busy season," which you have not experienced yet.

You are obviously a conscientious employee, so before your review, take some time to have conversations with your co-workers. Talking with your teammates (especially those who have been with the company for some time) may give you some valuable input and a better perspective on the situation.

During your evaluation, there is no harm in saying that you feel ready for more responsibility. There is also no harm in asking about the direction of the business or your department/division as a whole.

After all, it is a two-way street: You are investing in a career path as much as they are investing in you as an employee.

It is fair to know what the future looks like. If things don't sound like they will work out, at least you have a couple of free hours a day to start looking for a new job!

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to: ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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