In most offices there are two types of people—the kind that volunteers for everything and the ones who never raise their hands. Neither are good strategies.
Unplanned work is often a result of a change in corporate strategy. That can mean projects with high visibility, interesting problems to solve, and potentially a fast track to a better position. Then again, extra projects may just be a result of someone’s poor planning. You’ll likely have a mix of both.
Rather than being assigned (perhaps randomly) to projects, think about what types of work would be best for you and proactively volunteer for specific deliverables. Not only will you more likely get the best type of projects, you’ll get points for stepping up.
Volunteering in an area that aligns with your personal interests as well as your career goals will give you the biggest benefit. Do you want to develop a new skill, learn a new way of thinking, or develop/deepen relationships with colleagues and influencers? Maybe you need experience leading a team of peers or superiors. Being the point person for a project can give you invaluable leadership experience. And it can also give you a window into the opportunities that are available (or are soon going to be).
Make sure the project/group needs what you have to offer. This sounds basic but many times people volunteer and aren’t able to use the skills they are most suited to leverage. Make sure they need what you have in order to have the best experience.