Here's Why Volunteering Gets You Nowhere

There's always that moment in a staff meeting where the boss asks for volunteers. The entire room plays a high-stakes game of chicken with the silence, waiting to see who will be the first to crack. Finally, someone takes the hit and agrees to do the thing — organize a party, monitor the break room sink, anything that falls under the term "office housework."

Weirdly, these employees — largely women — don't tend to see this pay off in salary bumps or career advancement. That's one more reason to be strategic about putting yourself forward, and it could play a major role in the gender pay gap. According to recent research, published this summer in the Harvard Business Review, there's a name for it: non-promotable tasks.

Other studies have found galling statistics about the often-thankless tasks women take up at the workplace. This can mean women complete 10 percent more office work than men, with far fewer of the benefits and supports. That said, that doesn't mean you need to worry about looking like you're "not a team player." These volunteer tasks often carry a social currency. You don't have to always turn them down (even if they are a drag), but it's important to get comfortable setting boundaries and saying no when you need to.

"Spend time connecting with someone at work, or a mentor outside of work, who will help you get ahead," suggests one executive to MarketWatch. "Make sure you are focused on the things that are making the highest impact." That's creating value for your office, in just the way you were hired to do so.