When we start out in our careers, we have big dreams of climbing the corporate ladder and accumulating success every step of the way. However, a few years into the job, we find ourselves frustrated and confused– the pathway is littered with challenges that sometimes seem insurmountable, the journey upward seems to be blocked, and we can’t seem to get any mileage no matter how hard we work.
Promotions seem very simple. It is given based on merit and hard work. As long as we fulfil our job descriptions and go a step beyond them, it would stand to reason that we would be duly appreciated and thus, promoted. In some companies, where rank and file still count, superiors would look at seniority, but this is fast becoming a thing of the past. More important are these aspects – attitude, job performance, teamwork and of course, potential.
Do we have the potential to fill much bigger shoes? Do we have what it takes to take your department/company to the next level? Are we the new face of the business? With that in mind, it’s time to sit back and take stock. Get our head out of the race for a minute and look back at our track record. This is the time to evaluate our strategy and rethink it.
FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD IMPRESSIONS
First impressions count, as does the second, third and so forth. Remember dressing to the nines for the job interview, and spending our first pay cheque in advance to buy that suit to wear to work on the first day? Because we realised how important it was to appear right for the job.
As we worked, we got comfortable. Sometimes too comfortable, that we probably let the attention to what we wear lapse. The shirt may not be immaculately pressed anymore, and who cares if today, the shoes did not match the suit. It’s ok that our dressing is not as smart or nice as our boss’s – after all, he or she does earn more money than us. Besides, we don’t want to upstage anyone. Right?
Wrong! We must always dress the part, and we mean always. It doesn’t matter if you are feeling a little under the weather or had a drunken night, always turn up for work dressed for success. Clichéd as it may sound, we are our own best advertisement. If it is a promotion you’re after, the least you can do is look the part. Get well-fitted suits and quality shoes. Invest in a good bag. Because according to Murphy’s Law, the day we decide to dress down is probably the day our boss makes a decision on who to promote to be project manager.
Why are appearances so important? Because someone who pays attention to what they wear and care about details, inspire confidence that they will be as particular about the job at hand. Also, we should always dress for the job we aspire to have, not the job we currently have. So if you want to be promoted to project manager, dress like one.
ARE YOU WORKING TOO HARD?
Often, in a new job, there’s a steep learning curve. We find ourselves working extended hours just to learn the ropes. This is fine and it shows initiative and drive. However, if you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s time to scale back a little. By now, you would be proficient in your area, and could get the same things done in less time.
Although they want hard workers, bosses nowadays also look for smart workers. If they see you working late all the time, they might question your productivity, and whether you have acquired the skill level it takes to bump you up to a higher position. Think about it. If you’re always overworked, are you not able to cope with your current workload? If so, how would you be able to handle the additional responsibilities that come with a promotion?
In addition to smart workers, companies are now striving more for work-life balance for their employees. They have come to realise that when their workers enjoy a fulfilling life after work, it makes them better employees in the long run. They are happier at work, and therefore more productive. So don’t be a workhorse anymore. Look at your time management skills, and structure your working time into manageable blocks. Try to finish everything an hour earlier every day. You will be happier for it, and look like someone with excellent organisational skills to your bosses.
ACT THE PART
As we have advised you to dress the part, now we are telling you to act the part. A lot of people make the mistake of acting like employees. This means gossiping with colleagues, whining about work, taking long cigarette or lunch breaks, and being generally unhappy with work. Bosses don’t like that. Every minute you spend whining and being unhappy, is a minute lost to the company.
Leaders don’t act like that. Leaders think of the big picture and don’t sweat the small stuff. When they’re unhappy with something, they think of ways to change it, instead of whining about it. They don’t waste time on idle gossip, but instead spend that time doing research to beef up their work.
Yes, socialising is important to your career, and building a good rapport with your colleagues is a very important step. But there are ways to do it positively, sans gossip and whining. Brainstorm for ideas during coffee sessions. It doesn’t even have to be work-related. At lunch, talk about life outside of work. Organise weekend getaways with your co-workers. These are all great ways to build rapport without negativity
There’s no point in working hard and smart if there’s no one around to notice. In today’s corporate culture, a lot of people are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of being given more work. These people will not get promoted anytime soon. If you’ve been cowering in the back of meetings and discussions, it’s time to stop. The strategy in getting noticed isn’t about being loud; it is about being impressive.
Do that by being prepared every time. When you go into a meeting, do your research, even on the portions that are not your responsibility. No matter what your position, learn to give relevant, succinct feedback at the right time. Don’t interrupt every meeting with your bright ideas and observations, though.
You have to bide your time. Learn the dynamics of the group before you go in. If you spot a particular team leader who is very open to the floor, then this is the time to jump in. If your superior doesn’t like junior staff butting in, try different ways. You could e-mail your ideas prior to the meeting, so you don’t make your boss look bad.
Build your credibility at work by always having the right information at your fingertips. Learn to be competitive when it counts, and when to hold back. If there’s a project up for grabs, and you feel you can do it, request to be on the team. Take on difficult jobs that no one else wants. You gain experience and management will start to notice you.
Every time you perform well, make sure it’s noted. Send an e-mail to your boss to thank him or her for helping you pull off the project successfully. Hold a meeting to thank your team members. Buy everyone a round of drinks at lunch. Make it about them, while we all know it’s all about you.
GET OUT OF THE RUT
Instead of sitting around and feeling sorry that you’re being passed over for a promotion yet again, fight back. If you feel you’re truly entitled to it, confront your bosses instead of simmering in resentment.
The confrontation will serve two purposes – you will find out exactly what it is that the other guy did right and you didn’t, which will arm you for future combat, and management will sit up and take notice! In fact, there’s a third purpose, which is the most important: it will get you in the fighting spirit again. There’s nothing like striding up to your boss and listing down your achievements to boost one’s confidence. In doing so, take any feedback positively, as areas for change and improvement. Before you know it, you could already be next in line for a higher position!
In every job, there are ups and downs. There will be many people clamouring for a few coveted positions. The ones who pull through and shine are the ones who are truly passionate about what they do. They are also the ones who play the right moves at the right time. Go ahead; it’s your move now.
Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash