Woman’s Way Magazine
Given the state of the Irish economy, it’s not surprising so many of us feel demoralised in the workplace at the minute. As the public and private sector continue to impose severe cutbacks, increasing numbers of workers are putting in longer hours for less pay with the threat of redundancy hanging over their heads. In this climate, thoughts of promotion tend to be filed away in the back of the mind. But despite the apparent bleak outlook, it is possible to get promoted during a recession. In fact, if you play your cards right now, you could be even more likely to move up in the near future – staying power is half the battle.
Dublin-based business consultant Paul Davis was the youngest manager in every company he worked for before successfully setting out on his own, so he’s better placed than most to advise on the mysterious art of securing a promotion. No mystery though, he insists at the outset: the ‘secret’ is to start thinking like your boss.
“Employees need to work out which side they want to be on in the long-term,” says Paul. “I mean, do you want to be an employee for the remainder of your career, or do you want to develop into management?”
“If it’s the latter, you need to alter your mindset to start thinking like management. Too many employees only view the company from their own point of view, and think, ‘Well, I only get paid and recognised for the work that I do, so why stretch myself?’
But if you understand your manager’s vision, you’re more likely to get promoted in the long-term, because leaders always need champions for their vision and values. Being an owner manager or even a senior manager can be a lonely place to be. Employees might find it hard to believe, but managers can feel isolated too. When you work hard to understand his or her mindset, and view your own job from this position, you’ll begin to see how you can help.”
Paul stresses that many company owners are now are experiencing financial problems that they never anticipated and so they will be acutely aware of which employees truly offer value for money. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. It’s a time when opportunities can arise too if you excel by helping your owner to get through this rough patch.”
Paul’s words have a sensible ring to them. Think about it this way: your job description was probably written when the Celtic Tiger was roaring and money was coming in hand over fist. Your bosses used to sit in a room asking themselves how they could grow and make even more money. Now they’re sitting in a room asking who or what they can cut to save money. Which leads to the inevitable question: who is making the most money for the company? People who bring in extra euro will stay and even get more responsibility when the economy picks up and staff numbers are lower. Those who bring in the euro they are assigned to bring in will get the hatchet if it comes to cuts.
“So think of ways you can create new streams of income for your company and act on them,” says Paul, “because no one wants to fire someone who brings in unexpected profit.”
Ask yourself how you can make their life easier. Ask him or her what the one thing they would like to change in the company would be. Ask them what difference that change would make and work on their side to make the change happen. Think of ways you can make it happen. It’s not just getting brownie points, it’s standing out from the rest, constantly shining.”
KEEPING UP TO DATE WITH INFO
And constantly shining can be as simple as clipping relevant newspaper articles or keeping abreast of changes and trends in the market you’re working in.
“Managers want people who can make them look good as often they don‘t have the time for the smaller details. If they go into a meeting armed with the info you gave them and come out shining, they owe you, so you’ll be high on the promotion list when it eventually comes around.”
We all have different skills and talents, so be aware of what yours are and do your best to promote them – create a system that works better than anything that’s been done before, be the expert at something. If you’re not good with administration, maybe you’re good with ideas, or maybe you’re good at keeping up office morale. When times are tough, the latter can be particularly important.
“So whatever it is, play to your strengths to make yourself invaluable.
But in the race to keep the top brass happy, don’t forget to be helpful to your co-workers, supervisors, and underlings. “If you don’t have people on your own level behind you, you’re not going to make a good manager, so try, where you can, to make life easier for all employees, not just those with influence. Your boss will notice these things too.”
And if you feel they’re not noticing, keep at it. “Don’t come across as fed up with your current work, even if you are. Now more than ever, management really need positive people around the office.”
Paul also believes in asking for a coach or mentor within the company.
“You rarely get an employee asking for a coach, but a strong relationship with a more senior employee in your department can open a lot of doors for you. For one thing, you’ll learn a lot about the organisation and about the jobs you might want to get in the future. For another, you’ll have an ally who will be willing to vouch for you when you do decide to apply for a new opportunity – your mentor might even groom you to succeed him or her when they move up or retire.”
And never underestimate the importance of networking – whether it’s within the company or outside with potential new clients, you need to make the effort to get to know people in a social setting, outside the office, in order to discover what they might have to offer your company or your career.
“You can’t expect opportunities to come to you if you sit at the same desk each day meeting no new people. There can be huge benefits in casual conversations.”
But knowing what to say or ask can be daunting with people you don’t know.
“Not if you have a set of questions in your mind,” says Paul.
“Ask what prompted them to come here? Find out what’s going well for them this year – focusing on the positive encourages openness and helps build rapport. Then maybe: If I could help you with that, would you be interested? This gives confidence that their goals can be achieved with your help. Most importantly, establish a firm commitment to communicate again and follow up within 48 hours of meeting to keep the momentum.
DON’T BE AFRAID
Finally, says Paul, if you want a promotion, and feel that you deserve it, wait for the right time and ask for one.
“Most companies have yearly reviews rather than quarterly ones which can make it harder to find the opportunity to communicate to your boss that you want to more responsibility and money, but if you can schedule an appropriate time, make your wishes clear and offer specific reasons, backed up by evidence, on why you deserve one.”
So don’t just tell him or her that you are a great worker – give them proof that you work hard, are ambitious to learn more, that your timekeeping is good, that you’re reliable.
“The opportunity for promotion might not be there right now, but it will be in the future. At least this shows you are keen. If it isn’t, don’t be disheartened, or show that you are. Instead, ask your employer: what are the critical things that need to be done for the company and how can I help to do them?
“Above all don’t lose hope. Achieving a decent salary isn’t impossible, you just need to stop thinking of your bosses in terms of ‘them and us’. The more you bridge that gap and start thinking as an employer, the more likely you are to get ahead.” WW, by Laura McDaid