Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Are You Going To Get Promoted?

You may have heard it said that whether you succeed in advancing your career is:
10% about being good at your current job
30% to do with your image
60% reliant on your profile
So let's assume that you are good at your current job, and you want go further. Or you want to position yourself so that you do well out of the next organisational restructuring. How do you make sure that you have the right image?

What Constitutes Image At Work?
Your image is the impression you create on people, in a myriad of ways, when they encounter you. Some of these people might see you on a daily basis - your boss might be one example. Other people who could enhance your career might meet you only once.

The right image doesn't mean pretending to be something you're not. It's making sure that your appearance, your manner and your overall approach to work are professional and reflect your underlying ability. The problem with some people is that their image undermines them, and gives a misleading impression.

Here are three characters who had different types of image problems.

Amy was really good at her job. She was bright, committed and had a track record of delivering results. But Amy had a problem, as her boss explained…

“The trouble with you, Amy, is that you don’t inspire confidence. When people see you walking down the corridor they wonder if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You look so worried all the time.”
 Her manager continued......

“The thing is, I know that you are reliable and could do a good job at the next level, but no one else would believe it.”
Amy’s boss had identified something that causes problems for lots of diligent, reliable, people – they leak anxiety.

A good image to portray, if you want to get promoted, is of being a Safe Pair of Hands. The people who will decide whether or not to promote you won’t want to hold your hand while you develop confidence in your new role. They especially won’t want to have sleepless nights worrying about whether you are coping with the pressure of a more senior post. 

For Amy, cultivating the Safe Pair of Hands image meant:

1. Doing whatever it took to get the job done. This often meant going the extra mile by working late.

2. Demonstrating grace under pressure. Underneath the surface there were times when she was feeling the strain and paddling furiously to keep afloat. But she no longer let it show – to outsiders she appeared composed and in control.

3. Adopting a 'Can Do' attitude.  Saying “Yes, I can do that. No problem”, when she was thinking “Yikes! How?”

Tony was a technical specialist who liked to stay well within the boundaries of his role and expertise. He was a very capable guy, though - a few years back he had invented a new way of undertaking a process that had saved his company hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Tony noticed that some of his colleagues seemed to be progressing up the career ladder while he was getting left behind. He decided to do something about it, and applied his analytical ability to the task of getting himself promoted.

The first thing that Tony realised was that the process innovation he had devised a few years ago was now a distant memory in his manager's mind. However, his unshaven face, jeans, lengthy lunches and habit of leaving work at 4 pm was making a daily impact on her brain. Tony had heard the phrase 'dress for the next job up', and he decided to take that principle and apply it more widely in an attempt to improve his image .

For Tony, appearing ready for 'the next job up' meant:

1. Accepting that image matters. Some of his friends argued that it shouldn’t be an issue but Tony recognised that most of us, whether we’re looking at a doctor or an electrician, tend to make (sometimes unconscious) judgements based on appearances.

2. Taking an honest look at his appearance, and realising that no one would mistake him for someone working in a more senior post. To his relief, Tony realised that dressing for the next job up didn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit – he would look the part by wearing smart trousers and shirts, like his organisation’s more senior managers.

3. Sorting out his workspace. One of his colleagues remarked that it looked like a teenager’s bedroom. “But I know where everything is”, protested Tony. “Maybe, but it doesn’t exactly fit with this new image of yours”, replied his colleague.

Your desk is part of your image – does it give the impression that you are in control of things?

Eddie was the team's joker. He had a quick, sarcastic wit and was great fun down the pub. Eddie's problem was that he didn't know when to stop - meetings would be punctuated with little quips and the exchange of banter with his colleagues. Having a laugh at work is important to most of us, but it had become too big a part of Eddie's identity. Eddie was a likeable and capable guy, but his seniors saw his flippancy as the sign that he was a lightweight. He needed to be taken seriously.

Having the right image doesn't mean you can't crack a joke, but it does mean knowing what tone to adopt in any situation.

For Eddie, being taken seriously meant:

1. Telling his manager that he wanted to be promoted, and having a frank conversation about what he needed to do to make that happen.

2. A teach-yourself-corporate-culture period during which he observed how the movers and shakers in his organisation behaved. Eddie realised that influential managers knew when to let their hair down, but they also knew when to behave in an impeccably professional manner. Eddie resolved to take more conscious control over his sense of humour.

3. Becoming know as an Improver. Previously, Eddie’s image had been that of a Maintainer – he was good at keeping things ticking over. Eddie realised that the individuals who moved up the ladder in his organisation were people who had developed a reputation for improving systems, processes and services.

Next month – how to raise your profile so the right people know about you.