If you stay put, stay current

Dear Joan:
I work for a relatively conservative company in a mature industry. I have been with them for approximately 13 years. Throughout these years, I have been taking many courses related to my job responsibilities in an effort to improve myself and my chances of advancement. I have been given excellent performance reviews during my tenure and above average raises as well. I have moved through the ranks quicker than anyone else who has been in the same department during the same time. I am currently on a project that is critical to the company's future and am enjoying the challenge that is associated with it. So what's wrong?

Two things are bothering me. First, I'm concerned that spending my first 13 years at one company may limit my exposure to different management philosophies and ways of doing business in general. Will this single source of employment be an asset or a hindrance when looking for future jobs elsewhere? Secondly, I report to a person that I enjoy working with and respect from a technical standpoint but don't feel is a very good manager. During the many discussions we have, I find myself coming up with creative management ideas that he agrees with only to find out he has passed them on up the ladder where they are well received. I feel confident in my abilities both technically and managerially but don't feel I am getting full credit for many of my ideas at higher levels.

You're asking all the right questions. Too many people in your shoes would sit back and feel safe and complacent. Circumstances can change very quickly and if you're not actively assessing your marketability at all times, you could be in for some disappointments down the road.

Your faster than average promotions and critical projects are the way a conservative, mature company rewards a "star." Promotions in companies such as yours must be approved at many levels because these opportunities are scarce and coveted. The fact that you are now on a high-risk project suggests that you have credibility and the respect of boss and those above him.

If I were you, I wouldn't be too concerned right now about getting credit for your management ideas. All the signals suggest that you are being groomed for a promotion. Instead, focus all your activities on making this highly visible project a huge success.

Use your big project to get the visibility you want. Take every opportunity to talk with people above your boss and in other departments about the project (but keep your boss informed). As you're talking with these people you will have opportunities to show them your technical, political and managerial skills. If you get an opportunity to speak before senior managers, grab it. This is a great way to make a favorable impression on the people who can determine your future.

Meanwhile, begin to get more active in an outside organization. Decide if you want to stay in this field and/or this industry. Choose the organization that will put you in the best position to build your reputation on the outside. Then, look for opportunities to write articles in their newsletter, organize speakers...anything that will keep you in touch with the "who's who." You will learn about what other companies are doing, while building a good network for your next job move.

The fact that you work for a conservative company in a mature industry suggests that you may be missing some very innovative things happening in smaller, more entrepreneurial companies. Some of these companies are re-inventing management philosophy. Large, mature organizations are having a tougher time incorporating some of these ideas because of their size and well-entrenched culture.

While I wouldn't recommend that you leave to join a more entrepreneurial company (especially in this economy), I do suggest that you find ways to keep up-to-date on what's happening. One way is to read everything you can get your hands on. Another idea is to do some freelance work. If you don't get promoted to a managerial job within a reasonable period of time, you will be ready to make your move.

It's possible that 13 years may be seen as "too long" in one place. Fortunately, your resume will show many promotions, challenging projects and good results. Outside activities will make it even better. Continue to keep one eye on your job and one on the marketplace. Make destiny a matter of choice, not a matter of chance.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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