A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could. ~ Unknown
Employee to Human Resources: I want to get ahead on my job and I don't know how or where to start. What can I do to make myself more visible?
Job security is at an all-time low these days. Layoffs are rumored; hiring and salary freezes abound; bonuses and annual raises are delayed. For those who are sticking it out and their morale is getting low, what can they do to elevate their visibility; increase their skills set and/or increase their promotability?
As an advisor, I always encourage continuing education. In these times, some firms have cut back on this benefit of reimbursement for education, but many have not. Check with Human Resources and find out what their current benefits entail. Some firms pay 100% reimbursement for a passing grade, including books, tuition, and fees. There's no better deal than this; it's equivalent to getting a super raise. Plus, you will add higher learning and certified skill sets to your existing position. Many companies offer courses pertinent to your position, ie, computer courses for a computer analyst; legal courses for paralegals, etc. If you look into it, you may find that many companies are agreeable to allow courses not related to your job position to promote diversification of an employee's skill. I can't champion it enough - continuing education is a great benefit bestowed on employees by companies - don't let it pass you by.
The other thing I always encourage is networking. Networking is the process of gathering information and discovery through interactions with other people. You can network at company-given seminars, in-house training programs, local community-sponsored organizations that pertain to your discipline, ie, NALA ( (National Association of Legal Assistants). Every discipline at work has a professional organization that they support to keep abreast of changing laws and updating relevant information - your supervisor can enlighten you as to which ones they use. You can network at professional organizations in the community not associated with your workplace (Woman Business Leaders of Oshkosh) (Professional Businessmen Association) or you can join an Alumni Association associated with your college. There are many such organizations out there and joining one will add prestige to your resume. And keep you on top of current issues in your field and especially network other professionals like yourself for sharing of business ideas and work-related opportunities for advancement.
A big plus to an employee's advancement is to engage a mentor. As I mentioned in my article on mentoring I designed, implemented and managed my department's mentoring program. The first thing we did was have the interested employees fill out a questionnaire on what skills they would like to learn, what disciplines they wanted to learn them and how would that help them in their present position. We sent a similar questionnaire to management asking them if they were interested in mentoring, sharing their business experience and how much time could they offer. When we got the questionnaires back, we set up a spreadsheet and matched the employee's desired skills and other departments of interest to the offering management team mentors. On paper, we set up a match. As we all know, personalities play a large part in relationships and it is important that the mentor and mentee mesh. We then set up a wine and cheese get-together after working hours and invited the mentors and mentees. They mingled and discussed the program as well as getting to know the players. There are always 'situations' at work where some groups do not get along as well as they do with other groups. Some department heads don't see eye to eye. This is human nature. You wouldn't want to match up a mentee who's boss did not get along with the mentor. Somehow these things put a wrench in things and thank goodness, they are few in number but they do sometimes exist.
After the get-together, we sent the names of a possible mentee to a mentor and in most cases, it was a go. Then we set the ground rules for both of them. To prevent assumed expectations on both ends, we made a list of guidelines. These guidelines included:
1) Mentor and mentee drawing up an agreement consisting of shared roles and responsibilities; determining length of mentoring term (6 months to one year) and meeting times according to their work schedules. (Mentoring was done during work hours with approval of supervisors).
2) Evaluating the relationship at various points (at least mid-point and ending) within the agreed-upon time period.
3) Working out any minor concerns about the relationship; assuring to keep confidences and setting goals and making plans on how to accomplish goals.
4) Mentors using their knowledge, experience and background accomplishments as examples to help mentee identify and build on their own strengths.
5) Mentees showing initiative in planning their career, perhaps by writing a personal statement about goals and accomplishments.
6) Both parties utilizing listening skills in discussions.
7) Providing feedback from both mentor and mentee on their accomplishments, and how each derived organizational growth from their role.
Many companies encourage mentoring as a human resource development strategy. It could lead to a promotion or lateral move to another discipline to acquire additional specialized skills/information as a step to a promotion.
If you are considering being a mentee, it is an outstanding vehicle to learn the ins and outs of the higher level of management. You can also learn business acumen in how different specialized departments like Purchasing, Security, Tax work closely with other departments. This gives you an overall flow of how an organization is run and will aid you not only in your own department, but in future ones.
For the mentor, it is a chance to channel his or her experience onto a protégé, who could in the future become a longtime ally or associate; it hones your leadership skills; it gives something back to the company in transferring business-specific knowledge and perhaps fulfilling company needs; it gives the mentor the opportunity to overview his/her own present skills, goals and accomplishments in a new-eyes light. He or she may even discover areas where they, too, may improve.
For both, it will enhance their listening and business skills. If the mentor invites the mentee to attend one of his meetings, both will 'see' the meeting through their business eyes and their mentoring relationship eyes. This can result in valuable insights to both.
There are so many positives to mentoring that I can't think of many negative ones. It rarely, but could be a problem in the mentor's or mentee's personal behaviors, ie, conflicting meetings that interfere with the mentoring schedule; forgetting or being late for their meetings, being preoccupied with other matters while they are meeting, allowing interruptions or distractions, etc. The majority of relationships through our program were equally courteous, prompt, and best of all, enjoyed.
If you have mentoring program, by all means, join it. It has countless advantages and one day, you too, may be asked to be a mentor. It's a high compliment. If you don't have a formal program, be proactive, schedule a meeting with and ask a manager or director if they would consider being your mentor. You would have to do the ground work and draw up the agreement and schedules, but you can get different programs in the library or online. Good luck and prosperous sharing
©Marie Coppola August 2014