Fighting back!

Is your career being thwarted everywhere you turn by power-dressing, power hungry colleagues. Then it's time to fight back. Here's a guide to some alternative ways of getting ahead.

By – Norman Flack

So you feel stuck in a rut at work? That you keep missing out in the promotion stakes? And you’re bored and depressed. Then it’s time for some drastic action to tilt the balance a little more in your favour. And if it means a bit of “cheating”, so be it!

Forget all those traditional methods that have been drummed into you. The years of study, of arriving early and staying late at the office, of conscientiousness, loyalty, uncomplainingly waiting to be noticed. Let’s get you onto the fast track.

The name of the game is perception. People perceive others as achievers or non-achievers. When you realise that you’ll comprehend that you don’t really have to take the extra study path in the hope of totting up lots of qualifications. All you have to do is change people’s perceptions of you. A challenge, but not insurmountable. And quickly worthwhile.

First off, polish up your act. How’s your working area? Neat and tidy or groaning under a mountain of paper? An untidy desk gives the wrong impression. Passers by will make a snap decision based on the state of your desk. So do something about it this moment. Get organised.

Next, the tools of your trade. Are your computer and its software competent for the job? If not, have you told the people who matter and insist that they do something about it? You can’t expect to work efficiently with inferior tools, but unless you tell anyone your troubles then they won’t know.

Now, personal presentation. It’s not necessary to spend big time to look professional, but you should have one good suit for work and a good-quality, stylish leather bag or briefcase. Alternatively accessorise yourself with a relatively inexpensive leather notebook and matching diary cover. Always present yourself at the level you would like to be, so take note what the people in the grade above you wear. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have, is the advice of the Institute of Qualified Private Secretaries.

People watch all around you. Consider who has been recently promoted, how they come across, their style. Heed how they interact in meetings and at work functions and how they present themselves. You’ll soon get the idea of what makes these people successful. Then copy it! There’s nothing sneaky about doing this. You’re paying them a compliment.

Now, seek out new experiences. Get away from your desk for a while. You don’t get ahead by doing what you are always doing. Suggest to your boss that it might be worthwhile, for him and the office in general, that he considers arranging a short one-day a week secondment for you to another department, such as the marketing, sales, accounts or HR. Just for about three or four weeks, say. It will not only broaden your knowledge, increase your visibility and perhaps help you learn a new skill, but it makes good conversation when talking to senior staff.

Another good option is volunteering to “shadow” another member of staff for a few days. Preferably someone whose working style you admire, or a job you would like to aspire to in the future.

Networking around the organisation is another excellent “fast track” tool for those who want to get on. It’s a great way to meet people who can help you in your career, who possess the power. There always key personnel who are at the centre of things. You need to know who they are and how to get to them. Being seen with them almost automatically put you in the same category in other peoples minds.

It is also a good idea to make use of professional organisations that offer networking opportunities. The more people you meet the more likely you can find help and advice when you need it as well as hearing about the latest development opportunities.

Finally, rethink your lunchtimes. What do you normally do? Meet and have a gossip with friends, read a romantic novel in the park, nibble on a sandwich while playing games on the PC? Forget that. Lunchtime could be self-improvement time. You could read one of the range of short management books and learn a new skill. Or, for greater office credibility, develop that French, German or Spanish GCE level you attained.

Check out your local library. It could be one of those that lend open learning materials which are designed in parts that can be easily digested at one sitting. What about trying assertiveness, communication or negotiating skills. Learning these techniques and noting every other piece of advice will make a big difference to the way you react to, and work with, your office colleagues, give you a boost in senior staff and management eyes and help you reach you career goal.

Norman Flack regularly contributes articles on business travel and hotels as well as on general business subjects to a range of international publications, including Condé Nast Johansens worldwide hotel guides. He is former Group Editor of Daily Mail publications, London, Editor of The Field’s Country Sports, an Editor with IPC magazines and has held editorial positions on The Times, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express.

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