Saturday 26 May 2018

New career resolutions: how to get ahead in work

As a new study finds that almost half of Irish workers believe they are too good for their jobs, Tanya Sweeney asks the experts about standing out in business

Streets ahead: Jordan Belfort knew how to deliver in The Wolf Of Wall Street
Streets ahead: Jordan Belfort knew how to deliver in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Tanya Sweeney

The end of 2017 is within shouting distance and thoughts invariably turn to the year that was - how happy we were, what we achieved, what moments we'd like to see the back of and whether it was a productive time. Yet for many, the end-of-year appraisal hammers home uncomfortable truths about career.

According to a report published this week by the Economic & Social Research Institute, 46pc of Irish employees believe they are overqualified for their jobs. This means there is a huge mismatch between the skills workers use on a regular basis and what they are capable of delivering.

Long story short: many Irish people are discontented in the workplace. It doesn't take a report to know that zero hour contracts, dwindling workplace morale, industry uncertainty and stagnant wage packets leave many Irish workers wanting.

But what can be done about it? A New Year is always a great time for a career inventory, so for those who want to shine at work (and maybe move up the pay scale), here are some New Year resolutions to keep in mind.

Ask for a raise

"Quoting the L'Oreal ad 'because you are worth it' in an ill-timed pitch is guaranteed to backfire," says John Deely, Occupational Psychologist at Pinpoint (pinpoint.ie). "Instead, do your preparation and research. Be clear about why you want a raise - whether it is the market value or the value you add. Identify a specific, realistic figure and reflect on what else you want (like other benefits or additional responsibility). Think about the wider context - how the company and sector are doing. How are you performing relative to the role and expectations? Is that value known by the various decision makers?

"Timing your ask is important, ideally in the context of some other good news. Do not accept a 'no' based on one meeting. Respectfully ask for a response based on some reflection. And if you're not successful, stay positive… but start developing a career plan."

Upskill

The quickest way to become indispensable in the workplace, especially a more traditional workplace, is to bone up on digital, tech and social media platforms.

"I don't think it's the most important thing on a CV, but I do think that - industry dependent - cultivating a good social media presence is really important," says Kirstie McDermott, former editor of Stellar magazine. "Anyone I hire has to be strong on social and web savvy in general."

Have someone in your corner

"Find yourself a 'Boast Bitch'," says Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club. "When you don't feel comfortable bragging about your accomplishments, or alerting your bosses or colleagues to the awesome thing you did, it's her job to do this for you. Research shows this works - you don't get dinged for coming off as conceited or braggy, and she looks awesome and selfless for helping out a sister. Above all, find a posse. It doesn't have to be all women or all people you work with. But you will have an understanding with these people that you have each other's backs."

Learn better time management

"The enduring bit of advice I have is that digital deluge is growing every year," notes Dermot Rice of Priority Management Training (prioritymanagement.com). "According to Gartner research, the average corporate worker is receiving over 100 emails per day and this is growing. If you don't get in control of this medium, you will be constantly swamped and will never be able to manage your time effectively. You need to get to the stage where the inbox is treated like a normal letter box - emptied after each visit and mails filed, deleted, sent to someone else or pulled to a task to be done later. The inbox cannot become a pseudo 'to do' list. Take back control, keep the inbox empty and use your time effectively to achieve your key objectives, such as spending time with family and friends, and staying fit and healthy."

Don't be afraid to go for promotions

Paula Fitzsimons, Founder/Director of Going For Growth - a peer-led initiative that matches female entrepreneurs with others further along in their careers - says: "When it comes to applying for jobs, women won't go for a job or promotion unless she ticks every box, while many men will go in only with half the job requirements. With women, it's definitely a confidence thing."

Be present in work

Sounds obvious, but when many people clock in, they're either on autopilot or on Facebook.

"You can't really have down days in work these days. You need to show you're willing to do more than just the daily tasks you've been given," says Jane Downes, workplace coach and author of The Career Book. "So many people wait for their boss to come to them with opportunities, but it's up to you to create airtime with your boss yourself.

"A boss will love someone who says, 'I suggest we do this and then this'," she adds. "Be likeable. Don't be the person who comes to them with problems - instead, say you'll take 'ownership' of certain issues and you'll come up with a solution yourself. Bosses love that word."

Don't be afraid to shine

Emma Kelly, Managing Director of Elevate PR, offers some fail-safe tips on what she expects from the leading lights on her staff.

"Be interested, curious and engaged," she says. "Show up on time, over-deliver, be modest and thorough. Pay attention to detail. Come with creative suggestions and when there is a problem, reveal it with suggested solutions as well. Play to your strengths and be open to learning. Grab every opportunity to attend events, seminars and workshops where you can network meaningfully. And read everything you can."

Get on with people

There's a wide line between being liked by everyone in the office, and being a team player.

"Make an effort to develop effective internal relationships both inside and outside your immediate department," suggests Paul Mullan of career/interview coaching company Measurability (measurability.ie). "Raising awareness of your brand across the wider organisation is a key component to career progression. And remind your boss about your successes or achievements. You'll have opportunities at weekly meetings, informal daily huddles or formal performance reviews. Don't sit back and assume your boss knows all the good stuff you do - take a proactive approach to remind them of your value."

Irish Independent

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