Have you ever had that feeling of being under-utilised or as the image portrays that feeling of being taken for granted as a commodity and pawn. Who is actually getting the better deal? How can you change the balance and gain the recognition you deserve in the form you most desire it?

Lack of recognition is not something you are feeling in isolation;- it is a pandemic affecting an estimated 64% of the working population. That is nearly 18 million people in the UK alone!

The reasons for this are many but among the most popular are;-

  • The top person has been promoted into role beyond their capability and is inherently bad with people and leadership.
  • The top person suffers insecurities which manifest into a not so appropriate outward behaviour – typically a blame culture ensues. Pride, ego and pomposity stifling common sense and the making of the right decisions.
  • The top person feels threatened by your competence and energy and faces the harsh reality;- unless I can temper this person they will leave so maybe I should ‘clip wings’ a little.
  • The up and coming star may very well be in the wrong role but lacks the confidence of voice to say anything for fear of losing a job under the belief that jobs are hard to get these days. ‘Better the devil you know’ and all that! But with the average permanent role lasting an average 2.4 years you are likely to face many different ‘kings’ on your road to becoming one.
  • The up and coming star is very one dimensional having acquired competence in a technical silo and so lacks sight of what else is realistic and available to transition too. Careers advice at best is poor.
  • The up and coming star may simply not be getting heard!
  • The up and coming star knows the technical role but doesn’t know how to play the ‘CAREER GAME’. Do not translate technical competence in one subject to be competence in all. A good project manager is not also a good accountant or a top marketeer.

Knowing how to play the ‘CAREER GAME’ will not only enable you to excel technically at your role but enable you to leverage to be top person.

You first have to DECIDE on your INTENTION. Without CONVICTION you will drift and drifters, procrastinators, sceptics and the generally indecisive do not get ahead. This is therefore YOUR responsibility and choice.

LESSON 1: No time like the present

We can all play a waiting game and ponder ‘what if’ but the reality is no one truly has the ability to predict the future. The question to decide is simply about obligation, welfare, logic, common sense and belief. The earlier you commit to start the longer the time you give to cultivating the outcome and flourishing. The greater the return period on that investment you will also have.

Do you want to have the same control on your career journey decisions as you naturally expect to have on the decisions you make out of work with your life?

Do you see this as a journey or a short term need? Decisions and actions in times of strength can accrue far greater overall outcomes than adopting actions to create a short term remedial solution simply to get you back to a level playing field.

You have to decide for you and through that, the welfare of others, based on the gains that such investment will materialise. Which is better for the welfare of others? Happiness and problem resolution or the continuation of trauma!

LESSON 2: Separation from your Peers

In good times on a plateau they are your colleagues but when the time arrives and you wish to get ahead, they now reside as your competitors. Separation from your peers is not about alienation. It is about positioning yourself more visibly against the right challenges and actions in the eyes of the existing top person / influencer and the trusted few as defined by the top person. Remember into the executive ranks 81% of roles went internally or to someone already known to a member of the executive team! The psychology of this is no different to the fact that on a football pitch, if you want to be the remembered player, you have to be the striker and not left back! So, assume the right position on the pitch with Lesson 2. Internally therefore, you have a good advantage to secure promotion if you make the right steps. Outsiders looking to come in need to become known or have to offer significant value if coming via a recruiter. Cuddling up with fellow technical peers is not the way to source the best opportunities or advantages for you.

LESSON 2: Alter the balance of the role you perform relative to your Peers

This is one of the most difficult aspects and is generally something extrovert characters perform more subliminally. This is about selective delegation and time management in order to free up time to spend on those tasks which on balance look less BAU and more strategic within the constraints of your role profile. This frees up time that can be offered to the top person to support those more immediate and pressing concerns impacting them. At appraisal time you are also better placed to evidence a broader and less BAU experience implying flexibility, intuition, rapport and relationship establishment with superiors and an elevated position relative to your peers. For those out of role it enables you to offer a specialist bias more likely to resonate to a defined and recognised sore point in a future employer.

LESSON 3: Language Alignment 

Most professionals are arguably very competent at the job they do and acquire the jargon to go with the specialist area but, getting ahead means engaging with people not existing in that technical area and so may become bowled over with acronyms and candidly are not that interested. They are only interested in the commercial impact of what you do, not how you do it. How could they question whether how you did it is best practice or not? That is after all your area of expertise and what they are paying YOU for.

LESSON 4: Your level is defined by those with whom you become associated

Networking is gaining prominence as career security becomes less predictable and so the requirement to be known not just too a few but too many relevant people is becoming necessary. With the average permanent role lasting an estimated 2.4 years unlike 20 years just a generation ago, the likelihood of a narrow set of sponsors carrying you through to retirement is very unlikely and so you have to work much harder and smarter on this area. Networks are becoming less structured as the opportunity landscape opens up many more global options for businesses to consider.

LESSON 5: CV Writers, recruiters, career coaches, career management and academic / professional qualifications. Whats the answer?

Your natural instincts will draw you to these providers and resources. After all, he who shouts loudest generally gets heard and followed but ask yourself this. Why do they have to shout so loudly, so persistently so much of the time? What’s in it for them as opposed to what’s in it for you? Think about it. Without a candidate convinced they need a recruiter, would companies use recruiters if they knew candidates weren’t registering with them? So the question to ask is not whether they have relevance generally in the marketplace, which they do, but more do they have relevance in respect to what you are now trying to achieve in which case the answer will for many be no. Remember recruiters are paid by companies and not by you. In the same way Career Coaches and Career Managers are typically good at the council but do not have the ability to open doors and introduce you other than to refer you to recruiters who don’t have a short fall of candidates. CV writers don’t even go that far, they record what you have done and with the use of Linkedin and others the value of the CV is waning as compared to the value of your reputation, network and capability. So choose your partners and providers carefully.

LESSON 6: Support your future intention with the right development

Wrongly, many professionals seek to tick boxes in a retrospective way focusing on weaknesses or transactional competency development rather than the further development of your appropriate strengths for future requirements. E.g.: why do a Prince 2 course as a £120k a year Head of IT? Surely the barrier to becoming the IT Director is not the lack of Prince 2!?! An MBA may not necessarily be the ‘Golden Ticket’ either so as with Lesson 5 the key question is to determine its underlying relevance against and in support of what you are trying to achieve. Whatever you do has to support and differentiate rather than become backward facing or more like everyone else.

LESSON 7: Remember this is about YOU – A decision for you, by you. 

Remember the ratio of up and coming stars to the top persons. The path will be the road less travelled which commences with Lesson 1. Many of those people around you may not have the same desires or experience. How qualified are they to provide the knowledge, impartiality, objectivity and direction you need?                                                        You also have many possible routes to getting to your desired destination and so a step at a time is perhaps the right way. This can be a lonely road with many people who perhaps unintentionally will look to prohibit your journey. Having the right council is therefore essential and by this you need a partner who can do more than just talk about it. You need a partner coach who can recognise where you are, what you are trying to achieve, can offer you objectivity, honesty and realism but more over can then facilitate tactically the moves needed to be made in order to get you to the desired destinations and to best ensure early day success in that new venture.

LESSON 8: This is something that will require financial INVESTMENT from you to gain the knowledge and resource and competitive edges required.

An INVESTMENT here will impact not just on the speed and efficiency and appropriateness for you of the outcomes you realise but also on the quality of your LIFE outside of work also. Imagine the impact of having a happier work based mindset that doesn’t negatively impact on leisure and home time? Imagine being rewarded to deliver a role utilising 100% of your capabilities rather than procrastinating at getting 70% of your reward worth when you are only being 60% utilised?

I find it quite alarming that modern society is conditioned to insuring many items in life deemed to hold some value such as car insurance, home insurance, investing in kids education but when it comes to the one thing that enables and creates those opportunities and choices in life such as our homes, cars, holidays etc we have typically sought to outsource / defer or in most cases simply leave that accountability to CHANCE. But, that societal framework is changing!

  • My BOSS will lookout for me no longer holds as fast as it once did – the recession should tell you this. Even today we have the likes of 36,000 employees at Jaguar Land Rover just waiting as the top persons of JLR undertake feasibility on a new manufacturing facility in a low cost sourcing / manufacturing centre. Even your local top person has no control on such actions and decisions.

I’ll just ‘wing it’ and ‘hope’ and ‘it will not affect me’ is a very high risk strategy when neither you nor your boss is in control. Surely, for something you should hold as most valuable i.e career and professional welfare equals home life welfare, protection should be a natural instinct and action when compared to the potential negative impact. The early bird gains the advantage here before the market swamps with choice which forces a downward pressure on demand and therefore a downward pressure on salaries. Changing actions will change results.

LESSON 9: Investing in yourself is a good thing 

Do not be afraid to do this in support of realising your ambitions.  An employer views self development and ownership very highly? LinkedIn gives FREE access to more than 550 MILLION professionals so standing out is much more than a CV and to the right of your own profile are ready made suggestions for them of other people to view! Give them a reason to view YOU. Give them the reasons to promote YOU. Give them the reasons to hire YOU.

The job market is very unforgiving to accruing gaps in work and whilst you may have planned for them, gaps create future employer concern and also costs you financially in terms of opportunity loss of income. Even being in role but under rewarded for your skills has the same impact as this becomes the level for future salary assessment when being considered against advertised roles. eg: One notable Japanese employer will only offer you a salary within 10% of your last most recent (take it or leave it) even if you were earning twice that just a year before. In leadership, accepting less is a VERY BAD thing to do unless the market you are in has been adjusted. A half step back for two steps forward is often viewed as poor negotiation and poor CAREER GAME skills. So always consider actions and decisions of the short term in the context of the midterm objective. How does taking this role or assignment assist in that plan?

Be an expert in your own field and hire the expert in the field for which you need to compete! The game of getting ahead professionally is not the same as performing in role. It is not by fluke Lewis Hamilton, Serena Williams and even the leaders of business who inspire you are WINNERS. They invest ensuring they have the best team around them to cultivate the best MINDSET and behaviours for them to succeed.  For them the risk exists in not investing rather than in doing so.  

LESSON 10: Take stock, revisit, sensor check and remember life and preferences evolve so revisit this as a continuum and not a one off action purely in times of trauma.