Tag Archives: Promotions

How to know your company might be in danger

Some signs of trouble in your company are easy to ignore. They aren’t obvious signs of trouble. They can even look like progress.

In the great Indian Ocean tsunami some people survived because they knew the signs of a tidal wave of disaster waiting to happen. They learned, “When the sea retreats far past the beach, run for the high ground. It will soon come roaring back.” It is a natural occurrence before a tsunami.

Job disasters have signs of impending doom like the tsunami causing water to retreat from the shore. Think about it. What happens before a car plant closes down entirely? Work is cut back. Minor layoffs occur. Sales are obviously dropping. Cars stay on dealer lots for longer and longer. Rebates and special incentives are used to sell cars. Managers, supervisors and foreman are laid off. Finally the plant closing is announced.

An old Thai proverb says, 

At high tide fish eat ants. At low tide ants eat fish.

A healthy company succeeds by doing effectively what a dying company struggles to do over and over without success. 

Signs of doom I have seen where I worked included: 

  • A new quality program annually 
  • No more flowers sent to funerals of workers and their family members 
  • Business travel is cut back 
  • On-the-job training is cut back to “just in time” training 
  • Payments for outside tuition is cut back 
  • Technology innovation specialists moved back into production jobs 
  • Promised bonuses cut back or not paid 
  • Refusal to let employees transfer to other areas in the company 
  • Relocation expense reimbursement eliminated 
  • Sudden personal interest in the workers by the company president and chairman. 
  • Empowerment training during declining markets. 
  • Not replacing people who quit. 
  • Reorganizing more and more often. 
  • Stock price dropping. 
  • Replacement of salespeople at a quick clip. 
  • A frenzy of competitor acquisitions.
  • A sudden focus on getting “good press” or being in trade publications.

When you see the signs of impending problems, you may still have years to prepare. Or you may have days. The important thing is to start preparing without being part of the problem. Take positive steps in your own sphere of influence.

When the water retreats from the shoreline, it may look like a great time to go out and pick up the fish left behind. When your boss is sacked, it may seem like the perfect time to get into management. And it may be true. But be careful and look for signs that a tsunami is coming to wash your whole company away.

Later I will talk about how businessmen in India cope with far worse problems than Americans can even begin to understand, and do it with a smile.

Something to do today

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left side write signs of company strength, reasons for optimism. On the right put a list of troubling signs of decline. Now pick how you can help accentuate the positive or eliminate the negative. Not only will your actions help your company, they will insulate you from layoffs and prepare you for a new job if disaster strikes.

It’s easiest to become an expert in a NEW technology

If you focus on the innovations happening around you, it can change your career. When an idea, technology or procedure is new, it takes a week to become an expert. A year later it takes a year to become an expert.

Startup, Whiteboard, Room, Indoors, Adult, Office

I became a database expert in a week when Oracle 1.0 (yes, I’m that old) came out. I talked my boss into springing for $100 to get a copy. I parlayed that into becoming a DB2 guru by buying a book. One book. I became a data modeling expert because no one else had a clue what that was. One innovation led to another, and my bosses had no desire to stop me. All the industry magazines and experts were using the buzzwords I could implement. I was on the leading edge. I was riding the wave of innovation. Every career progression was caused by taking two weeks to prepare for an upcoming, essential, mystifying technology.

Do a little internal innovation and focus on using other’s ideas and new technology. It is always easier to become an expert when technology and techniques are new. What is new in your field?

Something to do today

Try it again. The greatest lunch topic you can talk about with your boss is, “What is the emerging world changing technology, technique or skill in our field?” Figure out what the buzzwords are that people are barely starting to define in your field.

Use raising technology and new techniques to get a great job

Fingerprint locks are used by tons of people on a daily basis, whether on computers or phones. People use them more often than the number or word locks because of convenience. They even have fingerprint locks for doors, and eventually I can see new locks like these being used more often than the everyday lock and key. The world changes a lot around us, and with that there are new ideas and new ways of life. 

Your job search should be like the world, always changing, always improving.

Every year thousands of people get great new jobs with massive pay raises because they have learned something new and exciting. I know average programmers who are earning $120,000 per year. They learned the latest technology and tools and have been riding the gravy train for 3 or 4 years. Accountants that can implement brand new systems are still worth their weight in gold. 

Adding a fingerprint lock helps sell thousands of new electronics to geeks like me. New technology, techniques, and skills can sell CEO’s and managers on your value.

What can you learn today? 

Something to do today

The greatest lunch topic you can talk about with your boss is, “What is the emerging world changing technology, technique or skill in our field?” Try it today.

How to be persistent with your job hunt

Kids can be a practically irresistible force. I have 10 children. Usually I can resist them. Not always. Sometimes they have to admit defeat, but with kids they don’t admit defeat till they have exhausted every avenue towards success. Here’s how they win.

  1. Be totally, irresistibly, and eternally committed to a world changing idea
  2. Jump up and down with enthusiasm
  3. “No” means not now
  4. “Not now” means try again in 5 minutes
  5. Laugh, smile and tickle your dad
  6. Run around and get all the other kids excited out of their minds
  7. Ask dad for help to figure out how to do it
  8. Cry if dad is not listening
  9. See if you can turn it into a school project
  10. Ask mom to talk to dad about it
  11. Bring a partially completed task to dad to be fixed
  12. Change your plans and try again in an hour
  13. A small explosion in the yard will get dad’s attention
  14. Make it a game

Kids win because they are too excited to accept defeat. They are willing to try every possible way around an obstacle. When I am the obstacle and they are really really determined, they know they can win.

Is there a job you really really want? Why not job hunt like a kid?

Something to do today

Take a pen and paper and translate each of those 14 things into something you can use for job hunting or working for a promotion in real life.

How to survive a promotion that’s too high

Investment, Concept, Business, Finance A woman I know well was promoted to a level way above her comfort zone.  She had never failed in the past with her last position, but this new promotion was stressful and a big deal to her. One of her friends gave her this advice:

“Congratulations. 
Relax.
Cool it. 
Just do good work daily and before you know it, it will be a career.”

That is good advice any time you find yourself in a job, or interview for a job, that is way beyond where you expected to be.

Something To Do Today

Do your best every day, and you will quickly grow into the position.

Give up and go elsewhere when things are good

(Before you lynch me, read tomorrow’s column about giving up when times are bad.)

Most revolutions happen as things are getting better.  That happened in the Marxist revolutions and the revolts against the Communists.  It happened in the American revolution.  Things were getting better and people rebelled.

People seriously think of quitting their jobs as things get better.  As life gets worse they are afraid to change.  They want more stability, not more change. When life is bad, they tend to stay where they are. It’s easier. When life is getting better is when they think of change.

In reality, it really is time to change when life is easy and the economy or your company is soaring.  That is when people start slacking.  You are most likely to get noticed when you are the new guy on the block with something to prove.

In your current job push hard. If you aren’t getting raises and promotions, ask for them.  If not now, when? But start looking.  If you are pulling ahead as a superstar, others outside your company may be even more interested than those who know you well.

It is probably time to get a new job even if you are getting raises and promotions.  Career advancement, pay raises and opportunities usually come more quickly to those willing to change jobs in good times.  There is an immediate raise upon taking the new job.  There are also faster raises for the first 3 years.

Yes, it is a fact.  People who change jobs get raises and promotions faster for a few years.  It may be that there is no history to judge against, only current need and performance. It is likely that you are “irreplaceable” at the position you have had for 5 years so they don’t want to promote you or give you a new opportunity.  Whatever the reason, raises and promotions come faster for the first 3 years with a company.  Someone already there and doing the same job will NOT get the same pay raises, promotions and opportunities you get by coming in fresh.

Another reason to leave when life is good is that when life is good, people are hiring.  It is much easier to get into that company or job you always wanted. There is money to pay for your eager attitude.  It is easier to find a job when you are employed than when you are laid off.

Life is good now for 90% of Americans.  Think about changing.  Position yourself for change even if you don’t make a jump to another company.  When the economy eventually turns ugly for your company, those who have been making minimal progress will be laid off

Something to do today

Really assess where you are.  Are you coasting?  Have you relaxed?

Then start pushing hard in your current job.  Set a personal goal and meet it. Get ahead now while others coast.

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Coming up

Give up and go elsewhere when things are bad

How to get a great job at your biggest competitor

Jason has had 3 promotions in 2 years.  His pay has gone up 50%.  His attitude is a delight.  If there is a tough job, he’ll rally the team and get the job done.  Jason not only gets the chance to fix disasters, he fixes the problems behind the disasters.  No one has ever done that before.  He is having a huge impact. He seems to whistle a magic tune that improves attitudes and gets unbelievable results.

Jason also just quit.  He took a new job that pays a little less than he earns now.

Two things happened.  First, Jason realized his boss would always be a loose cannon and Jason would always get to clean up. Second, with a boss like that it was obvious the company would never go out of business, but it would never get much bigger either.

The best part is that all the things he got done looked great when he applied for a job.  He applied at their strongest competitor.  Jason is going to a company that is really growing.  It is a company with a plan and a history of doing things right the first time.

Wherever you are, whistle a happy tune.  Put an accomplishment list together that will carry you into a better job, and if necessary, get that job in a better company.

Something to do today

Just for the record, all the stories I tell are true, but the names are changed.

Document your accomplishments for each week.  Give a copy to your boss in a format he can use for his reports.  That way you can be sure he knows why you are the best employee he has.

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Later:              Hustle while you wait

The $5 call girl

Where to fish

Promotions, new job hiring, and “The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle”

A biologist told me, “One chipmunk was trap crazy. That’s a technical term. Every time I set out an array of traps that one chipmunk ran right into one of the traps.”  Wildlife biologists have to deal with the strange changes that happen when they measure something.  The mere act of measuring changes the thing being measured.  That is the basis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

What happens depends on our way of observing it or on the fact that we observe it. (Werner Heisenberg)

Tracking performance alters what happens.  For instance, I worked on one set of computer programs where the programmers were paid per line of each program.  Those were the longest programs I have ever seen.  As a salesman I was once rewarded for each call I made.  I made a whole lot more calls but sold no more of the product.  I was gaming the system.  I was winning the contest and losing my job.

So how does this get you a new job or a raise?

Bosses want performance.  They use reasonable, useless, and ridiculous metrics to decide what your performance was.  That is true whether it is a hiring manager at a job you want, or your present boss.

First: Figure out what is the most important measuring stick

Second: Figure out what will keep your boss (or hiring manager) happy.

You should know and care about every measurement of your performance that your boss takes.  It is absolutely critical to decide which are the critical measurements.  Some of those measurements will get you a raise and a new job while others will get you fired.  Most of the rest exist to get you to change the way you work. Look at the message you get from the non-critical measurements. Make your boss happy if you can.  Be prepared to fail on the minor measurements to win a spectacular success on the critical measurements. Keep a record of how well you do on the most critical measurements.

What YOU decide to pay the most attention to will change how you work.  You have to concentrate on the measurements that will get you to your end goal.  Again, the mere act of measuring will change the thing being measured.  That is the basis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Figure out how to use that to reach your goals.

Something To Do Today

Do you know what you want out of your job?  Money, a promotion, free time or a place to hang out?  Write in your job journal what the most critical measurements are to help you reach that goal.

Glass Ceilings

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read, “President Can’t Swim”.  (Johnson)

True story: She can’t get a promotion.  Not even a bigger title.  The “Good Old Boys” all admit she is doing a great job.  She saves the company literally 5 to 50 times her salary every year.  She will never be promoted.  It is because she is a woman.  I know her.  I know her company.  There is no way up.  Even shooting her boss will only get a different man promoted ahead of her.

She can make her own life a living hell by suing the company.  She will lose even if she wins.  They would figure out a reason to fire her in a few years and then she would have a hard time finding a job.

There are two ways to deal with a glass ceiling.

  1. Go around it.
  2. Get a new job.

1. Go around it

To go around the glass ceiling you need a mentor.  It is doubtful that your own boss will really help since he isn’t helping you now.  Invite someone 2 or 3 levels above you to lunch.  At lunch, don’t condemn your boss. Ask for help to grow.  Write down the advice you get.  Set up an appointment to have lunch again in 3 to 6 months.  Go over your progress with the person.  Report on how you have improved.

Scared?  Do you have to go to the owner, CEO or chairman of the board?  Do it anyway.  What have you got to lose?  You may be surprised that the person that far above you really wants to help winners like you succeed.  And if they refuse to help, try method 2.

2. Get a new job

Keep your old job as you search for a new one.  Chronicle your accomplishments in a job journal.  Report to your boss every week on your progress at work even if he doesn’t want to see it.  Take the reports and put your greatest accomplishments in your resume.

Network, contact recruiters, apply to good jobs at good companies.  Set criteria for moving and when you find the job, move.

Something To Do Today

Seriously ask yourself, “Why haven’t I been promoted this week?  Why haven’t I gotten a raise or a bonus this week?”

Now write down in your job journal what you can do to get a promotion, raise or bonus as quickly as possible.

Will that make you happy?  Is that what you really want?  If yes, go do it.  If no, better figure out what you really should be doing.  There is no time like the present to change your life.  You get to be happier longer if you change today.

inferiority vs superiority

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (E. Roosevelt)

Kids always made fun of the way I dressed.  I had two shirts and two pairs of jeans for the whole school year.  That’s all.  I had cheap shoes.  For dinner our family had beans every night, literally.  We drank powdered milk.  I brought peanut butter sandwiches to school every day with homemade quince jam.

I was different. We were paying a price.  It was worth it.  My friends had nice stuff while we saved and scrimped for every penny.  We did something they never did.  Each summer we went traveling in our VW Camper Bus.  We visited most of the USA, Canada, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Europe and Africa.  Most summers we left school two weeks early and got back into school two weeks late.

Being different is not being inferior.  It can be a distinct advantage.  Be different in a way that can make you superior. How can you be different?  What can you do to dramatically improve over the long run?

I know two guys who never walk anywhere in the office without having a manual in their hands to read as they walk.  They are both considered a little odd, but they are both the undisputed technical experts in their field.  They are paid well for it.

Your goal should be to out-prepare and out-perform everyone else in critical areas. Critical areas are the most visible areas that:  1. Earn money; 2. Save money, or 3. Improve customer service.

Here’s how you find the critical areas for your next promotion, raise, or job:

Ask.

Your boss wants you to be more valuable, he’ll help you.  The people you look up to at work will want to help.  Go ask them what you should excel at.

Then do it.  Do it in your own way. Eccentric flair or plodding dullness does not matter.  Just excel IN A WAY THAT MATTERS.  It will change your life, not just your pay and job title.

—— Something To Do Today ——

Now ask 3 people you really respect, “What can I do for the company to make more money, save money or improve customer service?”