Career development: five ways to get what you want in 2008

So you didn’t get the pay rise you wanted in 2007? Well you don’t have to change jobs to get on. Recruitment expert Kate Farrell gives us her five top tips for success in your own organisation this year.

This year is likely to be a challenging one in the HR job market as the squeeze from larger economic uncertainties begins to be felt. So following these five simple pieces of advice could make the difference between fast-tracking that promotion, or waiting yet another year to try all over again.

In an increasingly competitive job market the usual tactic of simply trying harder is no longer enough – you need to ensure you stand out from the crowd.

If these tips don’t work for you and you decide to look for another job, do bear in mind that the HR market is becoming increasingly flexible. Indeed, companies are often keen to employ HR professionals with multi-sector experience, so it’s worth considering how your skills profile could be adapted outside your current industry.

Similarly, interim roles are now an excellent proving ground for motivated individuals keen to demonstrate their capabilities on short, focused projects, delivering measurable outputs across a wide variety of sectors.

There may well be a tough year ahead, but with the right mindset and a sense of pragmatic confidence, the right job and the right salary are still yours for the taking.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask

The worst they can say is ‘no’, but the more likely answer will be that they will think about it and get back to you. As long as you don’t ask in what might be considered a grumbling manner, the seed should be planted in your boss’s mind. Don’t, whatever you do, frame your request as a provocation: “If you won’t promote me, I’m off”. Start a dialogue don’t set an ultimatum. Bring positive reasons for promotion to the negotiating table and, most importantly of all, stress what you will achieve for the company in 2008.

2. Find out how much you’re worth

Finding out where you sit in the market can be a real eye-opener. This doesn’t have to involve being offered another job – in fact, most industry magazines and websites now regularly publish their own salary surveys. While not a perfect measure, they are a useful barometer, and might provide you with some useful ammunition when negotiating your salary.

If you meet with a recruitment consultant, try to provide them with as much information about yourself as possible, including previous performance reviews, or a journal of your achievements.

3. Get your name in the papers

Very often, simply doing your job well and meeting expectations won’t get you that big promotion. What often secures a promotion is creating the perception in your manager’s mind that you are of sufficient value to competitors that you should be rewarded for staying with the company. Unfortunately, hard work alone often isn’t enough to create that perception.

A simple strategy to overcome this is to increase your name and profile within the industry: volunteer to speak at conferences and seminars write a letter to your industry trade magazine, and get involved with your industry body. These simple steps will demonstrate to your manager that you are big-picture thinker with excellent industry insight and a commercial mindset. Just the sort of person, in fact, that the organisation should be retaining and promoting.

However, make sure you run anything by your communications team first, just to be sure it’s on message.

4. Train for tomorrow, not just for today

In the spirit of convincing your manager that you are ripe for promotion, it’s worth thinking about preparing yourself in advance. For HR professionals, there are three clear areas of performance that will command a premium next year:

  • As the mergers and acquisitions market continues to pick up, HR professionals with expertise in change management and organisational development will hold a clear advantage.
  • Specialist expertise in the area of compensation and benefits will continue to be in high demand.
  • Finally, developing a firm grasp on new workplace legislation due out in 2008, such as the new laws surrounding maternity leave and flexible working, will demonstrate your value to managers or even potential employers.

Don’t be afraid to show this knowledge off: volunteer to train your HR peers and colleagues in other disciplines within your organisation.

Presentation skills, not normally immediately thought of as a strength for people in HR, will also become an increasingly vital skill as organisations look to their HR director and staff to communicate more effectively with the workforce. Indeed, many interviews for senior HR professionals now involve a presentation, and those unable to command an audience will lose out.

5. Don’t be indispensable

This piece of advice sounds counter-intuitive. You would, however, be shocked to know how many candidates we see who have found their career paths blocked because they can’t be moved. It’s very difficult to get promoted if an organisation feels that, in promoting you, a vital function will go unmanned. So learn the art of delegation. Make sure you aren’t the only person who can operate an important database, for example, or work through important but low-skill admin tasks. Being indispensable can, in certain circumstances, be very career-limiting, and the longer you continue in that role, the harder it will be for an organisation to promote you. If you find yourself slipping into this situation, make sure you speak your mind before it’s too late.

Conference call 

Want a strategic insight into flexible working? IRS Conferences has organised ‘A strategic approach to flexible working‘ conference on 6 February 2008 in London.


Our expert

Kate Farrell is associate director for the Hudson HR recruitment business, based in London. She began her recruitment career as a consultant at Angela Mortimer in 2000, recruiting executive assistants. Farrell joined Hudson as a consultant specialising in public sector HR appointments in 2002. She became managing consultant for the HR public sector team in 2003, and was promoted into the associate director role in December 2005. In this current role, Farrell is responsible for business in London and the Home Counties.

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