Gaining a management role

Q I have been an HR administrator for nearly three years, and when my boss is away I run the department single-handedly. I would love to take this further and be promoted, but short of my boss leaving, there is no management role available to me. How can I make the most of my experience to gain a management role. Do I really have to leave?

A Let’s look at the issue. You’ve had a taste of responsibility and you’ve probably broadened your skills and gained new confidence. The danger is in assuming that this will automatically lead to role enhancement or promotion.

Running the show while your boss is away isn’t necessarily an automatic ticket to success. How much did you do that subtly suggested your boss wasn’t doing the right things? Be careful about using this experience to shout for more recognition. You may inadvertently be making an enemy – and one who is capable of influencing other decision-makers.

Assuming you can find a way of demonstrating your ability without trampling on your boss’s toes, start by cataloguing your successes. Look at areas where you did more than simply mind the shop. Where did you initiate change, bring in new ideas, and tackle new problems? What value have you added to the organisation as a whole?

Look at the best way of communicating your case. Shake off the idea of addressing this as a complaint or grievance – this will simply come across as an early indication that you are ready to leave the organisation. It is far better to present what you have done, and what you want to do, as a positive offer, wrapped up in a simple statement: “I really enjoyed the chance to do X, and I’m hoping you’ll be able to offer me other opportunities of this kind.”

Don’t begin and end your thinking by looking at what the organisation currently does – look at what the organisation needs. Could a role be created around you? Organisations should know the real cost of finding and hiring talented people, so give your employer at least one chance to get this right for you before you consider leaving.

You may have to think about taking on board responsibility for a major project rather than seeking promotion, particularly if your company is inflexible about creating new jobs. Don’t let this put you off. You will become even more visible to key people, it will allow you to showcase your skills, and it will provide concrete evidence for a future pitch for promotion.

When you decide it’s time to go to the job market, only do so when pull is stronger than push – the power of what pulls you towards an exciting new job should be stronger than the factors pushing you away from your present organisation.

By John Lees, career strategist and author

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