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Career Blockers and Job Success_

CAREER

Sandeep, a credit analyst for a bank, got such glowing performance reports that he was sure the next promotion would be his - but instead it went to a less qualified co-worker. "When I asked my boss why" he recalls, "he just pointed at my shoes and said, 'this is a bank Sandeep, we do not want corporate clients wondering why a credit supervisor is dressed like a sports teacher'!" Sandeep got his well deserved promotion eventually - after he started coming to work in more business-like clothes.

Is something standing in your path to advancement? Obviously if you constantly come in late or are absent dozens of days in a year, you are not going to move up and may even have trouble keeping your job. Let us look at the most common stumbling blocks, ways to manoeuvre around them and ways to make ourselves more visible.

DOING MORE THAN EXPECTED

Be at your desk when the boss arrives in the morning. Stay there instead of visiting around, and skip your tea break occasionally. Take 'regulation' lunch hours. Once a week or so, eat a sandwich at your desk.

Besides looking busy, you should actually be busy. Sometimes this can be a problem. If you are a race-horse type who plunges in and dispatches chores quickly and efficiently, you probably gallop through your work-load faster than your turtle-like co-workers. Then too, some jobs are cyclical - instead of a steady flow of tasks, there is a burst of activity followed by a lull. In any case, having company time on your hands is certainly not a signal to start doing a crossword puzzle or reading the latest best-seller. Create work for yourself, ask your supervisor for additional assignments and projects. Or, if possible, within the framework of your job, volunteer to help someone else who seems snowed under.

On the other hand, if everything senior department members do not want to do gets dumped on your desk, you may have to put in overtime or take work home. Do it cheerfully and do not expect (or ask) to be paid for your extra effort.

INITIATIVE

One of the best ways to improve your chances for promotion is to seek extra work and more responsibility. Say, "I will do this," or "you can count on me," but do not take extra work unless it demonstrates that you are good at the job. The right kind of initiative can sometimes get you a better job even when the position does not yet exist. Understand where the business is going, and if you foresee an expanding area, say "I think we should put more emphasis on such and such, and I would like to be the one to do it." This is infinitely better than asking for a promotion.

SELF-CONFIDENCE

Often people have the skills for a better job but cannot convince others because they do not really believe in themselves. Or, they may be reluctant to appear too forward. It may seem unbelievable, but it is a fact that many people fear they will lose friends, that people on their current level will not like them if they get promoted. Employers looking to promote someone want to see self-assurance and confidence. One must learn to radiate an inner belief in oneself.

ORAL SKILLS

Clumsy communication, not being able to express oneself is a major handicap. Your boss may feel that your poor speech does not meet his standards. Good oral skills are especially crucial if the job you want is supervisory. Leading, directing and motivating people requires a command of the language beyond the level that is good enough for most lower-level jobs. Being able to draft reports and letters is also vital.

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BEING POSITIVE

Every company has policies its employees think are dumb. Do not join in bad-mouthing these. Maybe it is common office knowledge that Junior, the Vice President's son is a bumbling ninny. As far as you are concerned, though, whenever Junior's name comes up it is wiser not to make any comment rather than a negative one. Though a Junior may be a bit dense, there is nothing wrong with his hearing and it may surprise you at how much he knows of what is said behind his back.

When you speak to an audience, your positive attitude should be unmistakable. Present your own ideas in a way that builds on, rather than tears down, earlier proposals, for example, "what we have heard so far is so good, but may be we should consider…". This neat little segue will allow you to take the flow without appearing to pass negative judgment on anybody.

Sounding even mildly critical is to be avoided at all costs. When promotion time comes around you want to be remembered as someone who always has something positive and useful to say.

GETTING ALONG WITH PEOPLE

The hostile abrasive person or the one who loses his/her temper easily will have difficulty moving up, no matter how good his/her skills are. Fitting in well with your colleagues requires more than just being pleasant, you have to adapt yourself to their habits and procedures.

Beena remained a researcher at a television network for four years, while others who had started with her won promotions. She recalls: "the executive producer told me I had been held back, because I did not seem willing to work within the system. I was so intent on being unconventional, that the writers and producers felt I was interfering more than helping." Beena moved up to Assistant Producer after she learned to develop a more accommodating attitude.

Some people are more comfortable with machines, numbers and computers than with people. They get very confused if they have to deal with the ambivalence and emotions of their co-workers. These people should seek technical jobs, where they should do very well.

MAKING FRIENDS

It is not enough to have 'buddies' just in your division or department, you need to be on the best terms with everyone in the company. People who have little or no influence at the moment may six months or a year from now, have the clout to recommend you.

While you do want to be pleasant, friendly and helpful to everyone, you should proceed cautiously when it comes to choosing constant companions. Those who are the firs to ardently court your friendship, are most apt to be troublemakers, backstabbers…or perfectly nice folks who have plenty of time for socialising because they never do their share of work. Everybody knows this, of course, except the relative newcomer - you. If you are seen with such undesirables regularly, you are in danger of being perceived as the same type.

TIMING

Last, but very important, is timing. No matter how well placed you are for a promotion, you can miss out on it by asking at the wrong time. Do not bring up the subject when your boss is preparing the budget - he is under pressure and has probably already filled every slot by that name. Be aware of your company's finances. You should not ask on the day when the quarterly report comes out showing a big loss!

Do not wait too long though. Before the time comes to fill a spot, the manager should know of your abilities, and your desire for he job. Figure out the cycle of progression, study past promotions, and if you see that people generally move up every 18 months, make your bid 6 months ahead.

These then are some areas which may give you food for thought. Analyse yourself, your abilities and the direction you want to head to thoroughly before you commit yourself to your chosen path.

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