On one of the lists I’m on, somebody posted a question about age discrimination – she feels she’s being discriminated from promotion because she is too young – ie not enough experience.

I had a think about it and wrote the following which I thought worthwhile including in my blog because it revealed to me that just through the process of osmosis (as opposed to practice), I’ve absorbed a fair amount of organisational politics.

Anyway, my ongoing treatise on professional advancement (which i’m sure has been written to death out there in self-help book land):

– performance reviews can be useful – saying upfront you want a promotion and asking what you need to do to get it is important. they can say experience in which case you probably need to make a case by showing the amount of experience you already have (projects completed for example, milestones met, deliverables met etc). having a good and precise idea of what experience they mean and pushing management into defining areas you can work towards and getting it recorded for the next performance review means that you have a better chance the next time. if you find that you’ve made your review criteria and still not getting your promotion, you could go to hr or go over your manager’s head (after informing them about it). Remember that you need defined KPIs that can be measured and recorded – wishy washy stuff just wont do.

– threats can be useful if done well – making it plain to other managers that you’re feeling stifled in your current department can be helpful if you have a reputation of being useful, capable and hardworking. If you get interest, you can mention to your manager that you’ve heard another department has an opening at a more senior level to see what kind of reaction you get. You could also do some research in the wider market and see if you get interviews for jobs at a higher level and then go to your management with an offer of employment from another company. This is also effective for getting payrises btw.

– making allies can be useful – identify people who are skilled and respected within the organisation, do favours for them, try to get assigned projects where you work with them and earn their respect by putting in the hard yards. This should generate enough buzz in the organisation eventually to enable you to position yourself better in the above two approaches.

– informal networking – Also, if your corporation has an open door policy, make sure you chat to management and other people informally – being friendly, asking what they are up to are very good ways of picking up information. If they ask you what you’re up to, you can then do a bit of subtle marketing – be careful of blowing your own trumpet too much though. However, dropping names can be effective as in “i’m working with so and so on this” provided you know that so and so and the person you’re talking to are not enemies and is respected. If you want to be a serious climber, you’re also going to need to make friends with people and do the outside hours socialising thing. How to build networks by socialising outside hours is a whole chapter in itself really.

– dark arts – there’s a whole host of dirty tricks in this area which i wont go into but they are very effective against competitors if you have your informal networks and your allies down pat.

In my observation of the private sector, age does not become a problem if you apply yourself diligently using those techniques. Also, this is generally where experience comes into play – not how well you do your job, but how well you play the game. We’re political animals after all.

I may expand the dark arts tactics I’ve seen practiced in a later post – just for fun.

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