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My SMART as Hell Journey: Misalignment

Posted by on March 11th, 2013 with 0 Comments

My SMART as Hell journey started in 1993, when I was asked to move to Tachikawa, Japan on a one-year assignment. Our company was growing at a rapid pace in Japan, so we hired about 20 local engineers who would require training.
And, while they were being trained, someone had to actually take care of the customers. So myself and seven others were recruited to take care of both the products in the field and the training of the new employees.

I moved to Japan with my wife, landing – no lie – on April Fool’s day.

So it’s my first day on the job; first day in a foreign country.
I came in the office and met the other American engineers. We chatted and exchanged business cards.

Suddenly, I realized that I was the only one in the room who was not a senior engineer. Every other business card was labeled, in bold black ink, ‘Senior Engineer’ and the thing that was odd about that was that I had been with the company longer than most of those guys.
I had received great reviews and feedback over the years, so I was surprised.

Later that day, when I met my manager for the first time – he was also an American on temporary assignment –  I sat down with him and said, “I can’t help but notice that everyone else here is a senior engineer and I’m not”.

He replied, “You know, it’s funny, I noticed that. I was looking at all your resumes and I saw the same thing”.

I asked if he knew why I hadn’t received the promotion, and he said, “I don’t know. You should be one. Your reviews are great and you’ve done all the right things. In terms of the way HR structures the job descriptions, your number or years, and your performance, you should be a senior engineer”.

He continued, “Maybe your manager was asleep at the wheel. Or maybe it was a year when there were three other candidates. There are a lot of factors involved in a promotion”.

That was the precise moment I realized I would need to own my career.

I know how naive that sounds to many of you, but I see it every day with young workers.
They assume, like I did, that working hard on your assignments will result in raises and promotions at regular intervals. But there are a number of flaws with this assumption:

  • Your manager often doesn’t know what you’re working on.
    Especially with all the virtual work being done in a globalized economy.
  • You’re often working on tasks your manager doesn’t value.
    Just because it needs to be done doesn’t make it valued.
  • There are a fixed number of promotions.
    Someone is getting left out – maybe you.
  • There is a fixed pool of money for raises.
    Are you getting your share?
  • Others might be better at marketing themselves than you are.
    And, by themselves, I include their work, their performance, and their value.
  • If you’re quiet about your career desires, it’s easy for your manager to overlook you.
    Yes, Virginia, sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the oil.
  • Some managers are not very bright.
    As a young employee, I way overestimated the intelligence, skills, and powers of an average manager. Based on what I know now, it’s safe to say that the average manager is below average. You need to make it incredibly obvious how valuable you are and that you deserve pay and promotions equal to your value.

Moral: Own your career. No one else will

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. Reflect: Have you assumed that great work gets rewarded naturally – without your managing & marketing it?
  2. List: Have you done great work in the past?
  3. Identify: How you have – or have not – managed and marketed the perception of that work.
  4. List: How your work has been rewarded?
  5. Reflect: Is your method working?
  6. Identify: the great work you’re doing now.
  7. Write: A plan for managing and marketing the perception of that work. Be clear what the value of your work is, and how your value should be reflected in various ways.
  8. Act: On your plan.
Share your thoughts, comments, and questions below.

 

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