PATIENCE, POLITICS & PROMOTION.
Is early promotion, company politics, made up job titles and elevated wages within industry slowly eroding our multi-disciplined and complete professionals?
Increasingly in the engineering industry we seem to have experienced, or senior, individuals within consultants who have two to five years working knowledge within their chosen specialism – be it structural, civil or highways etc. These so called senior level employees are still in their twenties, so how can these ‘elevated’ individuals with ‘made up’ job titles do our industry any favours moving forward. Surely to become a senior member of staff within an industry, with a working knowledge of your chosen profession, you need to have put in the hours and years of work and dedication.
Now I’m not saying that all industries require their senior staff and leaders to have years and years of experience and exposure. Lots of very successful business are run by leaders in their late-teens and early twenties. These entrepreneurs are typically, but not always, in businesses driven by technology and social media – and their services are orientated towards these forms of business.
But we have to take into account that these young entrepreneurs have probably been experimenting with the internet, and social media for many years, and know the inner workings of the social media revolution.
Therefore, I want to focus on the industry that I know, which shall we say, is a more traditional industry. I guess engineering and construction would mostly fall within this description.
I have spent all my career working within consulting civil and structural engineering and I believe that experience and expertise can only come through time served with exposure to projects, engineering practice and different companies and cultures. The reason behind this is simply because there are so many variations on what we do as an industry.
Time and again I see young people who believe they are experts or experienced because they have spent two or three years at a company and know how that particular company works - they have learnt some basic fundamentals of engineering and know the process that this takes. Now that is great for the company that employs them – they have invested time and money in these employees through training schemes, college courses and internal mentoring. But this does not make them experienced.
Yes, they do have experience – but no they are not experienced. Ultimately, they still know nothing!
This is not the fault of the individual, or the fault of the company – it is the culture and the politics in which we all operate.
I have found this a lot in business today – it’s all about the JOB TITLE. That’s the kudos!! Everybody must have a job title - more so now than at any other time in business. WHY - because of email. Because of the internet. Everyone has their job title in their email signature!EVERYONE.
When I was starting out, the only people who needed a job title were the leaders and bosses who needed business cards. An apprentice would never have a business card, but today our business card is our email signature.
But things have come a long way since then, and everybody has embraced the changes that have occurred through our lifetime! In fact, we have been very lucky that we have been part of this revolution.
So, what I wanted to make this article about was the need for patience, both personally and professionally, and outline the need NOT to promote a culture of a TITLE orientated workforce. There is no reason someone in their early twenties need to think they are an expert or an experienced/senior member of staff within an organisation. To become the best at something takes time. With most industries or professions, you need to understand how the entire industry works – not just the company you are working for. Your company is only a very small piece of the puzzle and on its own is not going to give you the experiences you need to become experienced.
The main reason, I believe, that people want that JOB TITLE or EXPERIENCED badge they wear, comes down to a couple of things:
1. To put on their CV
2. A bigger salary
3. A better positioning within a company – (organogram) not necessarily numeration
4. Recognition from peers
5. External knowledge of position (i.e. other companies, people and connections)
There is nothing wrong with any of the progression I’ve just stated, and we all know how much it costs to live. But the fact is, that people want this without actually putting in the work in to achieve it.
This is not just a problem that exists with individuals, employers also place added value onto employees and over-promote so they don’t leave to pastures new.
There is nothing wrong with this either! If you invest in someone, and they bring value to your business, then of course you want them to stay. I do think this is an argument or article for another time though, and I don’t want to deviate from what I am talking about. Although this is actually very relevant. But one kept for another time – keep a look out for this article soon.
Ok, so back to wanting a bigger salary and better title or higher standing!
Everything I have written in this article exists in the workforce today, and it is great to see young employees pushing themselves forward - I am the first person to self-promote - you can ask anyone who has ever employed me. There has been no-one more driven to succeed than I have been – in fact whenever I asked my boss for a meeting I could see in their face - they were dreading the conversation, and the knowing that their day was going to get a whole lot worse.
But the fact is I have ALWAYS put in the work. I have always been the last person in the office on a night – the first person in the office on a morning and the guy who takes work home with them even when it’s not required. This was to ensure that I was the best and ahead of everyone.
Not everyone is like that - people want all the great titles and wage packets by doing ultimately, very little to achieve it.
We need a reality check, and there are reasons behind this:
You start at a company at 18 years old and you do some part time learning and get your qualifications. At 22 years old, you now have a qualification and four years of experience. During those years you’ve received good pay rises and you are well thought of. So, you ask your boss for more money – let’s say the top end of your scale for someone say in their mid-thirties. You are worth more to your boss than the salary you’re asking for so they give you it. What happens then? The next rise you get is 2% tops! Why? Because you’re at the top of your scale. So, after a couple of years at the most you start to get frustrated and disheartened doing the same thing over and over, so you start to look around for something else.
The only experience you’ve got is the company you’ve been at. And the only projects you’ve been exposed to are the projects your company worked on. This may not be varied, because your worth is in your specialism – it’s what you’ve done for 4 years.
Your CV states you are experienced and senior.
You get an interview and they are impressed with your loyalty and the experience you gained. But the level of senior position on offer is beyond your skill set as you have only been working on specific business projects and it’s not really what they do.
They can offer you a position, but at a reduced or a similar wage. The guys they have in their thirties are earning what you are asking for and they have been with the company many years.
Time and again this will happen – I have seen it many times. But you may get lucky, and the company may see your 5-year potential.
There is a massive step between being at intermediate level and a senior level. And a much larger gap between senior level and manager level.
This then starts to create a problem.
I’m not saying that other similar companies, to the company you work for, won’t be able to offer similar, but you are competing with a whole new level. It’s well out of your comfort zone and you no longer have a history with every person in the organisation. You have to reassert your worth all over again.
After approaching, and being interviewed you speak with your current boss. They manage to convince you to stay, by scaring you into believing that other companies have high turn-over of staff, not great working environment, etc. They tell you what you already know - you are well liked, settled and there can be room for progression, with plenty of work.
The fear of the unknown convinces you to stay – but at what cost.
We read all the time about not accepting a counter offer and there are many reasons why we shouldn't - but there are also many reasons why we should.
But what I think we should be saying to all our young professionals is:
Don’t run before you can walk. Take your time with your career – you have so much time in hand, just enjoy the process. Get exposed to as many cultures and companies as you can without jeopardising your CV and your continued development.
If you can deploy patience you will be successful – more doors will open for you and you will be a much more rounded and educated professional.
This is very easy to say because as we know business moves very fast today. People are always looking over their shoulders and seeing what everyone else is doing, or what they have. But if we concentrate on our own path and strive to keep moving forward we will find that becoming senior or experienced will simply happen.
There will always be ego’s and we will always try and keep up with others but your time will come.
PATIENCE IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS