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Hurdle These Five Roadblocks to Move Up in Your Organization

April 28, 2000
Related Topics: Your HR Career, Featured Article
You're working hard, you're contributing to the bottom line, doing everything else it takes to move up. But something's keeping you down.

That 'something' is very often one of the roadblocks below. If any of them ring a familiar bell, read on to learn how to overcome them.

Roadblock #1:
You're doing two jobs at once.
You're getting more and more responsibilities for strategy but are still saddled with a daily ream of paper-pushing.

Recently a friend of mine at Ingram Micro, a large Santa Ana, California-based computer parts wholesaler, got a big promotion. But she wasn't relieved of many of the duties she had in her former position. The promotion merely meant a longer workday, so she quit for a better job.

If this happens to you, crunch a few numbers. Show your company, using dollars and sense, that it costs more to pay your salary to do the daily-grind work than it would for you to outsource or hire someone else to do it. It's easier to say to the boss, "Let's save some money by outsourcing the injury log" than it is to say "I refuse to do the dirty work anymore."

Roadblock #2:
You're locked into a stereotype.
There's an ingrained view in your organization that human resources isn't there to be a major player.

Heck, this is probably the prevailing wisdom at the vast majority of companies.

Some suggestions for changing it:

Provide examples -- and there are plenty -- of how thriving organizations are using HR effectively. If your competitors are succeeding, they'll probably make fine examples. Explain how the role of HR is being redefined in an economy where human capital is now a piping hot commodity, and that managers of that capital are more important than ever. Admittedly, while a lot of CEOs read Workforce, not all do, and they may have no idea where HR is headed.

Put your job description through the shredder. Instead of tinkering with your job a little in an attempt to save it, rewrite it. Outsource what can be outsourced, and add on the duties you feel best match your skills. If you think you can work with the marketing department in developing and carrying out a unified recruiting/advertising message, put that in there. If you think you can put together a team that will study what the best corporate Web sites are doing to attract candidates (and then revamp your own site), put that in there. Make sure you change your title while you're at it. If the letters H and R already have a negative connotation in your building, Hercules on steroids can't turn that around. Suggest titles such as Human Capital Director or Workforce Management Advisor.

Roadblock #3:
You're lacking self-confidence.
You don't know if you have the skills to move up into a more consultative role.

The best baseball player in the world, and arguably one of the hottest commodities in terms of human capital anywhere, is Ken Griffey, Jr. Unlike many players, Griffey doesn't try to hit home runs, and will argue with you if you call him a home-run hitter. He does what he does best-hitting the ball squarely and smoothly -- and voila, quite often the ball goes over the fence.

If you do what you do best, those grand slammies will come. Let yourself gravitate naturally to your passion, whether it be employee assessment, leadership training, online recruiting, making sense of workforce-related regulations -- and parlay that into a strategic role.

Roadblock #4:
There's a difference of opinion.
What you want to do at your organization isn't exactly what senior management considers "strategic."

Is creating fun not strategic? And can fun not be used to improve the bottom line? Ask Southwest Airlines. Is helping the environment and supporting animal rights not strategic or profitable? Ask two fellows named Ben and Jerry -- or anyone else who bought their stock many years ago. Can breaking and entering be strategic? Heck yeah, if you're recruiting for @Stake in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of several computer security companies whose HR executives have hired the best and the brightest hackers to create the best virus-stopping, password-protecting software on the market.

There's a leading HR exec of every make and model, and they've all taken different paths to get there. Their commonality is the ability to move roadblocks.

Roadblock #5:
You don't have the right degree.
You have years of HR under your belt, but you can't break the mindset that an MBA makes or breaks a person's worth.

Maybe you have some schooling but lack a bachelor's. Maybe you have a bachelor's but are looking for a job that requires a master's. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Experience is sometimes more valuable than education. There are degreeless wonders out there in Corporate America. Ask high school dropout and Wendy's fast-food franchise guru Dave Thomas or college dropout and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates. Enough said.

Work and learn. It's very likely that there's a night program located near you, at satellite schools like the University of Phoenix or National University. Actually, if you consider the availability of online learning, the chances are 100 percent. Check out the book "The Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools" by Vicky Phillips and Cindy Yager (Princeton Review Publishing, 1998 -- 2000 edition available in August). You can also prepare for HR certification at night.

Leapfrog the competition. Which would you rather go to: a doctor with lots of experience, but who attended medical school in the 1960s, or one just a few years out of med school but familiar with the latest techniques and technologies? Tough call, right?

Well, while you're gaining experience, and while you're learning any of the basics you want to brush up on, learn things your more experienced competing job candidates don't know. Take seminars about advanced online recruiting; global HR management; mergers and acquisitions; managing telecommuters and a virtual workforce; being an executive in the digital age; and any areas you think will give you a competitive advantage. Learn a second or third language, or master a new technology.

Recent Articles by Todd Raphael

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