Who Is Managing Your Career?

I was reminded of this story by Trish, a former colleague. I hadn’t forgotten, because it was the catalyst for a new career advancement strategy I developed.

In my various human resource roles I always advise my clients to consider a range of self promotion strategies to advance their career. As a result of the case study below, I developed a new strategy to take the initiative to keep their own company employee file updated by ensuring the Human Resource Department received and recorded in their employee file a précis of any new skills, qualifications or experience they had gained.  This is important if they don’t want to be overlooked for promotion, considered for special projects, receive appropriate remuneration, receive a good and accurate reference, and as we will see in this “real" case study, to keep a job.

Case study 

Jill completed a degree over an 8 year period. She graduated with a double major in commerce and information technology. However, she is a very private person and no one in her company knew she was studying.  After graduation Jill stayed in the same job where her skills were not utilised, although she did apply for some jobs outside her company.

 Amalgamation and a new service direction for the company had been mooted for a year, and retrenchments seemed inevitable. Jill thought she would be retained; in fact she seemed confident and would never discuss it.  Then one day the bad news came. She was being retrenched.

The decision was made by looking at the application forms and other data in the employees’ files, such as professional development courses attended, higher duties performed and attendance records, for instance. Further, Supervisors were consulted and employees were rated against new criteria. Jill was deemed to be amongst the least qualified to fit in with new organisation structure and systems that were going to be installed.

Trish and I questioned Jill about this unfair process. Surely appeals should be heard. We were outraged, saying “they can’t do that." But after questioning Jill further, several damming facts emerged.

When Jill told her supervisor about her qualifications the supervisor was very surprised. She reminded Jill that employee files were discussed at meetings, and employees were given the opportunity to update them. Not only did Jill miss this meeting, a memo had come around reminding employees that updating their employee file was in their best interest and Jill took no action. Now arbitrary decisions had been made and there were no appeals.

 We agreed with her supervisor’s opinion that she had been given every opportunity to secure her place in the new system, but made absolutely no effort to promote herself and demonstrate that she could make a positive contribution to the “new order", as it were.

Incidentally, we asked about performance appraisals, and apparently the company didn't conduct them.

Soon after this event I undertook research amongst my contacts in Human Resource Management and discovered that although most HRM’s kept employee files updated when their employees undertook training and development provided by the company, they hadn’t given any thought the advantages an employee would gain by self promotion by keeping their own employee files updated.

Human Resource Managers in smaller companies did not think it was important. However HR Managers in larger companies, thought this was a good idea as the powers above occasionally called for an audit on current employees’ skills and experience and also wanted statistics from performance appraisals, based on certain criterion.

Most of my contacts agreed that it would be useful to have a comprehensive employment file when asked for references or particulars on past employees. A couple of people thought that many former employees had lied about qualifications, skills or experience, that didn’t correlate with their job description and other data in their files.

Surprisingly, 50% of the personnel from larger companies confirmed that employment files were often used when employees were being considered for a salary increase and before they would be considered for a promotion.

Jill may have had a future in the new company structure if she had been proactive and ensured her employee file was regularly updated to reflect her qualifications, professional development or any achievements, in and outside work that were relevant to her employment status.

Although the company could have practiced better human resource management by conducting regular performance appraisals, which may have uncovered Jill’s degree and other relevant information, ultimately she was solely responsible for her retrenchment by not proactively managing her career and leaving it to others to decide her future.


 Copyright Iris Wood, 2007

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Iris Wood has owned and operated Pro-Active Human Resource Management for over 6 years. The company offers professional resume writing services, career development, job search assistance and some business services. Iris is a qualified Human Resource Manager, holding a post graduate degree in HRM, and has over 15 years experience in Professional Resume Writing, Job Search, Career Development/Training and Change Management and Employment Consultancy.

Invaluable free career development and job search information can be found at http://www.proactivehrm.com