You know the problem: you’re hungry for power, you want your boss’ job and you want it now. But the boss is showing no signs of wanting to quit. What to do? Lydia Stockdale looks at the options
1. Talk it over
Don’t let the office atmosphere go stale along with your career. If your boss refuses to budge, don’t resort to Gordon Brown-style backstage manoeuverings; talk to them directly, one human being to another.
“You have to be bold in your approach and bring matters to a head,” says Richard Steer, senior partner of construction consultant Gleeds. “Older people have to acknowledge that any dynamic business needs people coming through. They should be wise enough to recognise this and accommodate them.”
You could ask for more responsibility, suggests Gill Sharp, an adviser for Graduate Prospects. “You have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk,” she says.
Path to power … if you have a good working relationship with your boss.
Road to ruin … if your boss is a control freak who won’t delegate any responsibilities.
2. Be selfless
If it’s clear your boss is as stuck in a rut as you are, forget about your own career for a while and do some research on their behalf. Just as the chancellor may
point Tony Blair towards a publisher who would offer a large cheque for his memoirs, you could inform your boss of any opportunities for a less stressful, yet still lucrative career.
“Senior employees are increasingly working in a consultancy capacity, in a training and development role, or becoming a guru within their particular field,” says Jill Pett, HR partner at Davis Langdon. “There are creative ways to use senior executives within an organisation, which open the way for others.”
According to Steer, the best way for you to handle bosses who seem intent on working into their 90s, is to expose them to the attractive options they could pursue. “It takes negotiation and some cunning but you can pander to people’s egos. Find them nice consultancies and pet projects. Keep them happily occupied while you get on with the day-to-day running of the business.”
Path to power … if you are able to handle the situation sensitively and you have your boss’ best interests at heart (as well as your own).
Road to ruin … if you plan to be patronising, or your boss is still decades away from retirement age.
3. Move sideways
If you’re getting nowhere trying to work with your boss, forget moving up and move sideways instead. Don’t stay still for too long, and try to learn from as many people as possible.
“Pursue opportunities for secondments to a client’s site for a period of time, go to work in other offices in the UK, or move across project lines and disciplines,” suggests Amy Preston, graduate recruitment and development consultant for EC Harris.
Work outside your job role and take part in company projects so you get to know your business inside-out. “Don’t just rely on your day-to-day work,” says Preston. “Go over and above by becoming involved in extracurricular activities such as focus groups and giving talks at your old university to get the company brand out there.”
Preston says this kind of exposure will increase your chances of getting on a coveted fast-track scheme: “Your name has to come up in discussions,” she says. “Networking is key. Get noticed and remembered.”
Don’t be afraid to put forward strategies and ideas, but be prepared to deliver them. You have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk
Gill Sharp, Graduate Prospects
Path to power … if you fancy a new challenge.
Road to ruin … if you’re so bored your enthusiasm drained away long ago.
Changes in company structures have led to fewer managerial roles so you may well find other employees waiting in line for your boss’ job.
“Climbing the greasy pole of promotion often just isn’t an option these day,” says Angela Baron, an adviser at the Chartered Institute for Professional Development.
“Organisations have become much flatter in the past 10 to 15 years. Layers of hierarchy have been taken out, as it makes the business easier to manage with the decision-making closer to the customer,” she says.
Whereas status in the workplace used to relate to the numbers you managed, now it depends on your level of expertise. “Highly paid, high-status jobs are increasingly the ones where people have taken a specialist career route,” says Baron.
Gill Sharp says there are several ways to pursue further training. “You can learn skills by osmosis – by reading, attending lectures, through colleagues – or you can take evening classes or take a distance-learning course.
“You can also take advantage of CPD [continuing professional development] at the firm’s expense,” she says.
Path to power … if you fancy focusing your working life on a particular area you find interesting.
Road to ruin … if after several courses your company still refuses to use your skills.
5. Leave the country
Leave your boss and related career problems at home in the UK and make yourself stand out from the crowd by working a stint in one of your firm’s overseas offices.
“Stay within the same company, but go overseas where there are more opportunities for management experience,” says Steer. “Running an overseas office gives you more space and responsibility. There is more of a spotlight on you, younger and earlier. You can come back to the UK with that experience.”
RICS spokesman Graham Smith says younger people can benefit from the high demand for construction professionals worldwide: “Younger people do not have the family commitments. They are able to get up and go at the drop of a hat.”
Bola Abisogun, 35, already runs his own chartered surveying firm, Accessable Advice. He believes the work he has done overseas remains the key to his future success. “International exposure has been the making of me as a professional,” he says. “Working overseas is lucrative for people willing to take risks and move out of their comfort zones.”
Path to power … if you’re excited by the idea of working abroad and have no dependants in the UK.
Road to ruin … if you love the British weather and get homesick easily.