Are you part of the lucky 50% that often seem to make up the ranks of junior management?
If you are happy to have one foot on the executive ladder and believe you now have it made, you’re in danger of falling into the comfort zone of making management quite early in your career. Being settled in the early career comfort zone is understandable, but it won’t get you the next big promotion and early identification as one of tomorrow’s corporate leaders.
The other 50% – the ones destined for career success – look obsessive-compulsive by comparison. They are driven to out-perform, even though there is no obvious need to push the envelope.
Herein lies the problem.
BEE and labour law have helped to create a situation where doing just enough sometimes appears to be sufficient for job security and the perception of career progress. South African Labour law makes it extremely difficult to fire someone for sub-par performance. Being mediocre is not a sacking offence.
Dismissal processes can be time-consuming and expensive. Often, it is less hassle for a corporate to live with the consequences of a hire that adds little value, let the individual carry out some routine duties and move him or her sideways. These individuals know they are ‘fire-proof’ and may be content to go nowhere – at least, for now.
For some, complacency is reinforced by a rather short-sighted reading of BEE policy. If you are smug and historically disadvantaged, you probably feel empowerment dynamics are working in your favour anyway, so there’s no need to try too hard.
BEE and labour law have helped to create a situation where doing just enough sometimes appears to be sufficient for job security and the perception of career progress.
Let history take its course and you’ll naturally gravitate to the top. Really? In contrast, ambitious junior managers are over-achievers who strive to stand out. They empower themselves, they don’t need legislation to do it for them.
Labour law may provide job security, but it won’t make anyone a top earner and an industry mover and shaker. You have to do that for yourself. The key is to excel on the job, meet targets and fulfil the hopes of mentors and senior colleagues.
The upwardly mobile 50% retain this on-the-job focus even when they take on further studies. They hit the books at night, on weekends and during holidays without making this an excuse for non-attendance at key meetings and non-performance during the working week.
Those destined to slide sideways may see the need to beef up their CV by adding to their educational attainments, but all too often they lose focus on the day job. Dammit, they’re working on their Honours. They can’t be expected to put in a full day’s work as well. What does the firm want? Blood?
Well, not blood exactly, but major corporates expect a lot of sweat and the ability to deliver in two separate areas at once – without being stressed about it. The thing about being delusional is that you can snap out of it. For many managers in the early career comfort zone, that moment comes when they are passed over for promotion.
. . . But major corporates expect a lot of sweat and the ability to deliver in two separate areas at once – without being stressed about it.
Even worse, the corporate may recruit an outsider (who might be the same age or even younger). For years, smug insiders had assumed they were on the talent conveyor belt. They now have two, three, even five years of practical experience. They feel they are ready for the next step up. Unfortunately, that view is not shared by their superiors.
Now what do they do? They can become embittered, stay on the job, do what they’ve always done (nothing very difficult about that) and wait for their ‘talent’ to be recognised (probably a forlorn hope).
They can quit and take a new job – at much the same level and repeat the process all over again.Or they can wake up and cease being a corporate also-ran. By joining the 50% who over-achieve, they not only position themselves for promotion, they create huge long-term opportunities for themselves.
Stand out as a go-getter and you not only have a chance of a top job locally, you are well placed for international success.
Almost all growth-minded South African companies now have ambitions across sub-Saharan Africa. These companies are looking for ambitious, energetic winners with a proven capacity for hard work. Does that mean you?
Before answering ‘Yes’ just make sure you’re not being delusional.
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