A helping hand...
by Douglas E. Welch
May 26, 2000
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
A common refrain among many workers goes like this, "If only I
was in charge everything would be better." While this might be true in some cases you should always be thinking
about how you would run an operation regardless of your current
position. "Putting yourself in your managers shoes" can prepare
you for a future management role or, if you don't aspire to management,
help you understand how to work with management to meet your work
and career goals.
Offering a helping hand
It may seem hard to believe, but inside of every manager is someone
who wishes you would help to make their life easier. Sure, you
show up on time, complete your assigned tasks and generally stay
out of trouble, but that is expected of any employee. What your
manager really needs are solutions to their most pressing business
problems, whether that means which networking topology to install
or how to prove to the VP of Finance that there really is a need
for wireless technology throughout the company.
Thinking like a manager can help you to provide a helping hand
to your manager. Perhaps he or she needs backup research on the
various wireless initiatives. If you are interested in this topic
or, even better, already researching it on your own, volunteer
the information you have gathered. You might even be able to write
a report on the subject that your boss could submit to upper management.
This can really help to increase your visibility with your bosses'
boss, a helpful boost when annual reviews come around.
Be sure that your name appears on anything you prepare, though.
It doesn't happen often, but there are less than scrupulous managers
who might pass off your work as their own. Your goal is to help
your manager and yourself, not give away the farm.
Whenever you see your manager faced with a problem, offer a helping
hand. Yes, it will mean more work for you, but it can help to
expand your career and, in some cases, it can be more fulfilling
work than what you normally do. We are all happier working on
something that challenges our skills and interests us deeply.
In my own experience I have used opportunities such as this to
rise above the daily drudgery of my work. I turned one of my first
jobs into a high-tech position by doing just that. I was waiting
for my wedding day to arrive so my wife and I could move to California
and start our new lives. To make some money I took a job in the
box office of a large, live theater organization in Cleveland,
Ohio. My degree was in theater and I had experience in theater
operations so it seemed a good fit for a short time. After a few
weeks of answering the phones and taking ticket orders I was terribly
bored. The manager of the box office mentioned one day that he
needed some statistics but had no way to combine the data from
3 un-related systems. Since I had developed my computer skills
in college and liked working with computers I told him how I could
combine all the data and give him the reports he needed. From
that day on I was freed from answering the phones in all but the
busiest times and had created a completely new position for myself.
I can't guarantee that taking the initiative will always have
such dramatic results, but it certainly presents opportunities
to rise above the crowd and demonstrate your special skills. Granted,
getting ahead does require non-authoritarian management that welcomes
new ideas and solutions. Management that doesn't allow you to
be the best worker possible is a sign that you are working for
the wrong people.
One of the best ways to improve your career is to provide solutions
for those problems that weigh most heavily on your manager's mind.
Like anyone else, most managers are just looking for some way
to make their job a little easier. In most cases, you can reap
substantial rewards by offering a helping hand, especially when
the going gets tough.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at email@example.com