Friday, October 29, 2010

Answering Reader Mail: Confidential Job Hunts, Raises, Promotions & Better Projects

This is my first admin job supporting a mid-level executive. I love working in admin, but I have been stuck in this dead end job for more than a few years now without a raise. I also haven’t been growing or learning anything new since Day 1 because my boss won’t give me projects. We discussed it at length and I “have” my boss’ support. However, even after taking many classes on the various programs I still haven’t gotten any new tasks. I would like to get better assignments, promoted, or get a raise before a few more years go by. How do I get a recommendation letter from my boss for a new job hunt without raising suspicion or improve my situation without my boss’ help? Thank you so much.

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for your questions. I hope I can be of some help to you.

First, congratulations on such a pro-active attitude. It’s such a shame that there aren’t more managers who are good mentors that help each individual grow and learn more in their roles. Granted, I understand that many managers are busy and it’s faster for them to do certain projects. Yet it is a waste of a happy, willing student much like yourself.

One of the best ways to get a raise is to try to ask for more responsibility and increase your skills and talents much like you did. Short of that, looking for a new job elsewhere is your second best bet. While you have a job, recruiters are much happier to steal you away to their company instead. You also have more negotiating leverage for a better salary and projects. Progressive work experience is always a smart goal.

Another suggestion to get more experience on really good projects is to volunteer during your free time. There are many admin or office type positions. Perhaps you will be able to put together documents, presentations, grants, and portfolios using Excel, Powerpoint, Word and any other databases or programs you have taken classes for. In this manner, when you go into job interviews you can bring all the sales presentations or documents you put together into a portfolio to showcase your work. A good resource for volunteering opportunities is Volunteering is also a great opportunity to network with new people who are in your field or have the same interests and skill sets as you do. I got a lot of my experience volunteering, working for free, or doing internships. I can not stress volunteering enough to spruce up your resume for when are you ready to leave your current company.

Instead of trying to rely on only your boss for a recommendation letter, keep in mind the value of the 360 view. Recommendations can come from other executives that you work with, people on the same level as you, people below you, vendors, clients and anyone that worked with you. The point is to have many different people, in different roles, in different levels to vouch for your work ethic, talents, skills, and character. Perhaps you’ve assisted visiting executives or consultants, helped out other assistants on a team project, or have a long-standing business relationship with a vendor, catering manager, or florist for all the office luncheons, birthday parties, or special events. In this manner, you can get really good recommendations from people who know you well in a team environment.

I suggest starting with LinkedIn to get recommendations along with traditional letters. Your LinkedIn profile can be public, there is an option to also print out any recommendations people write, and the glowing remarks can be as short as 2-3 sentences or much longer. Also remember to ask a few key people for permission to list them as a reference on job applications for more in-depth references. HR will usually call 2-3 people for a quick phone chat.

The best way to ask people for LinkedIn recommendations is shortly after any major special project or whenever they compliment you. Email them saying you’d love 2-3 sentences if they feel comfortable commenting on how you did x, y, z on the __________ project. This helps refresh their memory and you’ve provided most of the details that they only have to write their glowing remarks. Also be sure to ask all and as many people as you can. People are busy and you’ll find that only a small percentage of those you ask even have LinkedIn or will actually feel comfortable writing something.

Asking for recommendations is something you should be doing all-year round, just like networking. And constantly learning new skills and gaining a wide range of knowledge is vital to getting to the next step. You want to have your ducks in a row before you get laid off or want to find a better job. Happy job hunting and keep me posted!

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