Surviving a Corporate Changing of the Guard

by Jennifer Miller on December 2, 2010

in Office Politics, Personal Effectiveness

Imagine for a moment that there is a sudden change in leadership in your organization.  You now have a new Vice President overseeing your area and you’re unsure where you stand in this person’s esteem. This is exactly the situation my colleague Sally is currently facing. Recently Sally confided in me that she was feeling a growing sense of unease: am I on the “in” or “out” list of this person?  Nothing specific has been said; but Sally is very astute and she was noticing some subtle changes. A project that Sally was leading suddenly needed to be reviewed for budget issues. There was an influx of vendors being considered for projects previously handled in-house.

Sally had an excellent track record with her previous boss. Unfortunately, he left the company. She now finds herself in a game of catch-up: how to promote her skills to the new regime without seeming like she’s overtly lobbying for job security? It’s a Catch-22 many professionals experience: if I’m too self-promotional, I’ll come across as self-serving, but if I don’t self-promote, I’ll be unseen and most likely  undervalued.

There are ways to accomplish this task and do so with professionalism. A key part of making one’s self known is through networking, which I’ve blogged about here and here and in this post featured on Forbes Woman Views.

Another way to safeguard against this is to make your aspirations known to leaders outside of your immediate area of responsibility. One especially savvy professional named Denise made it a practice to seek out key leaders in areas outside of her area of expertise—to say in effect, “I’m a quick study and willing to work hard. Please keep me in mind for future opportunities in your division that would fit my skill set.” This paid dividends when there were organizational shifts and a leader did indeed tap Denise for a new project.

So is Sally totally out of luck? I don’t think so. But this experience has taught her an invaluable career lesson: the best defense is a good offense.

If there was a sudden “changing of the guard” in your organization, would your situation more closely resemble Sally’s or Denise’s?

 photo credit: istockphoto.com © Arthur Kwiatkowski

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