Sunday, December 13, 2009

The value of “face time”

In a couple of recent posts, I mentioned Kate an employee of a local manufacturing firm. She was originally hired as the Controller of her company’s engineering division which is located in a separate building from the company's main office. During a recent downsizing, Kate’s controllership position was eliminated resulting in her being transferred to an administrative job in the corporate building. Yes, she is fortunate to still be employed, but she hates her new administrative role and has become discouraged watching her male colleagues be promoted to positions she wasn’t aware were open. Perplexed, she sought out a male colleague asking him “What do you have to do to get promoted around here?" He responded with: “You need to be a male who puts in a lot of face time.”

Both Kate and I interpreted “face time” to mean working late nights and weekends “at the office” to project an image of a committed hardworking employee.

After discussions with my mentor, I’ve concluded Kate's male colleague actually gave her some very good advice. Kate doesn’t necessarily need to work long hours and weekends to achieve face time, but she does need to be visible and to build a rapport with her colleagues. To be promoted, Kate’s managers need to know who she is and be familiar with her work. By working in a separate building, she didn’t gain the visibility needed for a promotion; most likely her company's hiring managers have not worked with her whereas they have worked with her male colleagues.

It is important to get face time throughout the organization especially in the operations area.

How to get face time when you’re stuck in a back office job:
Volunteer for projects even if it is not your area of expertise and then do whatever you need to gain the knowledge needed to be successful. Apply for open positions even if it may not be your dream job. It helps to get interview experience and get your name out there. Volunteer to work on teams and on committees – some companies have opportunities for internally promoting the United Way.

-Do remain open to working late nights and weekends “at the office” if you need to complete special projects or to maintain deadline credibility.

-Think twice about telecommuting:
Telecommuting puts you at an immediate disadvantage; by not being in the office you will have a difficult time achieving adequate face time with managers outside of your department.

To be promoted Kate needs to be credible, experienced and visible.

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