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No. 40 – My experience is relied on but never acknowledged. What can I do?

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1 December 2021

How do I correct a situation at work, where my experience is heavily relied on and never acknowledged, with some of my peers (who greatly rely on my knowledge and assistance) receiving a higher salary than me?

Your question hits on a perennial issue that many, many people have to deal with and unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter how far you progress through an organisation – there will always be colleagues we’re convinced are not pulling their weight and yet get ahead anyway. My advice is to try not to focus on them nearly as much as focusing on yourself and what you can control to increase your chances of being noticed or receiving a pay rise.

It sounds like you may need to find your voice at work, to share your expertise in forums where people setting salaries can see and hear you do what you do best. What you don’t want to do is loudly go into your boss’ office and make demands since that usually does not work, even if your colleagues are not shy about pushing themselves forward. What you can do is make sure that in your own authentic way, you are being noticed as well.

Why don’t you arrange a meeting with your manager to explain the work you’ve been doing and ask what they need to see from you to be considered for a promotion or salary increase? You could speak with your boss about ways you could take the lead in a future project so that you have the opportunity to shine. Ask your boss to set some clear KPIs for you to meet and then you can shoot the lights out on your own. Good luck!

With more than three years of experience in customer service, I feel stuck. I wish to go back to a job that has regular hours (as opposed to working shifts) and more importantly, I want greater career prospects, which is unlikely if I continue in customer service. I have decided to upskill myself for the sole purpose of finding a different job by enrolling in an MBA. What would you suggest I do so I can re-join a regular working job that offers better progression?

Good on you for going back and doing further study. That extra qualification under your belt will certainly help provide different options for you.

It sounds like you’re ready to make the move into a different career now, and so I’d start using your networks to apply for roles in industries you’re most interested in and that have the best prospects for progression. The fact you have not yet completed your MBA should not prevent you from starting to look around for a new role now, if that’s what you want to do. Any prospective employer will understand that you are committed to continuous learning and improvement, so they’re likely to want to grab you while they can. It’s also a good time to be looking for a job given demand for skilled people is at an all-time high.

I work for one of the Big Four consulting firms. There is an expectation that we work long hours to get the job done and many of us are online every night trying to get through to the end of the week. We work weekends. I don’t even take a lunch break. Raising this is widely considered career suicide. What are our other options?

It seems you are not alone. Earlier this year EY Hong Kong came under pressure after their teams were forced to work until “at least” 11.30pm and on weekends during peak periods. In Australia, unsustainable workloads have been reported with burnout being felt across the consulting sector, including examples of 17 hour days. SafeWork NSW has classified professional services as high risk for fatigue and there has been a spike in workers compensation claims.

I realise I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, and you’re most likely directly experiencing these conditions yourself. And I’m also sure your firm has initiatives like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and flexible work policies which are intended to make a difference, but it sounds like for you, nothing seems to change. The root cause of the burnout you and so many others feel needs to be dealt with before anything changes and too often, it all boils down to the amount of work being assigned.

I think the first thing that your firm can and should be addressing is the stigma you feel about speaking up. I’d encourage you to find someone you feel safe to talk to about what you’re experiencing. It should not be career suicide to express your need to eat lunch. Or have some time to recharge on the weekends. You might also like to find coworkers who feel the same way and go together to speak about this with someone you trust within the firm.

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