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Climbing up career ladder in uncertain times

Radi Shafiq | December 07, 2020 00:00:00

This year has been out of the ordinary for young professionals. Today's young generation worldwide has grown up in an environment with lower chaos than ever before, and the security and trust in the lifestyle everyone enjoyed were getting better. However, everything came to a standstill when the pandemic hit, leaving a lot of professionals to wonder where their career is headed. The career as opposed to a job is always meant to take the passengers someplace, better, and more novel in every year or two, right? This was the underlying assumption with most young professionals, switching jobs if necessary, to hold onto this upward mobility. The possibility of that seems less likely these days. Not only have there been the lay-offs, some faced pay-cuts, some faced insurmountable targets set by the bosses, while others found little work to show their value to the company.

So, this article looks at the word promotion through a new lens.

As Steven Pinker, linguist and psychologist points out, these are the most peaceful times the world has ever seen throughout history. According to "Our World in Data", in 2017, more people died of heart disease and suicide than wars or homicides. This sense of security ushered an era fuelled by the economy of trust, where people trusted a print-out hotel booking to travel to another country through Airbnb, people trusted getting on a stranger's car to reach destination through Uber, or trusted on someone unknown to deliver food from restaurant to home without messing with it. Things could only get better. But suddenly we faced COVID-19 that upended lifestyle all over the world. Suddenly, that quick trip to Bali seemed so much more difficult to fathom, even regular office chitchats evaporated to make room for zoom calls, community hangouts made an exit, replaced with "who could speak the loudest" online.

As soon as the pandemic descended on the world, it widened distance with the colleagues and classmates. The social media is a poor replacement of what a steady job can give in the society. With markets shrinking and revenues dwindling in numerous sectors, the question comes easily, how can one possibly get promotion in a year like this?

"The pre-crisis challenges for youth are now amplified since COVID-19 hit. Without sufficient attention, our fear is that this risks creating a 'lockdown generation' that could feel the weight of this crisis for many years to come." --Sara Elder, lead author of the report and Head of the ILO Regional Economic and Social Analysis unit.

Well, fair warning, if the organisation is not in a growth phase, or at least the function one works in is growing, it is difficult for the organisation to find room or budget to promote someone. But there are things to do to still ensure a promotion, looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Promotion is a word that is in essence, a cluster of concepts that is shown in Figure A.

A regular promotion starts with a new designation, which immediately goes to the email signature, waiting for the new business cards to be printed, all being the social symbol of one's levelling up. With it come salary and other benefits from the organisation, which essentially is more freedom for the individual to spend or invest as one likes. Also, of course a promotion means one now has more responsibility towards the organisation, at times with more people looking up to his or her.

For someone working at the right place and having the right set of responsibilities, these tough times may have been the chance to prove their mettle and are now well on their way to a raise. But people who have not dealt the right cards this year, there are things to do that can have a similar effect on life, keeping life and career moving, although coming from a different angle. Let us break down these characteristics one by one.

New designation as a social symbol: If there is a specific topic that has always been interesting to a person, he or she must have some knowledge and skills in that area than others-be it writing fiction, painting, mobile technology, psychology, books and so on. There are niche online groups at places like Facebook. One can always take a more proactive role in one such group, and get an additional designation. There are people out there making new things, bold start-ups and steady youth organisations, maybe people from the alumni network of one's educational institutions, or maybe a distant family member who could use some help.

One should be bold enough to go ahead and offer help, when he or she can help, go ahead, and help for a while, which can add a new designation besides your current one.

Salary increment: If the company is in no position to pay more, one can ask for more responsibility in a potential gap area that needs some mending with a concrete plan. Doing so would enhance the person's role and importance in the organisation. Coupled with the clear discussion on a way for one to get a raise, these steps are good for anyone with the ambition and situation to pursue it. The same can be done outside office as well, dedicating one day, a week to a friend's start-up. If someone is delivering something of value, negotiating a pay should be of no problem.

Bigger team, new boss and new responsibility: The young professionals were one day in school writing time and again that "man cannot live alone, humans are social animals, etc." and yet as we grew up, we increasingly started delegating our work to apps. A friend's recommendation for a movie is cross checked with online rating, and a trailer review on YouTube, or sometimes even just because Netflix recommends it. And more and more it is seen that the apps are not that bad in their suggested games. This resulted in us being less in touch with our family, those who would come to our rescue- if something really went wrong. This might be a good time to reach out to such friends and family. Most of them have at least one thing that needs some help. If the young professional finds the time to do it, it will mean now he or she is able to take up new responsibilities, with a wider network, acting like a safety net.

Read more: The value of reading cannot be underestimated. One needs to read more and more. Dig deeper into the subjects that are of interest to come out with the gold that immediately helps the people around, some family members, for example. This is the young professional's time to shine, taking good care of everyone, starting with the self.

The title of this article might have been a tad bit misleading to some, but today, try to take a leap of faith, and try to see everything with this new eye the pandemic has given us. Everyone is in this together, and when push comes to shove, it is the time for the hero within to get out. Take a stance, take care of yourself and start expanding yourself to achieve your aspirations.


Radi Shafiq is a development professional, author, and artist. [email protected]

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