Insights into the forces shaping our industry.

Ask the Expert – December 2016

Ask an Expert

Q: Hello, never thought I’d see the day I’d be asking some of these questions, but here we are.  I am and have always been a high performer, have a lot of industry experience and I’m stuck in a job I hate.  I’ve been with this company for 8 years and 5 years ago I was posted to a new assignment.  No drop in pay, ‘just’ different geography and a crushing workload and constant electronic micromanagement.  The change was due to the recession – there was a reorganization and I was told those affected had no choice. Not my decision, not at all what I wanted and I was told it was “temporary” in preparation for other assignments down the road – so I did my duty and posted high numbers each year.

Well, there was no carrot at the end of that stick and my requests (the last three years+) for help in moving to another position aren’t going anywhere.  I’ve tried working through channels with my managers and suggested HR might help, but other than offering non-existent positions that “might take a couple of years to fund” – nothing. Partially due to an acquisition, the culture here has changed too and experience and high performance don’t seem to mean much anymore.  On top of that it’s becoming a real boys’ club (I’m a female in the electrical business.) It’s even gone so far as to have my manager tell me “you should slow down, we should all slow down as we’re getting older…”  (of course this is as he drops even more projects on my desk.)  I’m in outside sales / mgt. and continue to keep a brisk pace on the road.  I’m not on my last legs, never even thought age an issue here and this same manager is only a few years younger than me.  I used to be proud of my time in the industry, now I’m hiding it in case I’m perceived as “too old.”

I loved working here before and I’d hoped to retire from this company one day. Now I’m wondering if I should be making tracks…I have tried to work into another position, even a lateral move, but I am miserable and can’t do this any longer. I don’t have a big pile of cash hidden, so my own start up doesn’t look like an option for me. I hate to move to another company as the economy still seems slow and I keep hearing how dismal it is for the 50+ set to find / keep good positions and continue in their careers. Do you feel this is true and do you have any advice for me? -“Aging and Anonymous”

A: I feel for you! You have been caught up in what a lot of people have during the recession, especially in bigger companies. If you’re borderline, you’re out and those who are capable are asked to do more, with less. I can’t imagine going to work every day and being miserable with no end in sight and having the added pressure of thinking you’re aging out of the candidate pool. I think there is an unspoken bias against older employees, but I wouldn’t consider you in that category at 50. But here’s another unspoken bias…companies, given the choice to hire a woman or a man with the same experience and accomplishments will choose the woman almost exclusively. I recognize and appeal to that bias and have helped several women make significant jumps in their career. Please bear in mind, that goes hand in hand with the caliber of expertise and reputation they bring to the position.

I’ve found in this industry a pretty face will open a door, but if you have no real value to bring to the client beyond that, the door swings closed quickly. Be proud of your longevity and passion for the industry, it takes some real gumption to make it in this ‘old boys club’ and now you can capitalize on that. I hate to hear that someone is miserable in any situation, so why continue? I’m going to have one of my peers, Brooke Ziolo reach out to you. She is another successful woman in this industry who dominates in the lighting industry and if all of the stars align, she may even have something going on that would help you move onto something more fulfilling. Hang in there, and we will definitely be in touch! – Prudence


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