I have not received a raise for over two year, and my bank has frozen increases. On top of that, my department has had a series of rotating managers, each of whom put off reviews. I'm tempted to jump ship, but wary about the job market.
Financial reward has always been my benchmark for success. How do I stay motivated under these circumstances?
-- Frustrated Dear Frustrated:
First, try to determine if you are on the company hit list, or if your department is. Through subtle questioning, find out what the bank plans for you.
It's easier to sit tight if you sense something positive is on the horizon. If, on the other hand, there is less cause for optimism, its time to start looking.
If you lean toward staying, keep in mind that your bank can offer you other rewards besides money. Among them: a more flexible schedule, higher visibility, and an opportunity to increase skills.
An Eye on the Market
In other words, try to find ways to make your life more enjoyable or to make yourself more marketable when the economy improves.
For example, in lieu of more money, you can ask to take an afternoon off every week. Or to come in an hour later, so you can see your child off to school.
You might be surprised by the reaction. Companies are becoming more comfortable with the idea of flexible work schedules at senior levels.
A study released this week by outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison reports that though the workday has lengthened at many banks, the specific hours and time commitments have become more flexible. And some jobs are being done effectively from home.
As one banker put it, "The old rules are flying out the window." Also, since your manager already may feel guilty about not being able to offer you more money, you may be able to capitalize on that.
Raising Your Profile
Another option: seek higher visibility. Interacting with people senior to you makes you more noticeable and positions you for advancement when money does start flowing again.
You can ask your manager for opportunities to work on projects that will put you in touch with top managers. That was a reward given once in place of more money to Christine Sullivan, who works for a large New York savings bank.
Now she looks on such exposure as a bonus to her staff when she can't give raises. "Things like that are worth money down the road," she says.
Another form of compensation is training in a new area. Decide what skills you need to strengthen or develop, with an eye to advancing in your job or moving to another company.
If your bank doesn't offer training in that area, indicate that you would be happy to attend outside seminars and to share what you learn.
While your bank might not have money for salary increases, it might spring for memberships in professional associations and subscriptions to publications. And it might let you take the time to serve on an industry committee, which would greatly increase your visibility - and make you more marketable.
Get Ready for the Thaw
What you must do now, says Kate Wendleton, a New York career consultant, is position yourself for an upgrade for when the freeze ends. Document new projects you manage and skills you develop.
And be prepared with a formal presentation to your manager, making a case for a bigger raise. "Most people are far too informal with this," Ms. Wendleton says. "You have to treat your boss like a client."
And, finally, keep in mind that, though it won't last forever, it could be worse. As one woman who works for a big merging bank says, "Money does count, but people here are just happy to have their jobs."
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Write or call Patricia Kitchen, features editor, American Banker, One State Street Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10004. Telephone: (212) 943-5733.