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What to do when you’re feeling undervalued at work

September 11th 2017 / Rachel Saywell-Burr / 0 comment

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Do you feel undervalued at work? Fashion headhunter Rachel Saywell-Burr hears it all the time. Here are her steps to getting your worth noticed

There is nothing I like more than a good old fashioned “well done”. It brings joy to my heart that someone’s noticed my work and I also get a massive kick out of boosting my team up too.

I don’t think it matters if you’re the CEO or the intern, getting recognition makes for a happier workplace.

As headhunters, one of the main things we hear is how undervalued people feel at work. Based on some tried and tested methods (as well as having lived through it ourselves), here are some ideas below that should bring you some positive vibes without shouting about how amazing you are from the rooftops.

1. Talk about your work

Be proud of your work and try to talk about it in reviews. If your company doesn’t have them, ask for some time with your boss to discuss your progress and check in.

It’s helpful to have a good grip on the projects you’ve worked on and fulfilled successfully, as well as anything that didn’t go so well that you learned from.

If there’s no time for a review and you would rather stick to email, a note saying “I thought you might like to see the response we got from the latest campaign…” etc will bring eyes to your work without being too in-your-face.

2. Be nice to your boss

Communication is key here. Do you have a rapport with your boss and subsequent hierarchy? If not, then now’s the time to get involved.

If you are in a situation where you think your boss is terrible and you could be doing a much better job, stop for a moment and try and have a look through a fresh pair of eyes.

Most of the time there are lots of things going on in the background of a business that you might not necessarily be exposed to. While you can’t manage someone else’s attitude, you can reflect positively to their ideas which should in turn bring some sunshine into your work life.

Speaking from personal experience, the moment I shifted my perspective of a former boss it totally changed my perception of my job. She saw she could confide in me and rely on my support which subsequently led to a promotion further down the line. If I’d have continued huffing and puffing about how awful I thought she was, I’d never have learned what she was actually dealing with and moved forward.

Obviously if there’s something seriously wrong at work, that’s another story entirely but it can be useful to just take a step back once in awhile.

3. Support your colleagues

Another one that seems simple - your collaboration and cooperation with your team won’t go unnoticed. You need to be able to switch between being a leader and a follower so try and read a situation before diving in.

If you think someone needs support with a project, offer to help. Often just being able to download what you’re stressed about will be enough to kickstart a flow of work.

Same goes for if you see someone doing really well. It’s great to share that you think their work is good, and if you align yourself with successful people it can often rub off on you.

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4. Reflect the person you want to be seen as

This suggestion is 360 and involves having a look at yourself in terms of your attitude to your work and colleagues, your ambition, your confidence and finally how you are physically presenting yourself to your peers.

If you turn up late, take long lunch breaks and then are often found scrolling through social media then think how that looks to your employer and colleagues.

Take a look around your office and social circles or even online (I’m a big Ted Talk gal) and look at the people you admire. Is there anything you can take from the way they handle themselves that perhaps you can try yourself? Trust that even if it feels fake the first time you try, adopting a positive tone and smiling can make people see you in a totally different light.

If your confidence has taken a downturn, then we know how hard it can be to put on a brave face. We see this constantly where amazing people have lost their mojo with their job and feel that they’re in a circle of things going wrong.

Are you able to take a little time out to realign yourself? It can help to take a few days out of a stressful environment to switch back on the passion that you had beforehand.

If that’s not an option, then can you have a meeting with your senior team members and explain how you feel. Letting your squishy side come out is really bloody difficult, but can mean that your team know what’s happening and can support you a little more.

5. Don’t stay in a job you hate

If you’re not sure about your current role and are generally feeling like you are a little undervalued and over-worked then please…don’t stay in a job you hate.

There is nothing worse than the person at work who is constantly bemoaning their role, company, colleagues…in fact everything. I remember the constant “this f***ing place….” conversation with former colleagues I’ve had over the years. It makes me want to scream “LEAVE THEN!”.

Often people feel tied to a company for various reasons and so feel even more miserable. My friends who are thinking about trying for a child fall heavily into this camp. If they move roles, what about their maternity pay etc…

It’s a hard decision to move, especially if you are worried about the future but my suggestion here is to look at yourself in 6 months, then 12 months. If you can see yourself being happy where you are then try and take the positives and stay.

If you’re breaking into a cold sweat, then it is time to move and you can talk to friends and recruiters about the best methods of getting there.

Quick word of advice here is to not email a recruiter with an “I currently do X but I want to do Y” email. We can’t help unless you’ve taken the right channels to get there. 
Recruiters and headhunters earn their money from listening to their clients and sourcing the right person for those positions. We do a lot of strategising and consultancy around this, but the likelihood of someone taking a punt on a non-experienced candidate when there’s fees involved from our side is minimal.

If you want a career change, you can take charge of that yourself. Speak to people in that industry and offer your time pro-bono. Research, get to know people and go through that route - you’ll have a much better chance of success.

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6. Say thanks!

I’ll never forget the time I busted my ass to get a more junior colleague on a work trip to New York, and despite me paying for her expenses out of my own pocket, she never once said thank you.

More fool me for sitting there waiting for some gratitude, but it really reminded me to say thanks for the opportunities I get through work.

If you are lucky enough to work in an industry with perks, someone is always paying for it. Whether it’s your company or a client, say thank you.

Same goes for opportunities you’re given in the office - don’t look at everything as a chore but try and think of some things as a chance to progress and be better at what you do.

This doesn’t mean you have to feel like a suck up, but anything from a thanks if your boss pays for pizza at lunch, to a note to a colleague to express how excited you were to be a part of something goes a long way.

Being gracious costs nothing but can give you that little sparkle that might mean the difference between going home at night and cracking open the wine to moan at your pals or partner, through to you feeling like you can give yourself a metaphorical high five.

Rachel Saywell-Burr is the founder of Talent Atelier, a headhunting company whose team of experts work to place talent across creative industries around the world.

Follow Rachel on Twitter here and Talent Atelier here.

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