Tips to Get Back on Top After a Demotion

Dear Office Mom,
I’m a recent college graduate and secured my dream job in Event Production after a lengthy interview process. Things were great for a couple of months. I was enthusiastic about my future and thrilled to be getting experience right after graduation. I gave up nights and weekends to learn, meet with clients, shadow and facilitate events. Out of nowhere I was pulled aside and told I was going to be sidelined because I was “too inexperienced” for the job I was hired to do and they wanted me to learn the fundamentals before having me out there on my own. I understood and appreciated their honesty. They told me 6 months. I kept the same base pay (event production gigs come with BIG bonuses - which I can’t receive if I’m not running the event). I continued to sacrifice my personal time to prove my worth. It’s coming up on 6 months and they haven’t mentioned it yet. I received nothing but positive feedback, but I am not sure how to approach this. Any ideas? Thanks, YOM.
— Alice

Dear Alice,

I’m sure this was a disappointing experience, but it sounds like you handled it with grace and professionalism. Bravo! You know your situation, the players and the dynamics, so reflect and plan your approach.  It’s crucial to get what you want.

  1. Make a list of specific examples of your new experience, positive client feedback, instances of how you saved the day, worked independently, and boss lady examples. Then, make a list of your skills gaps and how you can build experience by shadowing or working specific events. You’ll want to have this just in case your manager insists you still aren’t ready. She's likely to be surprised that the person she hired six months ago knows more than ever about themselves, the business and client expectations.
  2. Next, in an email or face-to-face mention that the six month period is coming up and ask if you can schedule a meeting to discuss your role. Period. Nothing more. Do not share your other information. Push for the meeting!  
  3. If the first request doesn’t get a response ask again. “I wanted to check in to see if we could schedule a meeting to discuss my role.” Chances are the second nudge will do the trick. If not, ask again. At this point, you may have to go over her head. If so, go for it.  If she acts like it’s no big deal at any time, and just wants to chit-chat for two minutes, stand up for yourself because her reaction indicates it's not all that important to her. So, say "I really prefer to have a scheduled meeting because this is so important to me."  You need to stay in control. Ask, "Can we schedule a meeting to discuss this?" Yes, it's redundant. But, stay strong. No one is going to give you those bonuses if you're working for free.
  4. Once the meeting is scheduled, go into it with the mindset that it’s an interview. Have prepared notes and your list for reference. Have a strong introductory statement. Thank her for taking the time to meet and express gratitude for the invaluable learning experiences over the past six months. Whether the conversation is favorable or not, be prepared with a strong closing statement. "I’m excited that you feel that I’m ready..." or, "I’m disappointed you feel that I’m still not ready. What are the next steps?"  Your list should give you plenty of solid examples to bolster the case you are ready.  If there is pushback, ask for specific details about events, skills or behaviors that need to change and a new timeline. If you only receive vague feedback say so. "I’m finding it difficult to understand how I might improve. Can you be more specific?" 

Finally, if you are still sacrificing your personal time and working for free, stop!  There’s no better way for an employer to appreciate your value than for them to realize it comes with a price tag. You don’t need to make an ultimatum. If tasks and responsibilities fall outside your duties and work hours, start saying, “I’m not available" or "I won't be able to fill in. I have other obligations."  They will figure it out. They can either step up and give you what is rightfully yours, or you can take your badass to someone else who will.

You can do this!

- YOM