How to get promoted in the front of house business

I think it’s probably fair to say that some people are comfortable in their job, doing what they’re doing. They are content to trundle on through life, with little or no desire to climb the career ladder. If that’s the case, this blog is not for you!

There is another section of the workforce, however, that is ambitious and want to get on in their career – with at least a drive for more money, more responsibility or simply more of a challenge.  So, how does one get promoted in the front-of-house environment, especially in today’s uncertain times?

As a starting point, there’s really no substitute for:

  • Knowing your job
  • Knowing the business
  • Taking advantage of unexpected opportunities
  • Being in the right place at the right time


But, there are really not any short cuts; it’s going to require work…

So… how?

Taking the points above in order:

1. Learn all you can about your current role

In addition to the day-to-day operations how does it work? What figures do you and later your manager report on? How do the staff Personal Development Plan/appraisal and quality control systems work?

Look at your current role, can you think of anything simple to improve it? How is this role similar to others in the business? Where are the commonalities and where does it differ? What really makes the difference between good and exceptional? If you can identify two or three people in your team that really are great at their jobs, what do they have/do that others do not?

2. Know the business

I’m going to assume that if you’re looking to get promoted you’ve a fairly detailed knowledge of your team and what they do and more importantly how they do it (eg you’ve paid attention to Point 1). The next step is where do they fit into the operation as a whole? For an outsourcing organisation such as MITIE, it’s a case of which other contracts with outsourcers do our clients have? Where else in the country/world are they? What do they do? And, more importantly, what can we do for them? Could we offer ‘job shadowing’ or job swaps between sites?

Expand your social and professional network – join LinkedIn, read the FM trade magazines, take an interest in not only your client’s but other clients’ publications. Get yourself a mentor or colleague that you can call on!

After a while this leads to a circle of knowledge – you may not know how to do something, but you’ll know whom to ask. The same also applies in reverse. You have skills or knowledge that others can call on.

What do our competitors do? Which contracts do they have? How many sites, etc? How does their approach to the customer differ from ours?

3. Take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

This always seems to imply adversity for some reason, but needn’t always be so. Usually the biggest opportunities come out of difficult times (recession, anyone?).

My first introduction to training 10 years ago came from a Monday morning conversation in the bank I worked for, saying “we have 55 new starters and we don’t have an induction programme – what do we do?”. I then got very interested in learning styles and training techniques. I have only once or twice looked back.

4. Be in the right place at the right time

This is an intangible. You cannot plan for it, cannot work toward it, all you can do is get yourself in to the position where you’re the first person thought of when a particularly awkward job comes up. It’s one of those things that just happens. The downside of this is you also seem to get more than your fair share of the fire-fighting and problem solving as you’re the one that can deal with it.

There’s no trick to promotion (blackmail excluded), however, what you can do, with a little work, is engineer your skills to best meet those required by the company and at the same time use the company to supply any skills you feel you are lacking. As a rule of thumb, take any training offered, although I personally would probably draw the line at a 3-day residential course on ‘The History of Romanian Basket Weaving’, unless of course there was a free bar.

As I said above, there’s no short cut to getting promoted – but that’s not entirely true. The skills you learn along the way will always be of value. Take the rough with the smooth, be visible, and be willing.

Use learning opportunities where they emerge and work towards creating more wherever possible.

By Tom Robinson


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