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I’m new and my supervisor is quitting Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I’ve been at my job for six weeks – and my supervisor just announced he’s quitting. It could take months to hire a replacement. What’s the best way to handle this?

My supervisor resigned because of family priorities, not because of any ill will toward the company. My supervisor and I are the only two members of our department and it’s a pretty important role, so I’m not worried that I will be cut.

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Until someone is hired, I report to the chief executive officer who doesn’t have much knowledge about my department’s major files.

My role is to provide research and analysis to my supervisor, who reports to senior management.

I have good, knowledgeable external contacts who are willing to assist me. I’m mostly worried about how I can move forward on my files and show some initiative.

I’m concerned that I will lack the direction I need to move forward effectively and I will look like I’m not doing anything once my supervisor leaves.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

This is an amazing opportunity for you to show your initiative. Stop worrying and step up to the plate instead. The company should inform you as to the chain of command and how you are to proceed until a new hire is made. If this doesn’t happen, take action and ask, ask, ask.

No matter what, ensure your correspondence is grammatically perfect and all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Dress and act professionally, as you may be required to sit in on management meetings or meet clients.

As for not looking like you are doing anything, I bet it will be the exact opposite. You might be required to think more strategically and be more independent.

Use your network, and don’t do work you are not qualified to do. Ask for help, assistance, guidance, ideas, and be willing to offer your perspective and insights.

Use these self-directive leadership skills to inspire your career: Initiate – don’t sit there, do something; Network – communicate and share ideas; Strategize – make improvements to department processes; Partner – expand your reach and leverage important resources; Innovate – think creatively; Recognize – share credit with other contributors; Excel – excellence breeds success, not perfection.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather MacKenzie

The Integrity Group, Vancouver

It is understandably troubling for a new hire to see his or her leader leave. However, you have the right attitude which is seeing this as a door opening rather than one closing: the vacuum created has to be filled, so why not envision yourself as the best fit for that role?

You speak, quite rightly, of establishing your value and demonstrating initiative, and there is no better way to do that than taking on the responsibility of being a one-person department. Make sure you glean as much information and guidance as you can from your outgoing supervisor.

In challenging times the best workers show their true colours. Yes, you are without the leadership you expected to have. But the fact that you now report directly to the CEO is a golden opportunity for you to impress someone in control without having the “filter” of a supervisor.

To get the CEO’s attention, map out short-term and long-term solutions for your department, focussing on the file management you are responsible for and which you say the CEO has minimal knowledge of.

Use your “good external contacts” and nurture these relationships; you may find a mentor. Impress them with your initiative and willingness to learn and your good reputation might get talked about.

All of this will help you solve the “not doing anything” problem, as well as chart a path to growing your career internally – you might even be head-hunted through your external contacts.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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