Friday, November 21, 2008

Career tips from the Massachusetts State Police

I have noticed something interesting on my ridiculously long commute lately- there are Massachusetts State Police on the roadsides performing traffic enforcement regularly, especially in high-traffic (and thus high-visibility) areas.  In case you aren't familiar with Massachusetts roadways, State Police on traffic duty are not a common sight except on certain roads and at certain times.  Why now?  You don't have to be a cynic to think the looming state budget cuts might be forcing the State Police into more visible duties to justify their positions- it is just a logical conclusion.

I am not suggesting that the State Police have been sitting around doing nothing.. Given the condition of state and local budgets, the State Police have plenty to do- it just isn't all as visible as traffic enforcement tasks.  Nor am I suggesting the officers in the cars make the deployment decisions- those are management decisions, and management must feel it is time to make a display.  [Of course, the bizarre Massachusetts practice of requiring police to secure construction sites is sadly the highest-profile work police agencies in Massachusetts have- but that is a no-win rant and not directly relevant to this post.]

If you think about it one way, the better job law enforcement does, the less visible they are.  Sure, you see them around, but there isn't much drama- and if something bad does happen, they swoop in and get things under control quickly.  Hey, wait, that sounds a lot like a well-run IT or security department.  Does that mean IT and security could be targeted for cutbacks because of our frequent low profile?  Yes, it does.

If you have to "look busy' when cutbacks are looming, it is too late.  You need to regularly make your contributions known to management, not just at crunch time.  Don't overdo it or play the martyr, but make sure people know the contributions you make, especially when you step up to added work or accomplish something noteworthy.