Q: I’ve just recently joined a new company – just two months ago, in fact. I’m really enjoying it though I’m only learning the ropes. There are five in our section, plus the manager. The others are more experienced than me, and have a better understanding of the culture of the company, but I’ve got good feedback about the progress I’m making. Out of the blue, the manager’s vacancy has arisen: she has a got a job opportunity elsewhere that she just can’t turn down. I’m thinking about applying for her position. I know it sounds – and feels – a touch premature, but an opportunity like this might not present itself again. What do you think? (Larry, email).
A: I can’t make a full judgement without knowing more about the exact situation. And, even then, all I would be able to give you would be my own opinion, and my thinking is that this is such an unusual scenario that it would be good to get a number of opinions – and that’s what I’ve done.
Here are three replies:
- (Business owner / entrepreneur previously soared quite high in the marketing industry): “Absolutely. Why not? What’s the worst thing that can happen? If he doesn’t get the job, the company will surely admire his ambition and self-confidence. They will see him as someone who’s willing to have a go – companies today don’t want shrinking violets. If he gets the job, happy days – it sounds to me from Larry’s email that he believes he’s up to the task. From what I’m reading, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.”
- Senior accountant: “The easy advice to give is to tell Larry to apply for the job. That seems to be the right thing to do in terms of making a statement about his desire to progress within the company, and of showing belief in his ability. But that’s not the tack I’d take. I think there is a real opportunity here for Larry, but not by applying for the job. I think he should communicate to his employers that he has thought about applying for the job, but that he feels he needs to develop his general experience, and also his appreciation of how the company operates, and so has decided against it. He could make it clear that were this vacancy to arise again, he would definitely be going for it, and that he is keen to progress up the ranks. That way he will get some kudos, put him in the frame for future positions and save himself the difficulty of forcing himself to do a job that is probably coming too early for him.”
- School principal: “Desist rash youth, ere ’tis too late – Alexander Pope, Rape of the Lock. Stay your hand, Larry. It’s a long road that has no turning. I think if he goes for it now he will have a Peter Principle experience of sorts – the Peter Principle, as your readers will know, states that people can eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. I’m not saying Larry hasn’t the ability to do this: but he must first prove himself to the company, and to himself, and be sure he can rise to the challenge. Another poet comes to mind, TS Eliot – there will be time, there will be time.”
My own thoughts? I’m swayed by what the senior accountant said. Stand back for now, but get some value from the process.