Is this career advice helpful or harmful?

May 17 2017 Published by under advice, industry, life in the office, mentoring, new job

As most of you know, I like my current job but am also looking to climb the career ladder within the company that I work for. Recently, a really exciting position opened up and I have expressed my interest in that position to a couple of people. The person who would be my manager in that new position even revealed that I was on her list of people that she thought about to fill this position and she gave me advice on how to tailor my resume to apply for this position (it will be advertised internally and externally). However, the person above her has indicated that they are looking for a profile that I don't entirely fit.
I have also talked to my manager about it and he basically told me that yes, I should apply to show my interest, but also that he thought I was too junior for this position. He told me that he was afraid that if I would get the position, I would fail. On the one hand I agree with him that it is a big step up, because it is a complex job with many interactions with different people inside and outside of the company plus managing a small team and a budget. I don't do many of these things currently, so perhaps my manager is right. Or is he just trying to make me not feel too disappointed when I apply and don't get this position? But mostly, I feel a bit demotivated by his comments and I continuously wonder if they are actually helpful or harmful?Β And would my manager say the same things to a man...?

13 responses so far

  • Doctor_PMS says:

    I hear you! I recently heard similar comments about a position I want to apply (that I was too junior for the position). I also felt a bit demotivated by hearing it, and agree that it can be a challenging position.
    Looking back, I was also told I probably shouldn't accept the position I'm currently in, because I have no chemistry background and not knowing how to answer specific chemistry questions could be frustrating. But it turned I'm part of a team, and I think I'm doing okay!
    I believe that career advice can be helpful or harmful, depending on how you take it. It is good to know the difficulties and be aware of your limitations. But don't let this stop you!

  • Veronika says:

    For me it has been the other way round - I thought something might be too unreachable but when I expressed interest in applying I actually got positive comments - from more senior colleagues / mentors. On the other hand some peers expressed similar doubt as me - that maybe I'm not qualified enough.

    In the end I'm glad I talked to a lot of different people, including people that had no interest in me getting or not getting a particular position and could probably be more honest about it. So I would say all advice is helpful, but you shouldn't put too much weight on each particular piece of it.

  • potnia theron says:

    Take the comments, look at them, and decide for yourself. Other people do not you and your skills as well as you do.

    Separate yourself, as much as possible, from the emotions around these comments. Sometimes the criticism is useful and on point, and we are too busy being hurt to see the grain of truth in them.

    For this instance: the job may be a stretch. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't apply for it. Even just the act of applying, and interviewing, is a useful experience at a new place.

  • babyattachmode says:

    Thanks for your helpful comments, everyone! Sometimes I feel other people have a better view of my capabilities than I do myself, but maybe I need to revisit that idea πŸ˜‰

  • xykademiqz says:

    It seems that the job is a bit of a reach, which is certainly not a bad thing in and of itself. Why try something new if it's not a challenge?

    However, there's research showing that a woman seems to have to be perfectly qualified in the here and now to be encouraged to apply, while a man is considered proactive and bold for reaching. People always seem to expect women to fail and only when the woman is obviously overqualified are they willing to recognize her as worthy; in contrast, for a guy, "flying by the seat of his pants" is perfectly acceptable.

    Maybe you are too junior. But your manager is obviously not your champion, whatever his reasons, as you feel like crap now. Maybe he wants that job instead of you? Maybe he doesn't want to lose you as part of his team? Maybe he really thinks you will fail because he's biased like most people and doesn't believe in you? He might even think his heart is in the right place and that he's giving you objective advice. But FWIW, IME, the supposedly enlightened educated men from Western Europe in my field show remarkably blatant implicit bias against women, and they completely reject anyone implying that bias is playing a role. ("That's preposterous! I only see merit.")

    • babyattachmode says:

      Thanks for your comment. I keep wondering how it's possible to know if it's bias against women (blonde, young looking women with small kids to be precise) or real concern for my best interest...?

      • xykademiqz says:

        That's why bias is so insidious. As a woman, I feel like I am constantly being gaslighted in the professional sphere, because so much negativity is communicated as feedback on merit, but really, upon close scrutiny, much of it reveals mostly bias by those who provided the feedback.

        What I do is try to get statistics (ask many people on their input on the same thing, see where they all agree, and discard the rest) and weigh heavily the input of those people who I know from past experience really have my best interest in mind (my husband, certain collaborators and colleagues, former PhD advisor). Your current manager, for instance, would not get oversize weight here, because he doesn't necessarily have a track record of having your back. My husband is always a good, dispassionate sounding board when I have doubts about my abilities.

        Another route is do like so many guys do: assume that whatever you want to do is the right thing to do by virtue of you wanting to do it, then proceed and do it. Seriously, I envy guys on their confidence.

        Good luck!

  • becca says:

    Donald Trump is president.
    On the minus side, the world may very well implode in a nuclear holocaust over a stupid tweet and a petulant fool leading the free world.
    On the plus side, we all have permission to see ourselves as qualified for any job. Even me and NBA star πŸ˜‰

  • David says:

    A good friend of mine was in the same situation. His boss suggested he apply, knowing he was very unlikely to be selected, to get visibility with the higher ups and to demonstrate to them that my friend wanted to move up. The boss also suggested two things: 1) address your shortcomings directly - let them know you are aware and tell them how you plan to address the lack of experience and what you bring to the table to offset it, and 2) start a plan for gaining those skills for the next opportunity (or this one if you get selected).

    Also, I agree with potnia; make these comments helpful (regardless of the intent, which could be either) by pulling out the useful bits and discarding the hurtful parts.

  • PhDPower says:

    Good comments above already. I would say: if you think this position is exciting, then go for it!

    You wrote "He told me that he was afraid that if I would get the position, I would fail." Isn't it the responsibility of the selectie committee to ensure the successful candidate is suitable? They can opt for [experience] or [potential + available guidance]. I believe that if they have confidence in you and give you the job, then all you have to do give it your best (without overworking yourself). They too have a responsibility: to provide you what you need to make this a success.

    I agree with Xyka, women tend to be unsure whether they are qualified as long as they have not acquired proof/experience previously. Whereas men tend to just go for the challenge they like and allowing themselves the opportunity to prove themselves on the job.

    Go go inbabyattachmode!

  • Savvy says:

    I think you should apply for the position. Even if you don't get the promotion, you are expressing interest which can help next time. It really comes down to how strong your skills are in relationship to your competition.
    There are several young men in my company who have recently been promoted or have expressed interest in being promoted. Managers looking to retire in a couple of years are taking them under their wing to help get them where they need to be. There main problems with the young men are a lack of maturity (turning the heat down to 65 when all the women are freezing; renting too expensive of a vehicle or eating at a too expensive restaurant when on an expense account, not seeing the big picture when making decisions.)
    The sad thing is they passed over an experienced seasoned woman to promote these men because she lacks assertiveness.

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