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Ask Brian – Just Took A Job That Is Below Me. Now What? When Do I Try To Move Up?

March 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

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Reader Cee has a question very in tune with our times.

I landed a job after a lengthy search in Feb. Having been a high flyer and self employed for 15 years I needed a change, but it was very difficult finding employment in this climate. So, although I found a menial job I value it enormously. Trouble is, its the wrong job in the RIGHT company. I took a sales role, absolute last resort, I hate working shop floor, but as I said I was getting desperate. I see a lot of potential for career progress with this company, they encourage it — offering funded study and vocational in house training. Basically, I would love to work within an office role with more creative responsibility – anything to get me off the shop floor. I’m currently demonstrating enthusiasm and passion for the job. Without sounding arrogant, I know I have a ton to offer, and this sales role is not for me (bores me to death), I undersold myself to get it. Oh The irony. Now I need to make them see all the assets I kept quiet about. How?

My question is — how do I play it from now on, they are recruiting for a couple of creative positions now, but I am only half way through my initial three month probationary period :) . Is it too soon to start asking for a role transfer?! I want them to see an ambitious creative individual invested in company progress, not a flaky dissatisfied person who is an inconvenience, since they did just hire me, and would have to rehire to fill my slot. I feel its an ambiguous step and I want to be sure before I leap.

Brian answers after the jump…

Brian Sayz:

I’ve got your dilemma. You don’t want to seem too eager. You want to play this right. You just jumped into their pond. You don’t want to make waves if it makes you seem too ambitious too soon.

I have no math or science to back this up, but my gut advice is to tell you to wait for another couple of months at least. As you made quite clear, you were getting desperate, and you’re happy to have anything in this job market. So count your blessings on that front at least. Now is not the time to jeopardize the bird you are fortunate enough have in hand.

But I also say wait for another reason. You should get more of the lay of the land first. Spend your time now doing your best to ingratiate yourself to your fellow employees and the company on the whole. You already mention demonstrating enthusiasm and whatnot… also spend some energy making people LIKE YOU. So that when you do make your move, you don’t seem like an arriviste or carpetbagger. You want people to want you to move up. This means your co-workers and your boss.

But also, you should take the time to do more intelligence gathering. You’ve only been at this company a little while. You’ve already identified that it’s the right company for you (just not the right job as of yet). But have you identified what would make you the right fit for the company? What is their current situation? What do they need right now? What problems can you solve?

Because (and it sounds like you know this instinctively) you don’t want to just go to them and say, “I’m better than this job I’m doing right now. Let me do job X instead.” While probably true, that’s not what you want to do. What you want to do is go to them with a pitch. You want to say to them, “You know, I think you should let me do job X, because I can do A, B and C for you. I’ve identified that I you need this done, and I am the man to do it because… I don’t know if you know this… but I have the following qualifications and experiences. I’m not just a salesman. And I expect I can deliver the following results.”

In other words, you’re looking for an opportunity. You don’t tell them to bump you up just because of divine right. And you can’t wait around for them to notice that you have other qualifications. But you should wait for an angle to play that allows you to go to them and point out that there’s a good reason they should let you do more than just sit on the shop floor.

So take more time. It’s not just the politics and the timing you want to get right… you also want to be able to make the right pitch. I don’t know if you play poker or not. But if you do, you’ll know that there are times when… even if you have great cards… it’s not the right time to play them. WHEN AND HOW to play your hand is just as important as the hand you hold.

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Tags: Ask Brian · Getting Ahead

  • cee

    This sounds like the exact right advice.

    funnily enough I do have a pitch, there’s an area where they dont have a ‘leader’, just lots of bad ideas and no one taking control. Its an issue for them, but I think they don’t know the answer as its not a functional role to recruit, so to speak.
    I have the know how – just concerned I may hit a beehive in blind again, observing is perhaps safer at this stage.

    Instinctively I am inclined to agree – and wait – it’s a delicate line as you say. I really, cannot afford to blow my current employment. So I guess I’ll be building my ‘super employee’ halo, knuckling down and making people like me :)…

    thankyou, I really appreciate your feedback..I’ll drop you a line, if and when there’s any progress, and how it comes about. You never know this may help some other people out there in the same boat, I hope so!


  • Brian

    That would be fantastic. Good news stories are hard to come by these days!