Way too early for a promotion? - Advice

Been at a F500 since April, working in corporate strategy. Reporting to a director who has significant clout within the company. Director is a bit of an ahole to work for, but has been giving me an increasingly bigger leash as I've tried my hardest to follow all the advice regarding work performance on this site from Day 1.

In fact just this week, I presented a new strategy idea to first a set of directors -- had great feedback -- then just today to a few directors from some of our offices in other countries and a couple VPs. Director is hoping the VP convinces COO to invite us to a board meeting, in which I'd present to execs. A friend of mine who's an intern mentioned that people were talking about me in the lunch room and were surprised I was asked to present to VPs so early, with undercurrents of jealousy since I'm much younger than many. Anyways, I know that as long as I don't majorly f up, I'm on the right track for promotion sometime in the next 2/3 years.

However, this morning, another director contacted me and asked me to apply for an internal posting he's just posted. It's a project manager position & while he doesn't guarantee I'll get it, he told me he really wants me to apply and would love to have me on his team. There's a five year experience requirement but he told me he can use my past internships & projects & credentials (I have a technical management degree in addition to an engineering & econ degree) to make up for that.

Company rules are that your direct boss (which would be my director) must be told prior if you mean to apply to another position. Since the director who told me about the PM position doesn't wanna incur my current director's wrath, he asked me not to say he encouraged me to apply.

What do? I'm torn. PM position would be more money, a great promotion, the specific project/task I'd be hired for is interesting etc...However, I know me leaving would be a big loss to my current boss, I know I'm her "star" employee, she's starting to trust me more and more, I've only been at the company (and out of school) for around 3 months, am not guaranteed the PM job and having her as an enemy would be a bad idea. Any advice welcome

UPDATE: Turned the job down. Thanked startup director for his offer but refused.
Anyways I was presenting a new deck to boss today, I put in a lot of time on it and she was impressed. She buttered me up heavily & asked to take the lead on a couple other initiatives -- then casually told me that I'll be taking on additional responsibility by being the strategy guy assigned to start-ups. Instead of working as a project manager FOR the new start-up incubator, I'll be crafting, alongside with the incubator director, ways to integrate the start-ups into our companies, helping with valuation, endeavors to take etc etc -- this is too coincidental to be an accident imo, but I'm pumped

Comments (23)

Most Helpful
Jul 6, 2018 - 11:22am

OP, what would you like to do with your career - where would you like to be in a few years?

If you're trying to get more exposure to the startup world and you don't necessarily care whether it's at the firm or elsewhere, then this could be a good opportunity given there is a huge push on corporates innovating, and having that perspective and direct experience can be valuable (either to move to a different firm, a startup that sales to enterprises, or maybe even VC).

However... your mileage may vary with roles such as this. It depends on how serious the organization is about innovation. Is the incubator group well funded and have a budget that they have full ownership of? Or is it subject to a lot of gatekeeping at the top (either by a committee or by the head of the group). If either of those are conservative-minded, a group like this can be a real drag (because it may amount to a lot of nothing). So a big part of whether you actually do something meaningful depends on firm culture and devotion to innovation, and that comes from the top down.

Assuming that the firm IS serious about this program, do you have a sense of your likelihood of getting the role and who else is up for it? Is the person that reached out to you the main decision maker or just one of? In large organizations, you'll get a lot of politicking where some things are already "spoken for" and there's a bit of a show of internal interviews. And it sounds like once you apply, your director is made aware of the situation. She sounds like someone who is tough to impress, but also possibly one that whose respect you won over because you've worked hard and lived up to her standards. If you don't get this role, the goodwill you've won so far will most likely be strained.

If your goal is something like strategy or management consulting, or to move up the ranks in the organization, I would suggest staying in the strategy role for now. Youre very new to the firm still. With more experience and exposure to presenting to VPs/execs, you'll gain more momentum and clout in your current role - which provides you a better visual of the firm from an enterprise-wide level. These types of roles are themselves typically "incubators for talent" for people to either move up the ranks, or to become young leaders in a business line in time. If you continue to be really good, and the incubator program is growing or there's a legitimate focus on innovation, you'll have opportunities to join it again (with more experience and connections to the execs that hold the purse strings and make the decisions).

While the quick promotion may be attractive, I would take that off the table and think more about which role would better position you from a careers goals standpoint and optionality standpoint.

Jul 6, 2018 - 1:45pm

Thank you so much!
This was in-depth and informative. Yes, my ultimate career goal is to be in the C-suite (and eventually politics), but consulting is something I wouldn't mind branching out too.

For this incubator, it feels like a "trial" -- aka the company is going to see how well they do before fully taking the training wheels off. Despite his assurances, I can't shake the nagging feeling that while the director is interested in my profile, but mostly wants me to apply so he can have a wide variety of candidates. I work out at our company gym around 5:30 am each morning, and he's usually the only one there, so we've built a good rapport and I know working for him would be easy. I just can't shake that feeling.

I think your answer nails it though. I'm getting exposure to so many departments & am on first name basis with multiple VPs & management from all over the world now. I never looked at it as an "incubator for future leaders", but it makes a lot of sense.

Jul 6, 2018 - 5:42pm

Glad I can help! It sounds like you're in a good spot given your long-term goals.

If the incubator program is a "trial", it's not a good time to join. My guess is they aren't going to be given the necessary resources (both money and power of decision) to effect real innovation. You need both those things, along with executive buy-in from the top down to actually be impactful. Like I said, if your goal is startups/VC/entrepreneurial exp, then it could make some sense (provided you're a clear winner in the interview process), but it doesn't line up risk and career goals wise for you.

Also, if you can't shake the feeling the director is trying to cast a wide net of candidates, your instinct is probably right. Think about it this way - if he REALLY wanted you, he'd go to bat for you, man up, and tell your existing director he wants you on his team. But the fact that he doesn't want that to be disclose, makes me infer a few things about this guy:
(1) Your Director is more influential than he is, and he can't afford to piss her off. Probably says something about his ability to be influential in getting innovation / investment in projects in the firm
(2) He's not willing to go to bat for you before the "marriage" - that means he's not likely gonna go to bat for you in the future. - He's asking you to take ALL the risk in applying but can't even clear the path for you to get the role. This isn't someone who has your bests interests in mind.

A person can be fun to chill and shoot the shit with, but you want to work for a boss who gives you opportunities and is willing to take risks for you. I think your current boss - asking you to present to execs directly - is doing that. If she were a real asshole, she could just take your work, not bring you to meetings, and present it herself. I think she's actually looking out for you, based on your descriptions.

Jul 6, 2018 - 4:02pm

I would stay in current position. Sounds like you are on path to being a rock star there so future positions like the PM will be available their later. Plus if you really are in a strategy role than staying there for a few years can open other opportunities such as MBB/MBA/promotion etc. Plus if you interview for the PM position and dont get the role than you will have strained your relationship with your current director and be in no-mans land.

Jul 6, 2018 - 5:32pm

Do not pursue this opportunity. Build more respect in your current role and you will bolster your internal brand more now than if you jumped at the first internal job thrown your way. I don't see how this would go over well since you've only been there for three months.

If you are that good, why would you take the first bone throw your way? Keep doing what you are doing and better opportunities will come your way. If you were to take this job, assuming you even get it, it would be like saying you can't do any better when you know that you will be worth more in the future. You are selling yourself short.

Jul 10, 2018 - 11:59pm

Whatever you do, do not try to circumvent your current boss. She can get you shut down, and this role is only hypothetical. You need to start thinking company politics and not career desires.

This new boss may unintentionally screw you because it sounds like you are currently working for a chainsaw. I've seen this exact situation blow up before with a top performing employee/candidate get caught in political crossfire. If anything, this is one area where HR can actually be of help to an employee. Tell them that you love your current role, and also like the new one but you never want to go behind your boss's back.

  • 2
Jul 11, 2018 - 2:26pm

Keep your role. Nothing's guaranteed, and him not approaching your boss himself says he doesn't want you as much as you think he does. besides, aren't you only 3 months in? Don't you usually have to stay in a role for 6 months to a year before transferring? Either way, you haven't had the chance to cement your reputation (even though you're starting off well). Leaving now could put a bad perception of you out there, especially with your director who clearly has ties to higher ups.

Also, if this incubator something you're really interested in, volunteer to help out in your down time without getting too involved. (help set up/attend an event/do basic research, etc.)

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers
  • 1
Jul 12, 2018 - 8:35am
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