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tl;dr
I was offered an award nomination. I think I could do much better if I was to enter the awards next year instead, but I’m concerned turning down an award would be a career limiting move. What factors should I take into account?

Details
I am part of a minority group in my field. Today I received an email saying that I have been nominated to enter the field for an award in the Exceptional Young (Minority Group) in (Local Area) (Field) Awards. The email is from our General Manager and it asks me to please consider accepting the nomination.

As a graduate who has barely finished my first year out, I can see that I only meet 1 of the selection criteria. This isn’t humility; graduates in my area need further training in the workforce before they can offer tangible benefits to the company, so I just haven’t done much yet. By the end of my second year I am fairly certain I will be able to address 3 criteria well and the others satisfactorily. Problem is, I can’t enter twice and I currently have no evidence that I would be able to better address the criteria next year. I am aware that I have no guarantee of being nominated again if I turn this down and I am willing to accept that risk, although I would like to minimise it if possible.

Another factor is that I am being considered for a position as a full-time employee. My contract runs out at the end of this year, but my manager’s manager is considering putting me on earlier than that. However, that would require the General Manager’s approval.

I am also suspicious that part of the reason for my nomination is that I am one of a very few members of my minority group in my workplace and I know that the company wants to be seen in the wider community as both being supportive and having high quality employees, so possibly they just chose me on that basis because ‘Thursday hasn’t been nominated yet’. Personal opinions on this aside, it may be that there are no other members of my minority group who the company can enter into the award this year.

My questions are:

  • What things should I take into consideration when deciding whether to turn down the award? Is there a precedent for this sort of thing?
  • What should I consider when phrasing my rejection?
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    Could the downvoter please comment so I can improve the question or know why it’s inappropriate? – Thursday Mar 14 '18 at 3:29
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    Assigning awards for political reasons is quite common. Aside from not feeling deserving, do you have any reason not to accept? What is the down side? – AffableAmbler Mar 14 '18 at 3:35
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    @AffableAmbler It’s not an award, it’s a nomination by my company. I still have to fill out an application and go against the other entrants, and the final award is given by an external panel, not by the company. Is nomination the wrong word? – Thursday Mar 14 '18 at 3:43
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    I can only be nominated once, and I don’t think I have a chance of winning. The field historically has very strong candidates. I feel like I’d be embarrassed, and my only chance will be wasted. – Thursday Mar 14 '18 at 3:54
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    "I can only be nominated once, and I don’t think I have a chance of winning. The field historically has very strong candidates. I feel like I’d be embarrassed, and my only chance will be wasted" - have you discussed that with management? they want you to win just as much as you do. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Mar 14 '18 at 7:07
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Accept the nomination, as there is no way for you to know whether you would ever be nominated again.

The upside to accepting is that you at the very least on your resumé can claim to have been nominated for XXX in your first year out of school.

The downside to declining could be risking to be percieved as an oddball, an over-thinker, ungrateful and so on.

On a simplistic upside-downside scale, it seems the downside is potentially more harmful than the upside is beneficial.

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Talk to your boss and explain your concerns about not having done enough yet to earn it, and that Next Year might be better. Even mention tokenism, if you're worried about it. But also make sure he/she understands that you'll accept their guidance.

If he/she still thinks you should accept the nomination, then accept it with grace, acknowledging that this is one of the downsides of being a rare minority in the field.

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I recommend against accepting the nomination.

Tell them nominator via email that, while you appreciate their recognition, due to the fact that you can only be nominated once and that you only meet one criteria at this point in time, you would prefer to hold out hope that you might be nominated at a point where you are more likely to also win the award.

This will both increase your chances of winning should you be nominated again, and provide your firm with slightly more reason to offer you a position that will extend into next year. I think it will demonstrate to your manager more patience and maturity on your part. Lastly, if you're concerned that part of their reason for nominating you is too improve their own image, make them earn it a little more by keeping you in the company.

  • This answer is truth only if the nomination wasn't political. If it is a political nomination, this is likely that they won't nominate the same person twice. – Walfrat Mar 15 '18 at 12:21

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