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I work in a very small digital products department as part of a larger organization. The department was formed two years ago. I have been at the organization for seven years and joined as a Product Manager from another department. My current boss was recruited into the organization as Senior Product Manager. She reports to the Head of Product, who currently also leads another department.

The exec team has decided to give the department a dedicated Head of Product. The current head will from now on just focus on her other department. The obvious candidate for the new Head of Product role is the Senior PM. But they can't just promote her; for technical reasons they have to advertise it, interview the candidates and then give it to her.

I have a good relationship with my boss and think she is definitely the right person for the job. However, I wonder if I should apply for the role.

The reasons not to are: I want my boss to take the role, not me, as she is much more qualified and would do it well; and the recruitment process is just a technicality, and it could be seen as time-wasting to apply for something that everyone, including myself, knows I won't get.

But the reasons to apply are: I'd get an opportunity to speak with senior figures in my organization; I could present myself as someone who is serious about this role and who is ambitious; and I'd get more practice at interviewing.

Would it be time-wasting to apply? Or is it an opportunity to increase my profile in the organization?

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    Will there be an opportunity to apply for the vacated Senior Produce Manager role? – P. Hopkinson Mar 8 at 11:46
  • Not sure. There aren't many other senior-type levels in other departments; it was introduced as a one-off when they recruited my boss. I think they might want to flatten the structure and get rid of the senior level. But my boss has spoken about wanting to ensure I get a promotion. – RB436 Mar 8 at 12:01
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    If you do want to climb up the ladder there's no point in being at a place where there are no opportunities for such. You can speak to people to find out if opportunities will be created at your department, if not prepare to change department or company, that will give you all practice you do want – jean Mar 8 at 12:37
  • Work with your boss and schedule skip-level meetings with more senior leaders in your organization. An interview is NOT the best way to meet senior leaders. – jcmack Mar 8 at 22:03
  • I once accepted a job that I was not the most qualified for. It was a terrible mistake as everyone went to the real authority (the person with the real knowledge) instead of me. Do not apply. Talk to this person and see how you can gain more access to the bigger thinkers. – Tony Ennis Mar 8 at 22:28
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Would it be time-wasting to apply?

Yes - you say yourself you don't want the role and want your boss to have it.

Or is it an opportunity to increase my profile in the organization?

Yes, but not in a good way - either you make it clear that you never wanted the position anyway (in which case you'll rightfully be seen as a timewaster) or you'll look like you tried to compete for the role with your boss (who will still be your boss after they get promoted) and that might strain the relationship slightly.

Worse still what if you actually get the role? are you planning on turning it down (and you're back to being a timewaster) or are you going to commit to the lie and take it - in which case are you honestly going to be truly effective and happy in a role you never wanted in the first place?

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    Also, in this case, it may vacate your boss' position. They may need someone to fill those shoes, and as a segue to management is a much better step with much less rocking of the boat. – Anoplexian Mar 8 at 15:07
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    and that might strain the relationship slightly -> much more than slightly – Ant Mar 8 at 21:36
  • A lot depends on the situation. A manager role opened in my department. Both myself and a manager from another department applied. He got it and immediately my team was folded under him. He knows I interviewed. And our working relationship has been great for 4+ years. So a lot depends on the manager and you, your relationship, and how you handle the initial days after the annoucement – psubsee2003 Mar 9 at 20:29
  • @psubsee2003 But that was "a manager from another department", not your then boss. – Angew Mar 9 at 20:59
  • @Angew true, there is a difference, but there are a lot of parallels - for the OP's current boss "a subordinate applied for my new job", should I hold it against them or not – psubsee2003 Mar 9 at 21:05
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But the reasons to apply are: I'd get an opportunity to speak with senior figures in my organization; I could present myself as someone who is serious about this role and who is ambitious; and I'd get more practice at interviewing.

The opportunity is still there.

Go to your boss and say: "I'm not going to apply for obvious reasons, but I would love to know what would be involved, and what it would take for the time when the opportunity arises again."

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Would it be time-wasting to apply?

Yes.

3 simple reasons since you're applying within the company rather than outside.

You don't want the job and are extremely unlikely to get it.

Missing it makes you a failure which is never a good look. These people barely know you, the only thing that will stick in their mind is that you failed.

Your boss may take it badly that you competed against them.

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Would it be time-wasting to apply?

This one is very hard to answer. It all depends on whether or not management is serious about looking at other candidates or are they just going through the motions to satisfy some HR or other requirements (legal too).

Or is it an opportunity to increase my profile in the organization?

If management is serious about talking to others, you then need to really ask your self -- do I want the position -- like for real?

If you do indeed decide to proceed, you have now announced that you are interested in expanding your role withing the company. This can be good and bad in that if there is no other realistic upward mobility for some time, you could then be seen as a employee who is at risk of moving on ( there is no upward mobility here, so if I want to move up I have to move on ).

It can also have a negative impact, should you apply, on your relationship with your current boss as they will now in some way see you as competition.

Wanting to be ambitious and move up is natural as part of your career progression. My advise to you is if you go for it, go whole heatedly and if this opportunity doesn't work out -- consider opportunities for growth elsewhere.

  • The first point is very interesting but then not really expanded on. If management really is just "going through the motions" then it may be to their advantage as well as OP's to have another person on the list of who they looked at. OP could approach boss and say something like "I know you are the best candidate, but if management needs bodies to interview, I'd be interested in doing it purely for practice." – Dragonel Mar 8 at 18:05
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I would recommend if you wish to apply for the position then apply for the position. There are a few caveats you should acknowledge before applying such as:

  • Speak to your current boss to say you wish to apply for the position and give them reasons why you wish to apply for the position
  • Discuss with your manager your own personal goals (as you should periodically anyway)

At the end of the day, applying for roles is great for practising your interview skills, gaining further confidence in yourself, get known by upper management which all will help in your future career. Even if you know you're going to not get the position, you might be surprised or given the opportunity for another position within the company (such as the vacated Senior Produce Manager role).

I was asked to apply for a job before by my own manager to "gain interview skills" and ended up getting the job, moving teams and getting a salary increase. I went into the interview not necessarily wanting to take the job, but find out more about the team, the interview process and my own weaknesses and decided it would be a great fit for me.

Best of luck.

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    I don't see this going well. Imagine the conversation with the boss: "Hey boss, I know you're a shoe-in for this role, but I'm going to apply for it also, even though I don't actually want it, and I think you're the right person for the job." If one of my employees said that to me, I'd think they'd been hit in the head or something. – dwizum Mar 8 at 13:41

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