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I have been performing well in my current role close to a year. There are a few new positions that my employer is looking to fill. My boss keeps hinting about one of these positions to me. It makes sense for me to pursue this opportunity but why is my boss not being direct/approaching me for it? The only reason that I can think of is that he may think that I am not ready yet. Any thoughts appreciated.

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If he is hinting at them he may hope you apply for them, but wishes the initiative to come from you.

There are many reasons for doing so:

  • Maybe he had bad experiences in the past when someone felt "pushed" into a new role.
  • He may generally value initiative as a key skill for the new position.

  • He may want to be kept out of any blame if you are not happy with the new position.

  • Maybe he is not the only one deciding this, so it could make a better impression if you send your application and then he recommends you.

  • There might be formal promotion procedure where you have to apply your self and you boss has no say in the matter this is common in large companies

If he would think you are not ready, he would not hint about them.

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    Or, if the boss pushes OP specifically for that position, and OP gets it, then others who wanted the job may view the more direct encouragement as an indication that the evaluation and selection process was a sham-proceeding for a pre-determined outcome. – PoloHoleSet Sep 26 '17 at 16:07
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Best to just ask the boss and show some enthusiasm.

'The position sounds great boss, when will it be available, and do you think it's worth me applying for it?' or something along those lines.

Hints don't mean much and can be totally misunderstood, saves time and everything else just being direct.

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If you feel you are appropriate for the role apply for it, just like any other applicant. If your boss doesn't have full control of the hiring process they may not want to build your hopes up by openly suggesting that you'd be a good fit.

As an anecdote about this, last year I was told by two levels of management above me that a role was being created with me in mind. I viewed the hiring process as a formality. During the window between that idea being conveyed to me and the role being created there was a management shake up, my manager left the organization and other managers influenced the shape of that role away from my qualifications. In the end, I was not chosen for a role that my boss's boss told me was being created for me. I was crushed. At that point I started applying for other jobs several times per week. I ended up in a situation where I needed to relearn a desire to do my job or I find something else, I really didn't care what happened first. I eventually considered it a lesson learned and let go of my anger on the matter but my organization nearly lost an employee that has consistently been recognized for going above and beyond.

A good manager should not build false hope because that can hurt motivation much more in the long run.

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