I started working for a regional government, my first job, in 2009. I fit in, outperformed the only co-worker who was anywhere near my skill level, and was able to deal with a bear of a manager who saw me as the guy to take over when he retired, which was always “going to happen next year.”
I left two years ago when I got the opportunity to work at another public-sector agency for better pay, the promise of better advancement opportunities, and a chance to work with someone I admired. But I’ve hated it since the first day. I don’t get the culture, it’s an unstructured environment, and the person I was excited to work with is a bit of a bulldozer.
Now my former manager is finally retiring and the person in line for the job is the co-worker I easily out-paced. I sent a letter of interest a while ago and was told I’d be “kept in mind.” Now the job search is heating up and I don’t know how I can finagle my way back in. This is my dream job. I’d be moving up in my career and I’d have the authority to run something that makes sense to me in an ideal work environment. How can I convince them I’m right for this job?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto
You took a risk, you learned, you grew, you added some arrows to your quiver, you made some self discoveries, you ascertained what work environments work for you and which ones don’t and you learned more about workplace personalities. And now it is time to move on, again. Apply for the job in your old department. They say you can never go back, but this is moving forward.
Start networking immediately. Talk to the exiting manager and get his take on exactly what his job entails so you can speak to these points in your cover letter. Ascertain if the culture is still one that appeals to you.
Connect with the person who told you you would be “kept in mind.” Find out what skills and experience is really needed for the position. Do you have the management and leadership experience required to be a success and, if not, what can you do to get those skills or what transferable skills might you have?
I believe people should try to bring a new skill, bit of experience or knowledge to each new job they start. If you had stayed with the regional government job you wouldn’t be as well-rounded as you are now after two years in a different workplace. Your experience is now more diversified, you might feel more worldly, not cocky, and better equipped to handle the added pressures and responsibilities this management position would demand. Be sure to talk about what you will bring to the table, and what benefits the department will derive if you are hired.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Human resources executive, Atlanta
As I understand it, you had a job you loved, but spent much of your time focused on a “next job.” Your career was dependent on the potential actions and timeline of someone else. When that “next job” did not open up, you decided to move elsewhere on the promise of someone else’s actions and timeline. Now you are unhappy and considering a move, once again, factoring in the actions and timelines of others. Before you do anything, there are two lessons here.
First, don’t let other people drive if they aren’t sure when or where they are going. That will surely get in the way of being where you want to be. Don’t base your career on other people’s decisions and actions. Take action based on what you want to do, not what others want to do.
And second, doing what you love with people you like is a strong driver of career happiness. Take time to enjoy the ride, learn about the towns you pass through, the roads you travel and those you meet along the way. Don’t get overwhelmed by tracking the time of arrival. Navigate your career with a compass, not a clock.
You want this job? Go get it! You have relationship with the hiring manager? Talk to him or her directly. Explain that you want the job, why you want it and how you can contribute and add value. Once you get it, enjoy what you have. Focus on helping your employer build better solutions and help others navigate their career journeys, sharing the benefit of your experience.
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