What would happen if you had to apply for your own job?
In the past year I have been conscious of, and written extensively about, the pace of change in my particular field which seems to be greater than ever before. It’s hard to keep up! Every time I learn something new, I have to get to grips with something even newer. I cannot imagine I am alone in this position! I also coach people in transition in various professions and sectors and advise them always of the need to stay up dated in their fields. But what about people not looking for jobs or directly at risk in any way? Could you get your own job if you had to apply for it?
Could they successfully apply for their own jobs?
One of the cruellest spin offs of any organisational re-structuring is that sometimes employees are invited to re-apply for their own jobs. This happens frequently when they have been in post for many years and have considerable seniority and experience. But does this mean that they are necessarily the best candidate for the job as it exists now in the current environment and climate? Regrettably not always.
There are a number of counter arguments to this thesis.
Many will say it’s the responsibility of the organisation to ensure than their employees are trained and up to date in any developments in their field and are performing to the best of their abilities. To some extent this could be true.
Any switched-on company committed to employee development will do this, seeing peak employee performance and talent management as intrinsic to bottom line success. But in times of economic stringency and turbulence, when training budgets have been slashed, updating employees and keeping them up to speed may not be their top priority. This is set against a background of quite often incomplete, inadequate,and irregular performance appraisal which limits meaningful feedback from any manager to his/her reports. Essentially many employees have no real idea of how they are actually doing, or where their strengths and weaknesses lie on the ideal candidate spectrum.
Many of you will also say that it’s no way to live, or work, in a state of permanent insecurity always worrying about someone coming in to take over your job. That’s also true. But complacency isn’t a good state either. One of the things we have all learned in this current economic crisis is that there are no certainties in life. So perhaps it would be foolish to sit and wait for someone else to take responsibility for your career and ultimately your life. Many people who are moved sideways, demoted, have promotion disappointments or who get fired, very often don’t see it coming. Many of us are wedded to our tried and trusted ways of operating. Even though we might acknowledge a need to do things differently at one level (mainly intellectual), we still struggle to implement practical change. It doesn’t matter if it’s C-suite level of Fortune 500 companies or middle managers in SMEs, taking that step to honestly and brutally self appraise is never easy.
It’s also not just about the arrogance of captains of industry such as Fred “The Shred” Goodwin, or the senior executives of General Motors or Lehman Brothers who failed miserably to understand the limitations of their own performance, until of course it was too late. It’s important for us all to consciously examine our own roles in relation to the market and be aware and take care of any short fall.
So start asking yourself the following questions:
- How qualified am I for this position, not necessarily always in terms of educational certificates, but in experience?
- Is my knowledge current?
- What improvements could/should I make to may own skill set and performance to achieve better results?
- What other changes would I make ?
- What is my mission statement?
- Can my contribution be measured?
- Do I look for, process and act on constructive feedback?
- What value do I add?
- Do I know my own worth? Do my bosses, peers, and reports?
- Who could replace me?
So… would you hire …you?
Thank you for writing this post. It’s one of those posts that is very important to help people become more self-aware. These days, it seems that people are so happy to have a job that they don’t even care if they like it or not. So I understand and appreciate you writing this.
Thanks Dustin I appreciate your comment.
Dorothy – super content! Some people do settle into their job; and the next thing you know, they have one year of experience repeated 10 times instead of 10 years of new experiences. Great reminder to all to not let that happen!
Thanks Jane. Quite often it is too late when we are shocked out of complacancy. Always best to stay on top of things and picture ourselves in the position of a candidate!
Many years ago, there was significant change going on in my firm and I was placed in the position of applying for what I considered to be my own job.
You might imagine that I was a little put out about it but I did apply and was granted an interview. I did not prepare for the interview because I believed there was nothing they could ask me to which I did not have a comprehensive answer. Needless to say, this kind of hubris on my part led only to a very eye-opening and frightening outcome.
The feedback was that although I had experience in the job, as it was, there were new demands that I was ill equipped to meet. In fact, I was advised that I was not as well qualified as someone else.
Luckily for me, my boss, who had the final say, chose me for the role but warned that I had some work to do to get caught up with expectations. I remember him saying, “If I were you, I’d be going back to school about now”
So I got down from my high horse and did just that. It was a long journey but an enlightening one and allowed me to make a much greater contribution as well as receive much greater reward.
Part of my motivation was to show my boss that he had not made a mistake in choosing to have me stay.
I will always be grateful for the chance I was given to improve and add greater value.
And, I remember too, the lesson that humility is a better friend than arrogance.
Thanks for a great post!
Gwyn – thanks for openly sharing your wake up call. It illustrates my point perfectly. That must have been a challenging time , but it does sound as though the experience paid dividends in the end.
The key is to be prepared and to take nothing for granted.
You highlight a great exercise people should consider doing on an almost yearly basis, not simply to assess how much they’re keeping up with their field, but also to properly assess whether there are any areas they are overlooking that are under their care.
As much as it’s important to make sure our skill sets remain relevant and up to date, it’s also important to make sure we’re not letting issues/problems fester simply because they’ve always been there. This exercise you speak of is a great tool to help foster a fresh approach/perspective on the issues at hand, as opposed to merely maintaining an outdated status quo, a major factor for some of the corporate failings we’ve seen of late.
Thanks Tanveer for your insight. Yes I agree dealing with any problems that might be festering is really important which is why seeking feedback and acting on it is key. In a recession particularly “no news” is seen as “good news”, people keep their heads down and get on with thier jobs usually as they’ve always done. The reality is that it is lack of open and constructive feedback. Always best to make any evaluation ongoing!
If there were just one question for me it would be…
What improvements could/should I make to my own skill set and performance to achieve better results?
To engender a culture of personal and professional development across the board is what’s needed in our changing business environment. Because it’s only going to keep on changing and those who are committed to growth will be in prime position to ride the changes.
Thanks for a superb blog. Will be pointing some of my clients in its direction!
Thanks Sharon for your comment. I think the question is why individuals stop investing in their personal development and career planning – until there’s a problem. Always bemuses me !
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