You've just heard that a coworker will be leaving, and you're interested in his job, but what's the right way to go about taking advantage of the opportunity to move up? Here are 5 tips to help navigate what could be a tricky situation:
1. Determine how long you should wait to express interest.
The "right" amount of time depends largely on your work environment. Zach Stone, COO and Co-Founder of Red Kite Project, a Philadelphia-based consulting and training organization, offers this advice, "In industries such as technology, finance, or media that highly prize competitiveness and make room for those who creatively use their ambition, it could be a necessary and expected move that improves your image if you inquire about the job opening immediately. However, asking too soon may be seen as a disregard for the way things are done "in organizations that prize hierarchy, chain of command, and 'paying dues.'" You'll also need to consider the larger timeline - if the person is leaving to handle a family emergency right before the end of a busy quarter there's probably more of an urgency than if the person is making an internal move to a role with more responsibility.
2. Decide whether you want to address the situation with the departing employee.
Consider the circumstances behind the move, the company culture, and your relationship before anything else. "If this person is leaving under negative circumstances, such as scandal or termination, then you may want to avoid aligning yourself with them. However, if this person is highly regarded within the organization and is leaving for a promotion or for other professionally acceptable reasons, then reaching out for unofficial coaching, advice, or to give common courtesy can be a very savvy move that shows a level of respect for the wisdom and experience of those who came before you," advises Stone.
3. If you are going to discuss it with your colleague, use the conversation to gather information that can help you.
"Find out what skills are necessary to succeed in the position, and, if you are at all close to the co-worker, have him/her speak to the higher-ups first and give you as a recommendation to fill the position," suggests Jeremy Levi, Director of Marketing and a key decision maker regarding promotions and raises at Central New Jersey-based CardCash.
4. Don't wing it.
Even if you're confident you deserve the position and everyone knows it, lay out your strategy to approach the boss. Stone says, "approach your boss at a neutral time when he or she seems to be in a good mood, and say, 'I understand there may be a position available in the near future, and I am very excited about opportunities to grow within our organization. I would really appreciate your advice on how to do that, and if you think applying for this position would be a good next step.'" And be prepared to present your case. "Make sure to come armed with a list of actual accomplishments - not just talents, skills, or abilities," adds Levi.
5. Hope for the best, prepare to be disappointed.
In addition to being ready to interview for the job, you'll also want to be ready to negotiate salary, benefits, and specific job duties - just as you would if applying for an external job. Be prepared to take some constructive criticism - this can be a great opportunity to make sure your vision for the job is in line with company objectives or a chance to find out what you should be doing differently. If you don't get offered the position, ask to sit down and discuss your performance again in six months so that you'll the leading contender next time there's an opening.
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