Promotion potential?
May 29, 2012 7:00 AM   Subscribe

How do I figure out who is getting a promotion at work?

I work as an attorney in a state prosecutor office. I hear rumors that a budget increase is on the horizon which could create a new senior attorney position. I want that job.

The problem is that I’m not uniquely qualified for this promotion and there are several colleagues who have been at this office longer. We all have the same years of experience, but I just recently started at this office.

However, when I interviewed for my current job, I raised a concern that I would be starting over here and my boss assured me that he promotes based on performance, not seniority. I was assured that if I proved myself, I could get the higher level position if one opened up.

The only problem is that I have no accurate method of gauging how well I’m doing. I mean, I’m on friendly terms with my supervisor, co-workers, judges and defense attorneys. But so is everyone else.

I have no way of knowing how well I'm doing because there are no performance reviews in this office and the only feedback traditionally given is negative. My coworkers subscribe to the belief that “no news is good news”. I haven’t screwed anything up, but neither have they.

Is it possible to figure out how well I’m doing here? How do I go about getting my supervisor to do a performance review when they say they don’t do them? Or am I looking for the information in the wrong place?

I need to know where I stand on this promotion because I have some other job opportunities that are coming up, but none as good as what this promotion promises. At the same time, I don’t want to forgo those outside opportunities if this job is a dead end.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a practical matter, you are not talking about a promotion because there is no budget increase and there is no guarantee such a budget increase would lead to the creation of a new job. You can't consider being promoted to a job that doesn't exist.

I think it's time to reframe your perspective. If the job never materializes, are you willing to stay where you are? If the answer is no, then you should just start looking for other work now. If the answer is yes, then I'm not sure why this new vaguely possible position changes anything - you should be working just the same as if the position doesn't exist. To be honest, in this age of government financing (or lack thereof), I would put zero faith in a budget increase/new position until it actually exists. I'd actually be a bit suspicious of the position even then until someone is actually hired.

As a practical matter, if you want feedback from your supervisor, explicitly ask for it. I would phrase it as, "I am looking for more responsibility, what can I do to move forward in that direction?" You want to provide a reason and a goal for the feedback, otherwise he will just say "you're doing fine". You aren't really asking for feedback in your current position, you're asking for feedback in the position you want.
posted by saeculorum at 7:34 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you ask? "Hey, boss, I'm interested in that Senior Attorney position I keep hearing about. Do you think I have a shot at it?"
posted by Rock Steady at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2012

Or, even more direct:

"Dear boss - My goal is to be your top performer. Can we set a time to meet so that we can set some performance goals together? I know you know a great deal about this business, and I'm sure you have a lot of insight into what I should be doing to make sure my career continues to move forward."

Then, get him/her to concretely articulate what a star performer looks like. Take notes. Afterward, summarize your notes and send them back to the boss, saying "Thanks so much, based on our conversation, I've adopted these goals for the coming year. Please let me know if you would suggest any changes. Otherwise, I will keep you posted on my progress." Send progress updates every other month or so.

Last but not least, if these other job opportunities are indeed real and concrete, nothing focuses the mind of a supervisor like saying 'I'd love to stay, but I have these other offers. Help me understand where my career may go if I stay, because I really value working here.'
posted by Ausamor at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2012

Face facts, unless you are far and away the best attorney in the office, one of the more senior folks is going to be promoted.

Government isn't like private, lip service will be paid to folks, especially during job interviews, but the real facts are that seniority does matter.

If you were knocking people's socks off, you'd know.

I guess you can ask yourself, "If this position existed when I was interviewing, would I have been considered for it?" Chances are, probably not.

Continue to apply for other positions if you're not happy with where you are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:13 AM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You seem unable to articulate why you should get this promotion over anyone else. That's your answer.
posted by spaltavian at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2012

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