Advancing a career without going into management?
April 9, 2018 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been asked, “Where do you want to go in this organization?” Being in management is my personal (and lived) vision of hell. How do I spin my idea of going deeper rather than up?

My boss is, based on his character, expecting me to come in with a plan that has me in his position at some point. He’s expressed that I come across as too humble. I’ve had the tremendous good fortune to find a job I enjoy and can do well. Moving up the ladder into management takes a different set of tools I neither have nor can cultivate (not up for debate).

My work involves assisting outside customers with running their organizations and helping them comply with requirements (intentionally vague). I’d like to go deeper into improving their technical capacity. It’s part of our mission and we have funding. Based on previous efforts I know these efforts have a chance of benefiting a much greater group, internally and externally. Developing this kind of thing puts me in the territory of the coworker who currently runs the training program on a logistical level. I’m interested in content and methods.

Taking this into consideration, how do I frame this in a positive way that consistently avoids having to say DEAR GOD DON’T MAKE ME A SUPERVISOR? Also, how can I keep it from sounding like I want this other person’s job?
posted by mrcrow to Work & Money (6 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It sounds like you know what you actually want to do, which is great. I would put some more work into fleshing out your vision, and come to your boss with that. Don't frame it in terms of what you don't want (your boss's job) but in terms like (paraphrasing) "hey, boss, I really appreciate your faith in me and your mentorship. I am interested in taking on more responsibility, and this is where I see a need." Engage your boss in developing this idea, and have them take on ownership of it with you, so that it's not like you throwing their mentorship in their face and rejecting them, but them helping you grow in a way that will help your company and keep you around and excited to be there.
posted by lunasol at 3:49 PM on April 9, 2018

Best answer: By the way, before I left my last job, I helped one of the people I managed do this. She had a vague idea of what she wanted to do but it was having trouble articulating it, so I had her write up a job description and the beginnings of a project proposal. The materials you'd use to illustrate your vision may vary depending on the kind of org it is, but I think starting with some sort of job description and proposal (including budget) is good. But don't get too far without bringing your boss in. They can be a great ally if they feel ownership of the proposal.
posted by lunasol at 3:52 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Concur with the idea to write up a job description. I might also suggest you write it up as a job advertisement, with the particular mix of experience and skills you [would want an applicant to] have, and where you [would want that applicant to be able to say they] will take your employer's work farther and deeper than if the technical realm is abandoned for management instead.

(I totally feel your pain; the career track at my own employer for those who want to focus on depth of expertise and not merely slide into management is still largely notional.)
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:08 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In customer support roles that sound vaguely similar to your vague descriptions, I've heard things like Senior Technical Consultant or Senior Sales Engineer.
posted by clawsoon at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2018

Best answer: From a tech perspective, which may or may not be directly relevant, but this is an interesting blog on the subject of how management is not a promotion, it's a sideways step into a different track. "Individual Contributor" is a keyword you might want to explore. Here's some more on that.
posted by corvine at 3:41 AM on April 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: All of these answers are extremely helpful, thank you.

corvine, those are words I need: management is not a promotion!

I’m marking this as resolved but I’ll come back with an update after the meeting.
posted by mrcrow at 6:36 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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