Is it wrong for me to apply for this job?
June 28, 2018 9:17 AM   Subscribe

A new job came up at work but my colleague wants it more than me like it's his life passion. Is it backstabby to apply for it too?


A rare job opportunity came up at work in the Marketing Department a few weeks back and I briefly thought "hmm, I might go for that" but I never mentioned my interest to anyone and never actively pursued it (one of the reasons being that I felt underqualified). My colleague who sits next to me mentioned the job to me last week and said he really wants to go for it and that it's exactly what he wants to do with his life. I looked at the advert again and realised what a good idea it would be. I mentioned that I'd seen it before and that I might apply for it. Then I told him I felt bad about it as he seemed so enthusiastic about it and I'm not that crazy about events but I am interested in marketing. I don't know why I told him that because I am interested in events. I think I've just been trying to talk myself out of applying for this job because I'm not head over heels for it but I am excited about it. I feel that I'm trampling all over his dreams. If I apply it doesn't mean I'll get it. They may decide that he's the best person for the job but still... it feels wrong.

To clarify, I am interested in the job, I want to get out of the job I'm in, it's better money and it sounds very interesting. Should I back off? I want to remain in this company so I can't look for an outside alternative.
posted by ihaveyourfoot to Work & Money (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
YES you should apply for it, absolutely no question.

I'm gathering from your mefi profile that you're a woman? Don't let your assumptions about some boy's feelings hold you back from excelling at work and in your career. I guarantee you this is not an emotional stumbling block that (most) men ever consider.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 9:23 AM on June 28, 2018 [63 favorites]

I don't think you should deny an opportunity because someone else "wants it more". What if he is not a good fit? What if you are? You deserve the same consideration as he does. The interviewers will make their best judgment, it's up to them, not you or your coworker.

You are not trampling on anything. Do you think no other people will apply for it unless it's their life goal?

I very much understand why you'd think this and ask this question, btw. I have suffered from anxiety, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, feeling unqualified to apply for a job, etc. I've worried about taking opportunities from other people that I'm not qualified for. You lose nothing by applying. Good luck!

Answer: APPLY NOW.

Anecdote as well: I'm 5 months into a job as a PR/copywriter. I went to school for writing, have done it professionally long ago but did not think I was qualified for the job. They disagreed and I honestly feel like I'm rocking it now. They had my freelance work and saw potential that I was unsure of. I'm really happy I applied when I DID NOT think I should/would be embarrassed.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2018 [16 favorites]

I would absolutely apply for it. You will both go through whatever process your company has and the best fit for the job will win. Don't hold yourself back from career growth.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you think you might want the job, apply for the job.

You want to remain in this company, so it would be worthwhile to make people aware that you're interested in other positions, and to do what you can to ensure the best candidate is selected for the Marketing job.
posted by box at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Apply! It’s nice that you care about your coworkers feelings but it’s not the only marketing job in the world and by not applying you’re harming your company by not allowing them to pick the best person for the job. I’ve felt like this about decisions in my career more than once and while it’s easier said than done you have to apply because you have to create opportunities for yourself and not hold back even if your anxious. Your thoughts about your coworker, while considerate, read to me as displaced anxiety about your own skills.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not to threadsit but yes I am a woman. I just feel like i'm stabbing him in the back because I wasn't vocal about it before he was. This is the thing he seems to want most in the world whereas I am just curious about it but still very interested.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2018

There's no dibs rule in place for job postings.

You can apply in good conscience.
posted by mochapickle at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2018 [32 favorites]

Apply! What's the worst that can happen?

You can always say no if they offer it to you.

But for heaven's sake, don't say no just to preserve your colleague's feelings. Say no if you realize the job isn't right for you.
posted by cleverevans at 9:36 AM on June 28, 2018 [9 favorites]

Yeah you don't need to vocalize everything you want to everyone all the time in order to pursue what you want.
posted by greta simone at 9:41 AM on June 28, 2018 [22 favorites]

Honestly, I would pass this one up. It sounds really important to your coworker. There are a lot of other opportunities out there.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Apply! It's nice that you have some feelings of camaraderie for the guy, but you are also responsible to yourself and your career, now and in the future.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not to threadsit but yes I am a woman.

I feel comfortable saying that it's extremely unlikely this man, or any man, would ever give you this same consideration. Apply for the job and never apologize for doing so. If he's so passionate about it, he can express that in any future interview and they can take that into account when making their hiring decisions. He has to be responsible for creating his own opportunities.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2018 [68 favorites]

Go for it!
posted by terrapin at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2018

So it's important to him, but his feelings and dreams and accomplishments are his responsibility. Back-stabbing would be lying to management about him. You can both wish him luck (genuinely) and also apply for yourself!
posted by everythings_interrelated at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2018 [17 favorites]

I think it's his responsibility to accept (and he probably does!) that he is not guaranteed the job and that he needs to manage his feelings around it.

If you were close friends and only sorta interested and it was either so specialized that only that job would meet his needs or so generic that you yourself would have lots of other similar opportunities, then sure, prioritizing your relationship with him over applying might make sense - it's not that you should never take things like that into account. Or if it were some kind of "extra"/fun side gig and he was really broke and you were really comfortable and only one of you could get it, etc etc etc.

But he's a co-worker, he has other job options, you are more than just vaguely interested, it's not going to ruin his financial situation if he doesn't get it, etc.

Don't get me wrong, it's a drag to be in competition for a job with someone you actually know. But it does happen, and we all have to learn to manage our own feelings about it.
posted by Frowner at 9:50 AM on June 28, 2018 [12 favorites]

This is the thing he seems to want most in the world whereas I am just curious about it but still very interested.

Boom. Do it. You're not responsible for who they give the job to, or his resultant feelings. There could be 10 other people that are interested and apply too. Don't give up your chances prematurely. Go for it! Good luck!
posted by Fig at 9:53 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

Also, this is all business. Think to yourself, "this is a business decision. Nothing personal" . You applying does not undermine his chances... it's not like you heard what he said and thought "fuck this guy, I want to hurt him by giving him worse odds to get the job he wants! I didn't care before, and now I want to do everything I can to get the job, and rub it in his face." You are looking out for yourself, and prioritizing your wants. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that -- it's actually a good thing to do.
posted by Fig at 9:56 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jeez, there is no "dibs" or "called it first" in the professional career space. If you're interested, apply. It's really that simple.
posted by cgg at 10:01 AM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

"Backstabbing" might include things like: undermining a project of his, going out of your way to make him look bad, or engaging in dishonest criticism of his work. Simply applying for the same job is not "backstabbing".

Satisfy your conscience by watching yourself for conflicts of interest during the application process, being honest about your qualifications, limiting your comments about his work to the positive, and being gracious about the result whichever way it goes, even if he takes your candidacy badly.

His enthusiasm for the new position will come through, and is one of the things the hiring manager can weigh when they make their decision. It's not your job to make that decision for them.
posted by floppyroofing at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Why on earth do his ambitions matter more than yours? Quite frankly, good opportunities for women are still rare compared to those for men. The only person who gets to decide who deserves the job more is the hiring manager. Go for it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2018 [17 favorites]

There's no dibs rule in place for job postings.

This. When it comes to applying for jobs, look out for yourself. Short of actually trying to somehow sabotage another person's prospects, whatever you do in your own self-interest is perfectly fine. If he gets upset, that's on him. You have every bit as much right to apply for this as anyone.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you'd already applied when he mentioned how much he wanted it, would you then have withdrawn your application?

As others have said, it's not your responsibility to do what's best for his career path. It is, however, your responsibility to do what's best for yours.

Apply and see what happens.
posted by darksong at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know anything about him besides what you've written here, but I feel pretty comfortable in saying this:

He wants you thinking like this.

He knows that you'd be better at the job (or at least, that you're more likely to get it than he is). Don't let him get away with that.
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2018 [15 favorites]

I don't know. I feel pretty uncomfortable about this. I don't believe there's any sort of dibs or anything, but in this case, it's the guy's dream job, vs something you're not particularly passionate about. If the roles were reversed, or even if the two of you cared equally, then by all means, go for it. But it'd be pretty crappy to snake someone out of their dream. How would you feel if someone did this to you? It's really easy for random internet commenters to say "that's life", but I've lost out on jobs I wanted before, and "that's life" didn't ease the sting at all. Then to find out you lost to a friend who doesn't even really care? It would hurt. There's no scenario in which that wouldn't hurt. And I'm just not a big fan of doing something to knowingly hurt a friend unless there's no way around it. Again, would you want a co-worker/friend to do this to you?

I'm a guy, by the way.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I recently applied to graduate school, and during that process I went to two open houses for two different schools. At each open house, there were about fifteen people prospective students, interviewing for only three potential "spots", so to speak. I genuinely liked a lot of the people I met at those open houses! But at the end of the day it was my job to present myself as accurately as possible and let the admissions committee make their decision based on that. I ended up receiving offers of admission. Maybe there was another prospective student who was even more excited about the prospect of attending those schools, but that doesn't necessarily mean they were a better fit, and I have to trust that the admissions committee made the right decision - and that I made the right decision by accepting the offer that made the most sense for me!

All that is to say, is that I urge you not to gatekeep yourself from this job, if it's even something you're curious about. It's corny to say "everything happens for a reason", and the reality is that, no, everything doesn't, especially when you think of how utterly biased hiring decisions can be (and in this way, being a woman, the cards aren't stacked in your favor) but in this instance you should apply. Everything after that will, well, happen for a reason.
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2018 [14 favorites]

But it'd be pretty crappy to snake someone out of their dream.

Applying for the same job as someone, in good faith, is not "snaking someone out of their dream". Doing something to actively tank them, that would be bad. But you don't personally owe this guy this job, and you are not responsible for personally assuring he gets it. Hell, for all you know neither of you will get this job. I also think you're talking yourself out of caring for this. You're really interested in this job! You said so yourself. Yeah it's not necessarily the exact job you want, but it also doesn't sound like a one-in-a-million job - other opportunities will come up for him if he wants to pursue it.

Also, applying is not getting an offer, and getting an offer is not accepting. Start with step 1. If you get more interested in the job as you find out more about it, great! If you end up getting interviewed and learn that it's not the right move for you, then that's good to know too! Please apply.
posted by brainmouse at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2018 [29 favorites]

I felt underqualified
It's borne out by studies that women typically undervalue their worth/skills and men typically overvalue them. I'm not saying that this is the case with you and your colleague, but it is something to consider. Are you really, objectively, not qualified? I say apply and let the hiring manager do their job of figuring out who is appropriate.

I just feel like i'm stabbing him in the back because I wasn't vocal about it before he was.
You are an adult and you don't have to 'call dibs' on something if you want it. If anyone else is going to pout about that, that is their problem.

And one last sound almost like you're trying to talk yourself out of applying. Whether it's because you feel a lack of confidence or because you are performing emotional labour for your colleague, you owe it to yourself to stop it. I am assuming you are relatively early in your career. What I've learned, now that I am mid-career, is that you have to look out for yourself and seize the opportunities as they come.
posted by methroach at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2018 [15 favorites]

It's his dream job, but just because he wants it doesn't mean he's worthy of it.

Hypothetically, pretend you're a very qualified candidate and he's a moderately qualified candidate.

If you don't apply and he gets the job, it would be because you didn't apply, and he "achieved" his dream without competing fairly for it. He didn't earn it, just got it by default.

If you do apply and get the job, he gets a setback relative to attaining his goals and has to do some introspection about how/why he fell short, and then work at improving his relevant skills so that next time there's an opportunity, he's better prepared for it.

This isn't like you're both eyeing the same slice of cake, and if you don't speak up for it, he'll get cake and you can have some next week or buy yourself cake on the way home. This is a long term change in circumstance that will bring you new challenges and opportunities for growth. It's part of the story of your life, and it costs you nothing (except maybe comfort) to follow this path.

This isn't zero-sum, and if you get hired and he blames *you* for his failure to win over the hiring team, that's not your responsibility, and you don't need to protect him from that experience.
posted by itesser at 11:48 AM on June 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

Would you feel better about it if you made it known to him that you were also applying?

You didn't think of applying after or because he told you he wanted the job. This was something you thought of before he ever mentioned it to you. If you'd thought of it after he told you, I'd be less inclined to tell you to go for it, but I think you're just fine in this situation.
posted by Everydayville at 12:00 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

"If I apply it doesn't mean I'll get it." And if he applies, it doesn't mean he'll get it either! You're not stealing this job from him even if you do apply and get the job offer.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I read it as you mentioned to him you'd seen the ad and might apply. So he's aware. That's all the heads-up you owe a friend. If you had told him you were definitely not interested but you'd be willing to be a sounding board for him as he navigates interviews and negotiations, that would be backstabbing, but two friends/coworkers applying for the same job? Happens all the time.
posted by basalganglia at 12:57 PM on June 28, 2018

Do apply.
Do think about how you can up your game on sounding really enthusiastic about the job.
If it's acceptable where you are think about contacting the advertising dept for more info and expressing your enthusiasm.
Maybe think about getting a career mentor.
posted by biffa at 2:11 PM on June 28, 2018

It is absolutely okay to prioritize your own well-being over the well-being of a colleague. In fact, sometimes this is necessary in a work environment. You are not married to this person. His aspirations and dreams are not under your care. You do not owe him your own opportunities.

I guarantee you that in this economic climate, there will be many people applying for this job. And if you do get the job it's because you were a better candidate. You're not snaking anybody out of anything by applying through the proper channels and behaving in an above board way.

I often feel like I have been taught to take the needs of random men in my life more seriously than my own needs. It is okay to take care of yourself at work. It is okay to apply for a job that sounds interesting without considering this man's feelings. He is not your husband, he is not your brother, he is a work friend. His needs are not more important than your own. One day you may not even remember his name. Don't let him stand in your way.
posted by sockermom at 2:20 PM on June 28, 2018 [9 favorites]

Apply. Years ago a friend and colleague and I were both coming to the end of contracts and would both be looking for similar jobs in the same city. We were competing against each other but more importantly we were both competing against the hundred other people applying for those same jobs. So, in most cases neither of us even made the short list. We started actually swapping job leads and checking each others progress. He got a great job first. I got a crappier job second. Still friends. And, later I got a much better job. There are so many other factors at work. Just apply.
posted by Gotanda at 2:49 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your colleague does not own this opportunity. Apply.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:12 PM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

This job is not a love interest, and your colleague is not a close friend. Don’t confuse one code of honour with another!

Throw in for it. If one of you gets it, you can worry about the fallout then.
posted by armeowda at 3:14 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you familiar with the phrase "May the best man win"?

Surely your coworker only wants the job if all the applicants have a sporting chance.

Give it your best shot.

One or both of you may end up, not with this job, but with an even dreamer job in the company.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:17 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a fellow woman, I knew you were a woman simply because you asked this question.
We are FAR too socialized to put men first, to ignore our own desires and careers, and to not "get in the way." It is to our detriment.

Absolutely apply for the job. Do not even feel bad about it. It's YOUR career. You can't call dibs on an open job. You aren't sabotaging him by applying.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:32 PM on June 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

"One or both of you may end up, not with this job, but with an even dreamer job in the company."
posted by Lesser Shrew
This. Let management know you are not a bi-weekly check drone. You are valuable. You are thinking ahead.

And just like I say about the person who honks at me at the stop sign, only I am responsible for the ticket if I let someone else do the backseat driving.
Drive your own career. Five years from now you'll thank yourself for it.
posted by TrishaU at 8:36 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

What if I told you I was auditioning for a role in a play and you decided you were interested in auditioning too? I might not be thrilled, but I could hardly hold it against you. I mean I could, but I wouldn't.
posted by xammerboy at 12:22 AM on June 29, 2018

I applied for the job! Now i'm feeling guilty and scared I might get it. I also question whether I actually want it but I think this might be some form of fear or self-denial. How do I not understand my own feelings?! Thanks very much for the responses. I would have probably left it otherwise.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 3:46 AM on June 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

Don't feel guilty. Applying was the right thing to do. I'm in the process of applying for an internal role that I know a friend is interested in too. I thought about it for five mins, then decided to apply; may the best candidate win. Good luck!
posted by arcticseal at 4:09 AM on June 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I get how you feel very well. It seems to be more common in women, but I do think it is just a fear/anxiety response. I, an internet stranger, am glad you said, "Not today!" to that insidious voice in the back of your head. Sometimes when I feel a way and I don't understand why, it helps to write it down. I don't always write things I expected when it was all bottled up and running very fast through my head.

I don't think you have anything to feel guilty or anxious about. Good work!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:00 AM on June 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

As another data point in the "dudes don't feel this guilt!" chorus, I am a dude (though not this dude). And without a doubt I would feel no guilt whatsoever applying for a job even though a colleague had expressed much stronger interest in the job.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I once held off applying for a great job because my best friend wanted to apply for it, and in fact the people advertising it had drafted the advert with her in mind, and she had been acting in the role already for months and doing a great job. I felt like it was "her" job and I shouldn't apply.

You can probably imagine what happened. She didn't get it, and because I hadn't applied, nor did I. I was way better qualified than the person they did hire, too. I won't make that mistake again, and you shouldn't either.
posted by lollusc at 2:29 PM on June 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Follow up to my earlier comment and addendum to lollusc’s comment above - my friend ended up not applying to the role because of a couple of factors. Imagine how upset I’d be if I hadn’t applied out of concern for her feelings? I hope you apply.
posted by arcticseal at 12:04 AM on July 10, 2018

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