How to survive my internal candidacy with grace and poise?
April 9, 2008 5:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with the stress and pressure of being an internal candidate for my own job?

I was hired on a one year contract and am now being considered along with several external candidates for a permanent position. The hiring process has been delayed and delayed again. It has been very difficult to coordinate applications at other places because the time line at my current place keeps changing. Other candidates are coming to me to find out about what I do, how I like it, what it's like, etc. I adore my job and fervently hope to keep it-- what do I tell these people? So far I've just said simply that it's been a wonderful year and I hope to stay. It's been very awkward and uncomfortable, though.

As this process grinds on, I'm becoming more and more frustrated with the wastefulness of this search process. Immense amounts of my employer's time and money have already been spent flying candidates in to town, interviewing people, etc. I have spent a lot of time and some money on my own personal job search, too. So here's my question-- I realized today that although I love my job and will accept if they offer me a permanent position here, I will still feel really angry at my institution for this way this whole process has been handled. I just imagine getting the offer and thinking "great, why couldn't you have just offered this to me months ago and saved us both from all this stress, worry and uncertainty! Jerks!"

Obviously I don't want to hold a grudge but I'm not sure how NOT to. Has anyone else gone through this kind of thing as an internal candidate? I am I being overly sensitive when I feel that everything I do is being doubly assessed and scrutinized? Am I being over dramatic about this? Folks at work have actually been very kind, my evaluations have been glowingly positive and I think I have a good chance at getting re-hired. I'm just afraid that all of the stress from this whole hiring process might poison my enjoyment of the job in the future. Help!
posted by bonheur to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you an academic? Or do you work for a government? This sure sounds like an academic drama, where laws and institutional policies nearly always demand that a tenure-track job be advertised nationally, even if you have someone on site who is terrific. Worse still, sometimes the search process turns up someone even better than Mr. Terrific, who is then out on his ass.

All you can do is to pretend it isn't happening. Do your work, keep your resume fresh, think positive thoughts, don't put a down payment on a house or anything. You are not being overly sensitive, it is a tough spot to be in.

Good luck!
posted by LarryC at 5:55 PM on April 9, 2008

Other candidates are coming to me to find out about what I do, how I like it, what it's like, etc. I adore my job and fervently hope to keep it-- what do I tell these people?

Response - I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about it considering I am applying for the position.

Is there a reason you don't want to advertise that you are going for the position? If you aren't despised it may even stop some internal people from applying.
posted by Octoparrot at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: LarryC: I obvs. don't want to give too much detail about where I work, but you assume correctly.

Octoparrot: I do state clearly to anyone who asks that I am reapplying for my own position. Many colleagues to not realize that I even need to do that, because they assume I was hired permanently in the first place like they all were. I don't want to inappropriately discourage anyone who wants to take a run at the job... well, actually, I do, but I think it would be unprofessional. I'm torn between rhapsodizing about how it's the best job in the world and telling them that it's horrible so they won't want it. I think your response about how it's inappropriate to respond because I am also applying is probably exactly right. Thank you!
posted by bonheur at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2008

Best answer: I just sent you an anecdote by MefiMail, but here's a more generic answer.

It sounds like you're realizing that you can't separate what you've been going through from how you feel about your job, and I think you're right not to -- it is part of your work environment. And you'd be within your rights to say, "this drama isn't worth it!" and jump ship.

Is there any reason you would treat them much better than any other job you applied for that you'd like to get but were being jerked around by? Eg, "well, Job B has made me an offer, and while I'd really prefer to work with you, Employer A, they do need to know by [3 weeks from now]." Or similar tactics? Maybe you're feeling angry because they're really pushing you beyond what you can take, and it's time to start standing up to them?

About your concern that you'll feel angry and hold a grudge for a long time, you might. But my suspicion is that actually, getting the actual job offer, hearing about why they chose you, and feeling officially celebrated and embraced by the company would do a lot to assuage your anger. Maybe not, though. It really sounds hard -- good luck.
posted by salvia at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2008

I've been in this position before, and try not to take it personally. One thing to do with contract jobs is give yourself a limit on how long you are willing to wait for them to make up their minds. If you are good at what you do there will be another position out there for you.

It sounds like your one year is being extended to cover the position while they hunt for a replacement. From an outside perspective, why didn't they just offer the job to you? You have been doing it for a year, so you have the experience. If a big candidate search is company policy, fine, but the resentment is normal, considering that you have time invested in this position.

Ask yourself what you would do if this company disappeared and you had to find a new position. If they find a better candidate, how much notice will they give you? Ask these questions objectively.

You can either wait for their decision (any way to find out discreetly when it will be decided?) or give yourself a personal deadline. "After one month, I am out of here." Look for jobs and tell them you will be available in a month. You can then tell your current employer that you've received another offer. Either they will counteroffer with this position or they will say, "good luck," and you will have your decision. I'd be afraid of them hiring someone new and only giving you two weeks to find a new job, which is not a long time. So cover your butt, put yourself first, and think of it as only one position you've applied for until you know otherwise.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:25 PM on April 9, 2008

Best answer: Since your question is about how to deal with the frustration, here's my suggestion:

Make up explanations that make you feel better.

I find I sometimes assume the worst, or assume a negative reason, for something that's happening to me. If I can explain it to myself in a more positive light, it helps me not take it personally.

So, when you ask, "am I being overly sensitive when I feel that everything I do is being doubly assessed and scrutinized?" I don't know the real, truthful answer to that - I don't know whether your accomplishments are being scrutinized with a more critical eye than those of other applicants - and since you're asking a question, not reporting evidence of it, it sounds like you don't know for sure either. Since you don't know, try reminding yourself that the truth could be completely different. Your bosses could be saying to each other, "When oh when do we get to hire bonheur already? I know we have to jump through the hoops of the full-on official job search, but - can we make the decision and hire bonheur soon?"

In a lot of the organizations I've worked for, even the great ones have some frustratingly stupid policies. Does it help at all to imagine that there are just stupid policies that have to be followed, and in the meantime, everybody's pulling for you and looking forward to the day they can officially welcome you as one of the team?
posted by kristi at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2008

I guess another option is blithe detachment. In a lot of academic and government jobs, people do have to go through this. It's what the department has to do, requirements, et cetera. So if you really are committed to waiting for them to decide, an alternative to worrying about the outcome and being mad about the stress you've gone through could be to laugh at how absurd it is. They're paying all this money, etc, etc. Read, you know, Kafka and Pynchon and Heart of Darkness and ponder how miserable, pitiful, and absurd bureaucracies are.
posted by salvia at 6:32 PM on April 9, 2008

Best answer: Further along the academic clue... try not be personally offended (at least not at those directly involved), because they're forced by the institution to do what they do. Feel free to curse academia in general, but after the immediate venting it's not going to help much.

Because you are considering applying other places, you should try your best to guess what your chances of being asked to stay on are. In any given institution there are certain jobs where external hires are preferred and certain jobs where internals are preferred. This is now your time to ask the annoying questions of coworkers (actually, six months ago was the time). Try to find out if others in the past if they were given temporary contracts before being hired fully.

I wouldn't be as pessimistic as Marie Mon Dieu, but it isn't at all out of place for you to be looking elsewhere. In fact, your current employer should probably know that you're looking elsewhere (but also know that you'd prefer to stay). In academia shopping around for a position at other institutions is usually an open secret anyway, because of the grapevine and the necessity of references. If they aren't aware, tell them. Voice your concerns, tell them you understand that they have to do what they have to do, but that with the guillotine hanging over your head you have to explore other options.

And of course, like with all jobs, do your best to show them how valuable you are now, and how you'll become even more valuable in the future.
posted by aswego at 7:37 PM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the thoughtful responses. You guys are absolutely right that the institution has to follow stupid bureaucratic rules, and that my colleagues are definitely pulling for me and wishing they could skip the run-around and hire me straight away. They've told me as much. It's just easy to slip into "what will BECOME of me!" worrying spiral and lose sight of reality a little bit. Your sympathy and suggestions have really helped me feel a lot better about this already.
posted by bonheur at 8:39 PM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Follow up: I got the job! I was very gracious and accepted the position, then retreated to my office to unleash all of my pent up frustrations and cry my way through a box of tissues. Any trace resentments or frustrations dissipated when my department presented me with a cake with my name written on it and hugs and congratulations all around. Thank you guys so much for all of your encouragement, it really helped.
posted by bonheur at 11:10 AM on April 16, 2008

Wow, congratulations, bonheur! I'm glad you hung in there and that your patience paid off! Thanks for the update, and good luck with the "new" / old job. :)
posted by salvia at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2008

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