My manager thinks I should be running a department—I’m not sure if I want it or not. What can I do before I am forced to choose that would help me decide? D.D., Mt. Prospect, IL
It may not feel like it but this is a good problem to have. Most people end up in careers serendipitously. When you’re resourceful and talented, you get promoted—which is not only gratifying to the ego, it usually has cash and prizes associated with it. Eventually you reach a point in your career when you have to ask yourself, “What do I really want?” In your case, it’s especially difficult because the societal expectation is that everyone wants to be at the top, which in the corporate world usually means running something, whether it’s a project, team, and/or department.
Get clear on what you really want—not only the tangible things like salary, amount of travel, type of role, etc, but also what type of work you love doing and do well. You spend a significant amount of your lifetime working—what will fulfill your tangible and intangible needs? Create a scorecard summarizing your decisions as you go through the process of evaluating what you want. The clearer you are on what you want, the easier the decision itself will be.
Once you’ve analyzed your list, compare it to what you think the new position would provide. If there’s a gap, think about how to best express your conclusion to your manager. You might want to preempt a promotion conversation by approaching your manager sooner rather than later. By the time a promotion is offered, it’s likely your manager has gone to bat for you, which might make it hard for them to save face if you turn it down. Since you know your manager is supportive, help them help you by being clear on your goals.