Stanley Bing

Ask Bing: Feeling underqualified? Fake it.

A big, fat promotion lands on your desk and you're terrified. Take it anyway. You'll probably surprise yourself.

By Stanley Bing

Recently I was offered a position for which I am grossly under qualified. Ridiculously so, in fact. The benefit to me would be a pay raise of approximately 50%.

In exchange I would spend day after day in perpetual fear and constant panic. The department would most certainly deteriorate due to my inexperience. I've spent a few days weighing the pros and cons and popping Xanax like they're Pez. Due to my overwhelming desire to please others (and okay, the money), I've made a verbal agreement to take the position, though my new contract has yet to be drafted.

I'm planning on meeting with the powers that be and informing them that I've changed my mind. Am I crazy to endure a bit of embarrassment and a smaller paycheck in order to save myself from a future prescription drug habit? Thank you in advance for your opinion on the matter.

God, I hope this answer reaches you before you do a stupid thing. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT decline a promotion like this! Certainly, you can express humility before the job in front of you, but management has recognized some great quality in you that it wants to cultivate and if you spurn it that chance may never be offered again simply because your view of yourself is smaller than theirs.

Great, successful people ALWAYS believe themselves capable of terrific things, even if they are most definitely NOT. Guys went to the North Pole, knowing that hundreds had died in the attempt before. Same with circumnavigating the globe. Was anybody prepared to do that when they tried? How about building the A-Bomb? Okay, it was a terrible thing to do, in my opinion, but most of the people on that project had no idea whether it would succeed or not.

Do you think George W. Bush was ready to be President when he was elected? Did Thomas Jefferson, at his young age, question whether it was proper for a kid like him to be writing the Declaration of Independence? Did Howard Hughes ask himself whether he should build the Spruce Goose?

All of us are given opportunities that are far beyond our capabilities some time in our lives. The ambitious, the daring, the visionary -- they accept the challenges that are placed in their path and often surprise themselves by doing a pretty good job at them.

Finally, stay off the Xanax. That stuff will deaden your head, if what you're doing is trying to ameliorate everyday anxiety. Just relax, you know? Go to a spa. Have a martini now and then. And who knows? You may shock yourself into living up to other people's high opinion of you.

Hi, Stanley. I will be graduating from college in September with a bachelor's degree in computer science. How do I ask for a raise or promotion from my employer.

Here's what you do: You go in and tell your boss the good news. Then you inquire about how he sees your future with the company, vaguely. He will probably be nice. Then you say, by the way, I could use some more money. He'll say, "Hm, maybe, we'll see." Then you go away.

A month later, you go back in. Hey, you say, what about that raise, Bob? Bob will tell you why you can't have one. You seem disappointed.

A month later, you do it again. If you hear about a job opening at a higher level, you pitch for it. Eventually, you will get your raise. And don't worry about being a bit of a pain. Any decent boss respects ambition. The key to getting a real raise, and not just 2%, is to push for a new title every couple of years or so. Each title generally has a range. You want to be in the new range. Keep trying. Don't be dissuaded. And if they don't give you a raise or a new title after two years, don't threaten, don't cry, don't mope. Just go out and get a new job, while keeping the one you have.

I have been working for a man who has been my boss for 15 years. He is retiring in a few months, and my company is going outside to find another "guru" (and I don't want to be boss anyway). I'm wondering how long I should wait before looking elsewhere? My contract ends 12/31 and probably won't be renewed at the September deadline.

Go in now. Ask your old boss what you think you should do. If he says he doesn't know, go to his boss, the one who is responsible for finding the "guru." Ask him or her for the straight poop. If they tell you to get lost, start immediately. Resume. Phone calls. The whole thing.

But don't be too hasty. Even if they don't renew your deal, you may have some leverage. You have 15 years in! They can't just can you. They may, if you are good and lucky, have to pay you to go away quietly. Push for a good package. Don't be rude. Don't be noisy. But you'd be amazed at the money some guys are given simply not to make things hard on the company on their way out the door. It may be necessary for you to hang in without a deal for a while to get that done. But it's a lot harder to kill a long-term player than you might think. Like, you have rights not to be wrongfully terminated? Stuff like that?

Also, don't believe that it's impossible for you to survive under a new boss. That guy may be totally overwhelmed and confused by his situation. You may be able to impart wisdom, experience, advice and friendship. I've broken in more bosses than a mobster. It can be done. Maybe you can do it too.

Do you think management consultants can impact and change the strategy of a business? How are management consultants looked at by top business executives?

Management consultants can certainly change the strategy of a business, primarily by making fewer people execute that strategy.

Most of the time, in my experience, the management consultant is hired by an executive who doesn't quite know how to handle something -- often cost cutting or reorganization of a function whose management he doesn't quite believe in. The consultant comes in and is roundly hated by everybody who must sit in meetings they didn't organize for purposes they don't quite trust. In a lot of cases, the consultant leaves, after costing a bunch of money, and everybody goes back to normal. In other cases, they kill people and replace them with... surprise!... themselves.

In rare cases, however, a smart person comes in and helps people figure out how to do something important together. Those people are worth their weight in gold -- and earn it, too. Top of page

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