Do I compete against my career mentor for promotion?

Our regular column gives you the chance to seek wisdom from Just Recruitment’s workplace agony uncle. This time: what to do if potential career progression threatens a valued friendship.

Dear Tim,

I find myself in a terrible fix. Now in my early forties, I am on the cusp of achieving the sort of professional success I’ve always craved. I’ve been a middle manager for some years, with responsibility for a sizeable team of people and the opportunity to help shape the future of the organisation I work for.

But for some time, I’ve felt ready for a further promotion, and a suitable vacancy has just come up. In the hierarchy of my employer, this would take me to director level, giving me the chance to oversee a whole division of our company and lead on its strategy. I’d report directly to the chief executive, have overall responsibility for more than 150 people, and receive a very healthy increase in salary, as well as a nicer company car and enhanced pension contributions.

What’s not to like? Well, the problem is that someone else wants to have a go at applying for the promotion, and it’s someone who’s been a close friend and mentor throughout my career. This person recruited me into the company, having helped start me out in my chosen industry when I graduated 20-odd years ago. He’s been a valued colleague for a long time, and someone who I’ve always looked to for guidance and support.

Without meaning to sound arrogant, I think I’d beat him to the job if we both apply. While he’s fantastic at some aspects of our work, he doesn’t have great people-management skills or entrepreneurial instincts – both of which are crucial to success in this role.

So what do I do? Go up against him and risk losing a valued friendship if I secure the appointment? Or keep out of the race to give him a clear field? Any advice you can provide will be gratefully received. 

- Worried friend

This problem is as old as the hills, and I applaud your sensitivity in raising it. When the pupil outgrows the master, it can be a trying time for all. The taken-for-granted dynamic between you is shifting, and suddenly you’re rivals rather than mentor and mentoree. 

But you need to be realistic about all this. From the sound of things, your friend and advisor doesn’t have much chance of succeeding in his application for the director’s position, whereas you do. Maybe your career has been shaped in an era where soft skills – communication, staff management, pastoral care – are just as important as technical know-how. And perhaps your mentor is of a generation where these things matter less. 

Either way, ask yourself this, and be sure to answer as honestly as you can: if you step aside, “clearing the field” as you put it, will your friend actually secure the appointment, or will your employer recruit from elsewhere? And how will you feel when neither of you is there at the top table, shaping the future and calling the shots?

Far better for one of you to be there as the boss than neither of you. And since this person has clearly had a huge influence on your career and outlook, his contribution to your management style will be obvious. He will be there right alongside you, because he’s shaped you, even if he doesn’t have the trappings of a senior management position.

I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow, for you and especially for your friend. And he wouldn’t be human unless he felt a pang of envy if and when you score the top job. But he’ll also feel pride in your achievement, and even if there’s a bit of awkwardness in the early days, you’ll soon get over it. You’ll have to; after all, you may need to turn to him for advice, just as you always have done.

That puts a huge onus on you to manage the relationship appropriately when you secure promotion. If you are his line manager, you’ll need to set clear boundaries and expectations about the nature of your relationship. But in an era of non-hierarchical management structures, that shouldn’t be impossible. And you’ve history with this person, so you’ll both have a vested interest in making this work out for the best, whatever that may mean.

My advice, then, is simple: have a chat with your mentor, explaining that you’re going to make an application for the director’s position because it’s the right time, and you think you’re the right person for the job. If he still wishes to apply it’s down to the interview panel to judge between you. But by being up-front about your intentions, without offering any comment on his suitability for the role, or his chances of success, you’ll establish a healthy spirit of openness and cooperation.

Then let the process takes its course, secure in the knowledge that the best candidate will succeed. If that’s you, great. If it’s your friend, get ready to eat some humble pie.

And if it’s neither of you – well, you’ll have something to moan about when you next grab a beer together, won’t you?

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you are looking to move up in your career – take a look at our jobs

You may also like to read – Stepping up: how to find your ideal next job

Jobs currently available

Featured job
Management Accountant
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: £30,000 - £38,000
Location: Haverhill
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 906965
About the role

The Just Recruitment Group have a superb opportunity for an experienced Management Accountant to join our client on a fulltime, permanent basis working near to Haverhill.

Reporting directly to the CEO of this fast growing successful company. The business is currently growing at 20% per annum and is at a pivotal moment in its development. New premises have been purchased and new sales and accounting systems are due to be installed in the coming 6 months. This role will be part of the senior management team and involved in key decision making for the business going forward.

Responsibilities include:

  • Responsible for the whole of the accounts department and production of the monthly management report and KPIs.
  • Managing the accounts assistant who has primary responsibility for the purchase ledger.
  • Managing UK and overseas payments, controlling deposits and advance payments.
  • Cash management including weekly forecasting of cash and credit control.
  • Running all aspects of payroll.
  • Management of Royal London pension scheme.
  • Responsibility of all company insurances and utility suppliers.
  • Working with the Operations Manager, analysing profit and cost variances to budget.
  • Implementation of new accounting system, which will free up purchase ledger clerk to take some of the more administrative elements of this role.
  • Job and departmental profit analysis.
  • Monthly VAT returns and Bank reconciliations.
  • Ad-hoc tasks necessary for the for Senior Managers and Directors.
  • Management of personnel files.
  • Administration and other duties relevant to the role.

The ideal candidate will possess the following skills:

  • Experience working in a fast moving busy office environment.
  • Ability to work to deadlines, quickly and accurately under pressure.
  • Ability to prioritise.
  • Discretion required due to nature of the role.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Confident in using Microsoft Excel.
  • Flexible and adaptable.
  • ACA/ACCA/CIMA Qualifications are desirable but not essential.

 

Read more
New job
Sales Proposals Coordinator
Sector: Sales
Salary: £18,000 - £20,000
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908044
About the role

Just Recruitment is currently recruiting for a Sales Proposals Coordinator to be based in Braintree. 

The role will involve providing timely quotations to customer enquiries, sales order processing, customer relationship management. 

Duties: 

  • To receive customer enquiries via the telephone or electronically and obtain as much information about the project as possible 
  • Manage enquiries email in-box, respond to general enquiries, collect information to answer enquiries from other parts of the business and pass on where required
  • Acknowledge quote requests to customers and provide relevant SLA to be quoted within 
  • Acknowledge and confirm PO receipts from customers 
  • Set up electronic project files 
  • Maintain and update spreadsheets/trackers 
  • Log enquiries onto the Shared quote book and CRM 
  • Provide the customer with a quotation within SLA 
  • Proactively follow up the quote and secure a PO 
  • Send the order documentation to Operations for order fulfilment 
  • Add the sale to the shared works order book 
  • Develop and enhance business relationships and reputation with existing clients 
  • Maintain a comprehensive CRM commentary of activity and opportunity 
  • Refer potential business to other business sectors 
  • Prepare and send weekly Purchase Order report 
  • Support Customer Service Manager, Business Development Director and Business Development Managers where needed 
  • Proactively approach existing and potential clients with new promotions 
  • Work with colleagues to improve the customer experience 
  • Other duties appropriate to the level of this role 

Qualifications and/or Experience Required: 

  • Proven Sales experience 
  • Thorough analytical approach – good with details 
  • Good engineering education or experience – able to read manufacturing drawings 
  • Excellent communication and organisational skills 
  • Computer literate and conversant in the use of software packages such as Office 365, CRM 
  • Accurate data entry 
Read more
New job
Trainee Project Manager
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £20,000 - £25,000
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908043
About the role

Just Recruitment is currently recruiting for a Trainee Project Manager to join a very successful company, offering training and career development opportunities based in Braintree.

You will need to have CAD experience and to have worked within the construction industry, preferably within the architectural or structural steel industry but this is not essential. The role could also appeal to recent graduates with CAD experience looking for a career in a project focused role.

You will be predominantly office based but will be involved in site visits where required. The role is cradle to grave project management including client liaison, design using CAD, procurement of materials, through manufacture to installation. The value and length of the project will vary. Training both internally and externally will be available.

This is a great opportunity to join a forward thinking and reputable business offering the successful person a career in project management. The company fully supports training and career progression opportunities.

The person requires:

  • CAD experience.
  • deally will have experience within the construction industry, preferably architectural or structural metalwork industry but not essential.
  • Will appeal to recent graduates looking for a career in project management.
Read more
New job
Valuations Executive
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £21k-£23k
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908050
About the role

Just Recruitment is currently recruiting for a Valuations Executive on behalf of a Property company based on the outskirts of Colchester.

The role primarily involves compiling accurate Property Valuation Appraisal reports and distributing them to the relevant client.

Responsibilities:

  • Compile accurate Property Valuation Appraisal and Desktop Valuation reports
  • Maintain a consistency level within 10% of Valuation vs Sale Price
  • Provide interim valuation updates to Sales Negotiators

The ideal candidate will have:

  • Experience/knowledge within the property industry
  • Report writing experience
  • Excellent customer service
  • Comfortable on the phones

Candidates must have their own transport due to the location of the company.

Read more