Having the courage to apply for a more senior role

What’s holding you back from applying for that promotion? Is it just about the courage to take the next step, to be out of your comfort zone in some areas of the role, or is there something else at play?

There’s an often-repeated statistic that women only apply for jobs if they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet only 60%. Research in 2014 investigating this claim could find no evidence for it, but it’s true that my female clients want to meet far more of the criteria before applying for a job – especially a promotion – than my male clients do.

How to decide if you should be brave and apply for that job

I encourage clients to assess the job description and role profile and weigh up what percentage of it they think they can’t currently do or feel unsure about. If you’re going for a more senior role there should always be around 20% stretch or challenge for you  in the description, so you wouldn’t be expected to be able to do everything on the list, just have the potential to be able to do it.

Remember, job adverts describe the perfect candidate. They outline every little detail that the company is looking for, including long lists of what’s essential and what’s desirable. But that perfect person may well not exist, or at least not be in the market for a new role right now.

People who apply for the role will have different combinations of things on the job description. You won’t know before you apply what the recruiters will attach more weight to – beyond the distinction between desirable and essential skills. People compare themselves to other, often fictional, candidates when deciding whether or not to apply for a new job. If you have 80% of the things they are looking for, this could still make you the best candidate that applies.

How to cover off any gaps in your skills or experience

It’s inevitable if you’re going for a promotion or more senior role that you won’t have experience of everything on the job description. This doesn’t mean blagging it – be honest about any gaps you have and then show your desire to get better in that area, demonstrating your capacity to learn and develop. You could talk about something else that you didn’t know much about but have recently mastered for example. (And so many of us have online meetings to use as an example here!)

Make sure you can evidence your personal development and talk about any opportunities you’ve taken to improve your relevant skills, whether inside or outside of work. (I wrote here about how volunteering can be a great way to acquire the skills you need to change roles and some tips on ways to keep learning here.)

Feel the fear and do it anyway

When it comes down to it, if you want to progress you’ll have to be brave enough to apply for jobs above your current grade. That means taking the plunge and learning from how you get on in the process. Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, says, “The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.”

Look at what you have to lose versus what you have to gain. If you are applying internally, and you don’t get it, the benefit of throwing your hat into the ring is that you have let your senior leaders know you are ambitious and are looking to progress, putting you front of mind and on their radar for future opportunities if this is not the one.

If you are applying externally too and you aren’t right for the role you apply for, the organisation could be about to recruit for others for which they think you would be suitable. The hidden jobs market is a real thing, and worth thinking about as part of your search.

Not everyone wants to get promoted and are happy getting their career challenge through sideways moves, broadening projects and interesting work challenges, but if you crave that move upwards it will take a bit of bravery to go for it.

One client I recently worked with was faced with an organisational restructure. She had previously been ambitious about moving upwards but when the new structure was published told me she’d decided to play it safe and just apply for her own role. Her dream promotion was on the structure, so with a bit of gentle coaching and challenge she also applied for both her current role and the more dream job and was delighted to land the more senior role!

It may not always work out and you may  get the feedback that you lacked experience or knowledge in a specific areas but even being unsuccessful and getting feedback on why will help you identify the areas you need to focus on improving for the future. But every job will be different, and every organisation will put a different emphasis on certain aspects of the role, so just because you aren’t successful for one role, doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful when applying for similar jobs.

If you want some help identifying what’s holding you back from applying for that more senior role – or coaching through the process to help you do your best – give me a call to arrange a free chemistry session on 07765 894040.


Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.