Opportunity is knocking

Dear Joan:
I work for a large utility on the East Coast. I have been with the company for three years and have been in my current job for only one and a half years. I like my job and get along with my co-workers and boss, although my boss is very stingy on ratings when it comes to performance reviews.

Last week, my vice president (two levels above my boss) called me in and introduced me to a woman from another area of the company. He told me that she is part of a new area that is very visible and "going places." She was looking for someone for a key job in the new area (that reports to her) and he suggested me. From what I could piece together, this job is somewhat out of my comfort zone (although I am considered very good technically this is a different kind of technical work.) He encouraged me to look into the opportunity.

I was flustered and kiddingly asked if they were trying to "get rid of me." He assured me that I was doing a great job and I was the only one he would consider recommending.

I asked around and found out that the VP over the new area is a very demanding boss and expects people to put in long weekends and has fired people on the spot. People have gotten burned out working for him and I have a family that I'm worried about.

My boss doesn't know about this yet. I'm scheduled to have lunch with this woman soon and I don't know what to do. What should I ask her? If I say no will I damage my career? My boss doesn't have a reputation for promoting people-yet I like my job. Any advice would be very helpful.

Congratulations! You've had a visit from the corporate career fairy. It happens so rarely, it's no wonder you're unnerved. You're so preoccupied with the risks, you haven't let the compliment soak in. Flying off into the unknown with this creature wouldn't be as scary if you hadn't heard stories about the darker side of adventureland.

This opportunity will seem risky and frightening until you can change this fairy tale into nonfiction. You have some fast footwork to do. You have to identify the main characters, figure out the plot and examine the set with very little time and information.

Now is the time to ask yourself, "Who do I know, who do I trust and what do I really want?" Start by talking with people who have actually worked for the demanding VP. Don't rely on hearsay. Try to find someone who has worked for this woman, as well. Ask, "I've heard there are opportunities over there...what can you tell me about the environment: the people, the expectations, the work?"

If possible, you should schedule a meeting with your own VP to find out more about why he's recommending you and what he knows about the job and the other VP. If you trust this person's judgment, he can be a great mentor for you. In fact, he's already playing the part.) Go in with a list of questions and ask him to speak "off the record." One of your questions needs to be, "If I don't take this job, will my career be hurt?"

One of the characters missing in the scene is your boss. I'm surprised that he hasn't played a lead role in any of this. You need to uncover the motive in this subplot. Tell the VP you'd like to talk to your boss and ask his advice. If you leave him out, he will be angry and feel betrayed no matter what decision you make.

During your lunch with the woman manager, have your script prepared with lots of questions about the job, who you would be working with, what is expected during the first year, what the VP is like to work for and what skills are needed to succeed in the job. Observe her carefully to determine how the two of you might get along. She may even be willing to let you talk informally to some others in the new area.

It may feel premature to write the end of your story but it's time to ask yourself (and your boss and VP) what is the career path likely to be in both jobs. You'll need to examine how each fits into your personal goals and ambitions.

Many employees wish upon a star in hopes that a fairy would grant them an opportunity like this. In the final scene, you will decide how this story ends but unless there are overwhelming negatives, I hope you make this wish come true.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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