I’m a staff member at a public university. I’ve been in my field for 18 years, and in my current role for 8. I now have a new boss, and I am trying to show him that I am ready for and capable of growth. I got my master’s degree in 2019 while working full-time (I’m also a parent).
A manager role for my team has been reintroduced, and I’ve applied for it. In the meantime, I am realizing just how underpaid I am in my current role. How do I start a conversation with my new boss about being stuck? I want to stay at the university because of my pension, but I am bored and capable of more.
First, kudos for getting your master’s degree with so much on your plate! That’s a feat in itself.
The arrival of a new boss means having a clean slate at the office, especially if they’re an external candidate coming from another university or company. They are looking at your team with a fresh set of eyes and generally trying to form their own opinions of the staff, even if they’ve been warned about issues or debriefed before their first day. In an ideal world, your new manager would do a listening tour in which they speak to many staff members and stakeholders around the university to get an understanding of the lay of the land. They will want to familiarize themselves with the people, culture, and growth opportunities in order to determine what their quick wins can be in the first 90 days.
Your goal here is to position yourself as an asset to your new manager. While I completely understand that you are frustrated, feeling underpaid and undervalued, and just plain old bored, dropping these problems in a new manager’s lap is generally a good way to get ignored or seen as difficult. This team is new to your manager, and they want to hear potential solutions for existing problems, not complaints about them.
This new management role on your team provides the perfect opportunity for you to prove that you’re capable of more. Demonstrate that you know why the new role was created, as well as how your eight years of experience would allow you to position yourself better as a leader. You also have historical knowledge, since you’ve noted that this role was around years ago and is being brought back. You can answer questions like:
Why was this role originally created?
What were the challenges of the role?
What were the key accomplishments of that role?
Why was it eliminated?
What would you do differently if selected for the role?
What resources are needed to make the person in this role successful?
These are all questions that only you can answer and that an external candidate would not be able to, which gives you more power and influence. You’ll also have a leg up during discussions you have with your new manager.
I recommend scheduling a one-on-one meeting with the manager to get to know each other and get a better sense of their vision for the office. In that conversation, also inquire after their vision for this new role. If you feel like you’re able to respond on the spot to how that vision aligns with your own interests, do so! However, if you need a bit more time, it’s also fine to ask to schedule a follow-up meeting in a week to discuss your own vision for and interest in the role. This may feel like a bold move, but being quiet and hoping that the new manager recognizes your brilliance won’t get you to the next level.
Last but not least, make sure you continue performing in your current role too. Oftentimes when professionals have their eye set on a new position, they start to slack on their current responsibilities. The new manager will find it hard to believe in your vision and ability to execute if you’re not performing and innovating in your current role, even if you’re feeling uninspired by it. Excellence in your current role is the basis for how you will be evaluated in the first few weeks that your new manager is in the office.
Career and leadership-development expert Kimberly Brown helps readers make sure their next move is the best move. Listen to the Your Next Move podcast here and keep up with Kimberly on her website.