Don’t Get Caught in the Peter Principle

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    career question and adviceA reader asked for career advice on this situation.

    “A new position, which will be a promotion, has just opened up in the company. It sounds very exciting even though I haven’t had much experience in that kind of responsibility. But I have a good track record and friends are urging me to go for it. I think I’m bright enough to take it on, even with my lack of background. Is it too big a risk?”

    The Peter Principle

    It states that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” In other words, the cream rises until it sours. So if you don’t have the appropriate background, you’re obviously going to have to be able to get up to speed fast. Here are some things you need to consider before throwing your hat into the ring.

    1. Would your boss be supportive or offended if you moved on?
    2. What are your strengths and how can you leverage them for this position?
    3. How much time would you have before you’re expected to perform at top speed?
    4. What skills do you need to be successful in the position and where will you get them?
    5. Will the person in that position train you or will you have to dive in and either sink or swim?
    6. If you do succeed in the new position, will it advance your career or just be another line on your resume?
    7. And most important, if you fail or don’t meet expectations, how might this affect your career?

    These are just a few starter questions to help you assess the degree of career risk involved in going after this position. Find someone objective, like a mentor or coach, who can help you look honestly at the pros and cons. Then decide is it worth the time, effort and the stress of taking on this kind of challenge.

    Career Success Tip

    Make sure you don’t get caught in the Peter Principle. Choose your assignments carefully. They can make or break your career. Also, be aware of Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will. Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than expected.

    How well do you choose your assignments? How much career risk are you willing to take?

    Do you want to develop Career Smarts?