Q: Money wasn't important to me, so I didn't negotiate a salary when one that I thought was too low was offered. I didn't even think someone could negotiate salary unless it was for a management position. Also, I never wanted to be a manager, as I had no desire to be hanging over others, telling them what to do. I wanted a job where I could work independently, do the work well and leave at the end of the day and not be faced with people problems.
I am now looking for a new job, and I've been asked if I've ever had others report to me. I say "no," but should I explain that I chose not to at that time? I worry it will reflect poorly on me. The truth is I didn't want to feel higher than others as if I am better than them, and I certainly can't tell an interviewer I never cared about money. Have I dug myself into a hole too deep to get out of? I have always had excellent performance reviews, and I would like to now move into management.
A: Stop beating yourself up over the past and what you think were the wrong values. You gained valuable experience by working in your job and maintaining a high-performance level, so, no, you have not created a hole too deep to escape. Above all, remain calm and confident when interviewing. If you think negatively about your past actions, that concern will show through and undermine your confidence. Employees fall into three categories: those who will accept any position offering greater authority and a higher salary, even if they are not ready to handle it; those who hesitate because they want to carefully analyze how they will perform before they move up the ladder; and those who readily accept because they feel secure with their track record and ability to move forward. You were just more hesitant because of your insecurity and fear of failure. Failing in a job can be helpful for people whose confidence is not justified by their performance. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who would have made positive and productive leaders but held themselves back due to fears of not succeeding.
When asked whether you've managed others, be honest in your answer but explain you wanted to focus on performing at an A-plus level for several years before deciding to manage others. You can then explain what attributes you think are necessary to be a good manager and that you now feel qualified to accept that responsibility and successfully motivate others to achieve their best.
The extreme difference in upbringings, backgrounds and education causes people to develop a variety of values and confidence levels. You followed values you believed were right for you at the time. Now you feel it's time to advance. Go forward in your career knowing you followed a path that was right for you. You are your only competition, and you will attain each career goal when you are ready. There's no need for excuses for what you did and why you didn't do it faster.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.