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Career Q&A: Turn that promotion around, not down

Q: I work for a driven nonprofit. I have twice passed up the opportunity to apply for a promotion I likely would have received. My peers, staff and many of our organization's supporters would like to see me in that role and have encouraged me to go for it. The time requirements for the position are demanding, and my personal schedule just can't accommodate those demands. I have a toddler, and my husband has an unusual schedule; taking such a position would require me to hire a babysitter several times a week, which I'm not willing to do. All that aside, simply put: I'm happy doing what I do now.

Although I have told people I am content in my current role, I am being "groomed" for future opportunities, and when my situation changes, I may be open to them. Yet people express dismay at my present lack of desire to advance. When I mention my child or my schedule, I am met with groans and looks of scornful disappointment, and suggestions to hire a nanny or move closer to work. How can I tactfully put this situation to rest?

A: "I'm waiting until Spike is in kindergarten," with a smile, followed by a change of subject. Bonus points if Spike is a girl.

You're a parent with a full-time day job. You have every right to decline to take on more — no matter how many helpful suggestions you receive on how to upend your budget and living situation to suit someone else's idea of where you should be. End of story.

Although . . . it sounds as if you're a bit of a rock star at work. That might give you leverage to make any promotion meet your requirements — not the other way around.

Let's dream: What would help that promotion work for you? A transition period working part time in the new role? Working from home? Dedicated administrative support? Your choice of focus? Maybe management would turn those down — or maybe it would find a way to make them happen for a rock star.

I know you don't need anyone telling you which direction to lean. And I'm not trying to. It's just that I can't get past this study by Hewlett-Packard I read about, showing that women applied for openings only if they thought they were 100 percent qualified. Meanwhile, their male colleagues went after jobs they felt at least 60 percent qualified for.

You know better than I what this job requires and what you can currently offer. But when your situation changes, who knows if the opportunity will still be there? Often, the only opportunities we're 100 percent ready for are ones we've already outgrown.

Are cells a 24-hour leash to work?

Q: Occasionally, I read about companies requiring employees to be available by cellphone after hours. I can't afford a cell because I have other financial priorities. I've always taken jobs that are generally 8 to 5, Monday to Friday, and strongly believe that my personal hours are mine. Is filtering out a job candidate for this discriminatory?

A: It might seem intrusive, but employment attorney Elaine Fitch says claiming that this policy violates the rights of a protected group —such as members of a certain race, age, faith or sex — would be a tough sell. As Fitch points out, "almost everyone has a cellphone these days." Even individuals on federal assistance can get help obtaining wireless service through the government's "Lifeline" program (fcc.gov/lifeline).

If cost is your main concern, the right employer might be willing to provide you a phone or partial reimbursement for your own phone.

In some cases, on-call time is considered payable work time. But even if it doesn't qualify as such, being on call is the price many are willing to pay for added responsibility and flexible hours. If you consider any after-hours leash a dealbreaker, you're free to turn down those jobs.

Career Q&A: Turn that promotion around, not down 11/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 15, 2013 6:12pm]
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