You suspect your boss is going to be promoted or transferred or may retire soon. How can you position yourself to be the first in line to inherit his/her job?


Train for your boss's job

Many laboratory staff members have only a narrow, circumscribed view of their manager's job and are unaware of the full range of his/her responsibilities. Try to understand the many facets of your boss' job responsibilities by observing him/her at work.


Earn your boss' recommendation

Earn your boss' support by informing him/her that you are interested in advancing to a management position. Ask how you can earn his/her support for this. Avoid the appearance of being a threat to him/her and don't appear as if you as seeking to undermine him/her.

Ask your boss to identify your weaknesses for a management position so you can fill your knowledge gaps. Ask his/her advice on your professional development.

A good time to do all this is during your annual performance review.


Bolster your qualifications

Use the information you gain to strengthen your qualifications and develop useful experience for a management position. Attend management training programs; attend short courses; or take college courses in night school or online. Be sure your manager and others know you're taking these courses.

Ask to collaborate on projects so you can gain an inside view of his/her job. Request additional work and ask for assignments that will let you manage projects from beginning to end.


Develop wider visibility with other managers in your laboratory or company

Volunteer for important projects even if it means more work. Try to make some of these be projects involving team members from outside your department and even outside your laboratory.


Role Models and Mentors

If you boss is really good at his/her job, use him/her as a role model. Observe how he/she interacts with others. Include both staff members he/she supervises, his/her peers, and higher level managers. Observe your manager's communication style. Your observations will provide you with guidelines on how to develop your own management style but one that is a good fit for your firm's corporate culture.

Find mentors from whom you can receive advice on being a manager. It is usually best that these be from within your own laboratory or company. Different companies favor different management styles. For example, Steve Jobs of Apple is an outstanding manager. However, his aggressive style may not work at another company with a more conservative management style such as IBM.

Become familiar with the management responsibility chain in your company. Also understand trends in your industry so you can knowledgeably discuss them with managers and in meetings.


Some don'ts

Don't try to compete with your boss or make him/her appear less competent than you.

Don't undermine your manager even if you disapprove of aspects of his/her management style. Be supportive of the goals even if you can't be an advocate of his/her methods for achieving them.