Rising to your level of incompetence

I am in the midst of applying and interviewing for a new job right now.  It has been twelve years since I have needed to find a new job.  It is actually a very interesting process, with a lot of parallels to dating – trying to make them like you, easily feeling insulted/hurt if they do not, knowing that if you misrepresent yourself to get them to like you it will come back to bite you in the ass later, knowing that if they don’t like you then you don’t really want to be with them anyway but still getting all nervous and worried and hurt…  basically, stressful as hell.

Some recent conversations with my husband have led me to believe that my basic philosophy about job-hunting is non-standard.

You see, I think that people/organizations are looking for the best person to get a particular thing done…  and I want to find a job for which I am, indeed, the best person to get it done.  I do not want to press to get a job that I “think I can do” or for which I “meet the minimum qualifications”.

My husband says this is not the way it’s done.  Especially in the University system or other heavily unionized institutions.  He mentioned that everyone “rises to their level of incompetence” and remains there.

I was floored.  I have actually noticed this before – that there are an awful lot of people who seem to not be very good at what they do, and yet they have jobs and no one seems to be threatening to take the jobs away from them.  But I had no idea that this phenomenon was ubiquitous enough to have its own NAME in business circles:  The Peter Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle).

Wow!  It’s all so clear now!  You see, people get promoted because they were doing well at the job that they were doing, but that does not necessarily mean that they will excel in the new, more challenging position.  Yet no one in the University gets “demoted” back to the level at which they were doing well.  They stay in the new position (with the higher salary that it entails) and bash their way through, and other people pick up their slack.

This is so depressing to me.  I don’t want to do that.  So here I am, applying only for jobs in which I am completely confident I can excel.

Which, however, means that I will always be paid a little bit less than those people who are at my same level of competence, but are willing to rise just a little above that – to their level of incompetence.

Sigh.

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