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How to snag your boss' job

At one time or another, we've all declared our boss to be incompetent. If you think you deserve your boss' job, here are three hints for getting it.

How many of us have driven home in anger, after a frustrating day at work, and declared to our spouse or the nearest person who will listen, "I can do that incompetent jerk's job way better"? The incompetent jerk is, of course, the boss.

At that point you have three options:

Option 1: Realize that you're full of hot air and do nothing.
Option 2: Quit and go to work for somebody else.
Option 3: Try to get your boss' job.

This post will give you three tips for accomplishing Option 3. Just to be clear, I don't mean getting your boss fired and you getting promoted in his or her place; I mean getting a promotion to that job level, either at your company or elsewhere.

I've done it lots of times. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn't. Six years ago, I was so frustrated with my CEO that I responded to a call from an executive recruiter. Before long, I was CEO of an optical networking company. This was the opportunity I was looking for, a chance to see if I really was better at my boss' job than he was.

Seven months later, my company went bankrupt, a victim of the dot-com bust. True story.

I'm still glad I took the plunge, though. The experience taught me four valuable lessons: the grass is always greener on the other side; everything looks easier until you do it; don't act out of desperation, even if you feel desperate; and don't trust VCs when they say they'll take care of you if things don't work out.

Anyway, don't let that unfortunate experience dissuade you. I climbed the corporate ladder pretty effectively during a 20-some-year career in the tech industry. And each step up began with the belief that I could do my boss' job.

Here are three tips that will help you succeed in your coup attempt:

Tip 1. Use your anger and frustration. They're great motivators for getting up off your butt and going for it. But don't overreact and do something stupid like quitting on the spot or taking a job with a crappy company just to get to the next level in a hurry (like I did). Now that you've made up your mind, settle down and take your time. Your search will go better if you're employed and earning a paycheck than if you're not and getting desperate.

Tip 2. Do not try to torpedo your boss. I've known people who did this. Sure, it might work, but karma can be painful. I guarantee that it will come back to haunt you, someday. If you really want to stay at your current company, then you need to get some exposure at a higher level, i.e. above your boss' level, or with other groups. I tried this twice in my career, once successfully, once not so much. It gets much harder to do as you progress up the corporate ladder. Right or wrong, most companies view a manager or executive who isn't working out as damaged goods.

That said, if you're relatively low on the totem pole, and/or you work at a large company, go ahead and try it. In that case, the way to go is to take on so much responsibility that you're essentially doing your boss' job, but without the title or the pay. Then you just have to gain recognition for it.

Tip 3. Switch companies. That's right, you stand a much better chance of negotiating a step up in responsibility with a new company than with your current company. That's just the way it is.

Position your resume and your job hunt for the next level up. It's important to demonstrate results that helped the company, as opposed to your individual accomplishments. Get a friend, associate or mentor who's already at that level or above to help you. Remember, you're asking a company to take a chance on you; it's up to you to demonstrate why hiring you is a smart move and not as risky as it might seem.

For more strategy on the job hunt, check out these two links:
The secret to finding a great job, and
Jump-start your career in five hard lessons.

If you desperately want to quit your current job, consider this:
Thinking of quitting your job? Try getting fired instead.

As for whether you should go for it or not, consider the words of Robert Browning: "A man's reach should exceed his grasp." That means go for it.