In my time as a VPS GRAD I heard these questions all the time: Are you applying for a VPS4? When should I apply for a VPS4? How much extra responsibility will it be? Am I worth it? Are people moving past me? Or am I being too pushy?
I don’t think I’ve met a GRAD who hasn’t had these questions and insecurities cross their mind at one point or another. The reality is, no one can tell you when the exact right time will be because everyone’s experience will be different, but I can share my experience and provide some tips about what worked for me!
At the end of my GRAD year I was feeling pretty worn out from the whirlwind of three rotations in 12 months. While some people were keenly applying for new roles, I was pretty content to return to the stability of my home department in a position I knew I was interested in and would learn a lot from.
So home I went! And it definitely felt like the right choice for me. It took me a little while to settle back in, but by May I had really found my feet. In the GRAD year, I felt like every time I started to know what I was doing, it was time to move on to the next rotation and start all over again. Whereas this year, for the first time in a while I was really feeling good and finding confidence in myself again that I had been lacking for a little while.
As my confidence grew, so did the feeling that maybe I was ready to take the next step. I was beginning to take on more responsibility and was getting a lot of good feedback that I was exceeding expectations. But conversation about role classifications aren’t necessarily something that comes up naturally. I started to realise that if I was ready for the next step, I was going to have to be the instigator of these somewhat tough and scary conversations.
There were a lot of internal movements happening at the time, so I used this as the prompt for chatting to my manager about where I was at. I was clear in highlighting both my value to the team, as well as exactly what it was that I wanted. My manager was very kind and encouraging about my prospects going forward, but concluded that there was nothing they could do to progress me right now.
At this point, I was a bit deflated but not ready to give up. Even though I was keen to stay where I was, I started looking at VPS4 roles elsewhere. I applied for one which I felt I would be in with a good chance for, however I was torn because I also wanted to stay where I was.
It was at this point that I chatted to a valued mentor about my situation and she gave my some invaluable advice: don’t be coy about applying for other positions, you have more power here than you think, put it on the table so your manager knows the risk of losing you is real.
This felt like a very bold and very scary move, but it turned out to be the best possible move I could have made. In less than a week, I went from my manager shutting me down, to them finalising higher duties paperwork!
Eventually, of course I will have to apply for the role formally. But hopefully by that point, having acted in the role for some time will help make me the strongest candidate I can be.
This experience has taught me how important it is to pursue opportunities that build your confidence, know your worth, have scary conversations when they’re needed, and be bold! Because at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own career and no one is going to advocate for you the way you can advocate for yourself.