Working in a Newly Created Position

    December 2, 2003

Understanding organizational history and how to properly deal with the politics is a key to success. I started the process of understanding this concept during the interview for my first professional position. If I had not learned this lesson, my promotion opportunities would have been severely limited.

Four upper level administrators were involved in the job interview process. Two of the administrators seemed eager to hire me. I had to answer a set of additional questions to satisfy the concerns of the other members of the group. Being a recent college graduate with limited “real world” experience was the issue. Later the same day I was offered the position and I accepted.

The excitement I had was also mixed with some concern. The position was a year-to-year position based on federal grant funding. Over the years, I had seen numerous professionals receive the “grant program only managers” label. Some of the people I had seen this happen to even had a Ph.D. Once that label is placed on a person, future job opportunities in “non grant funded” mainstream position might not develop. Interview committees may only see the person in their current position.

At the same time, this was the best position I had been offered since graduating from college. The goal was to take full advantage of the opportunity and hope for the best. It would be important to do a good job to be considered for future promotions. At the same time, offending long-standing employees in anyway could create serious problems. Other “grant program managers” who had done this were stuck in their current position.

My job title was “Coordinator of Vocational-Technical Education Targeted Populations.” I would supervise a part time secretary and manage a budget. Again this was a year-to-year position, depending on funding from a federal grant. I would be working for the local community college. This experience would allow me to gain college admissions, financial aid and career advising job experience.

My supervisor informed me that offices for all the areas I would be assisting students in (career advising, college admissions and financial aid) were already on campus. These offices had their own staff members and each office director had been doing this type of work for years. There was some concern about why my position was even created and what my daily duties would be. I was glad to finally get an opportunity to be a supervisor and manage an office budget. After a few campus meetings and my review of the organizational history and politics, I developed the below list of goals:

1. Peacefully co-exist with the three long standing office directors

2. Evaluate the services their office’s were providing to students

3. Offer my own services and contributions to benefit students

4. Provide quality services for students but keep a low profile

After working in this position for two years, I began to evaluate my career advising, college admissions and financial aid duties. The financial aid duties were the most enjoyable and career advising was my second choice. Since I am not a “natural sales person,” college admissions work was put at the bottom of the list. I applied for two Assistant Director of Financial Aid jobs and was offered one of the positions. The past eight years in the financial aid profession have been enjoyable.

If I didn’t develop and work toward meeting the four above goals, I might not have had the opportunity to move into a better position. During the financial aid job interview process, I had to sale myself and give more details about my job responsibilities. The grant program I was running was known for providing quality services and keeping a low profile (two of my four goals).

The numbers of staff I supervise and my office budget responsibilities have greatly increased over the years. These experiences have required that I continually review the effectiveness of the “leadership style and approach” I utilize. Excellence is always my goal.

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Kenneth McGhee is the author of Eleven Leadership Tips For Supervisors. This book is available online at and You may contact Kenneth at