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Dealing With Nepotism at Work

A businessman with his head on his head in front of a laptop.
Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.   
I am currently an HR assistant. The three-year development plan my supervisor has for me culminates in my becoming an HR coordinator; my personal plan is to become the HR generalist.

However, my supervisor is training a younger person, age 23 and the controller's daughter, for that position, even though I have over 20 years of experience in management positions, including as a district manager of 13 stores with 175 employees, all of whom I was responsible for onboarding, training, engaging, etc.

At this point, I am thinking about going for my SHRM-SCP to advance my career, but I'm wondering if the cost is a smart investment. Do you have any advice for my situation?

Unfortunately, nepotism is not something you often notice when joining a new company, but it is something you should pay attention to as you settle into a new opportunity. Keep your eyes wide open, because once you identify an environment with thriving nepotism, you are going to reach a certain level and can then kiss merit-based career growth at that company goodbye.  

Age discrimination at work has persisted over the many years since it became a crime under federal law. Doing all you can to counteract its impact on your financial stability is a task we all face eventually. 

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Older Workers]   

Act in Your Own Best Interests 

There would seem to be nothing you can do about the plan that management has outlined, so "enthusiastically" embrace it while doing all you can to improve your professional self.  

Ready: Do Your Prep 

Move forward based on objective criteria, planning every step of your move before you pull the trigger: 50 percent of the success of any project depends on the preparation you put in.

People get hired based on their credentials, not their potential, so given your background in disbursed retail management, I believe that it would serve you best to target retail companies in your job hunt. Your history managing multiple retail locations, plus many of their HR problems, gives you a much wider frame of reference and greater real-world HR experience than the vast majority of candidates competing for similar positions in the retail world.

I'd suggest focusing your resume and your search on retail chains large and small, which will include franchisors of retail products (the most popular type of franchise) and master franchisees—the people who own a number of franchises. Master franchisees are often overlooked but represent a target customer base that would embrace your unusual combination of skills and experience.  

Aim: The Direct Approach 

Don't rely on just posting your resume and waiting on results because that's what everyone does. Instead, research and identify ideal target companies and the hiring managers within them that you'll want to approach. Check out the extensive databases for companies, titles, names and contact information.

Franchising is a world unto itself, and identifying the same information about hiring managers mentioned above is usually an exceptionally challenging task. However, this site will give you access to 14,000 franchisor executives and 43,000 multi-unit franchisee executives, with their names, titles and contact information. You're looking for the people holding titles one, two and three levels above you.  

Focus: Getting the Edge for Your Next Step 

Your resume should be an honest recitation of all you have done. To be effective—and discoverable in recruiters' resume database searches—your resume needs to tell the story of what you bring to a specific target job.

Collect a handful of job postings for your target HR position within your chosen industry sectors. Prioritize the needs they share and the language used to express those needs, then create a resume that focuses on what skills you bring to the table in each of those areas. The result will be a resume that is discoverable and positions you appropriately for job interviews.

Following this process, you'll have a list of the key issues that employers in your target market have in common, and therefore the topics likely to arise in job interviews.  


With your experience and wide frame of reference for product retailing, a resume objectively focused on the expressed needs of your target customers, and the research that empowers you to contact potential hiring managers directly, you are set to make a successful strategic career move to an environment where your capabilities and the wisdom that comes with experience and maturity will be highly valued. Go for it!

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. 

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!