Q: My boss has been encouraging me to apply for a director role within our company but I'm happy in my current job. I have a decent salary and I'm usually home in time to put my son to bed. Will I have a black mark against my name if I don't go for a promotion?
Jeremy says: You've been encouraged to apply for this role because your boss believes you to be capable of doing it. Most people would be flattered and grateful; so, entirely understandably, your boss will feel slightly miffed if you're not. Not a black mark exactly - but your boss could be forgiven if he decided not to recommend you for promotion again.
Then think ahead a year or two. You're still happy in your current job, still with a decent salary, and still getting home for your (rather older) boy's bedtime. But by now, some of your friends and contemporaries will have taken on more responsibilities, attracted grander titles and will be earning more money.
Are you absolutely sure that, under these circumstances, you could retain your sanguinity? Taking promotion in a company isn't just about climbing the corporate ladder: it's about facing new and different tasks and challenging yourself to tackle them.
To acquire a reputation for being unambitious is to risk being thought complacent. And by the time you realise that you'd welcome the stimulus of a more demanding role, there may be other, younger people who seem rather more qualified.
I hope you don't think I'm suggesting that you sacrifice your home life on the altar of corporate ambition. I'm just advancing the possibility that, in a few years' time, you might look back on this moment as an opportunity that went unrecognised; and one that didn't come again.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.