Q: I've never been terribly career-minded, but divorce at 38 has given me a dose of ambition and I'd like to have a crack at senior management, maybe even the board. I'm pretty good at my job - at least that's what my reviews say - but family commitments mean I haven't bothered with any of the other stuff you're supposed to do to climb the pole. What are my chances?
Jeremy says: You sound a bit jaundiced about corporate life - or what you imagine corporate life to be. I imagine by 'stuff' you mean joining colleagues at social events, taking part in training days and generally giving up a bit of your own time.
If you've come to believe that failing to take part in such stuff is what has held you back, or worse, that suddenly showing enthusiasm for it will propel you up that pole, I'm afraid you're in for disappointment.
Senior management isn't something you 'have a crack at', as if it were Mastermind. If your company's well run, you'll be assessed for your potential all the time; not just in terms of capability in your specific job but whether you think beyond it, how you get on with colleagues, especially those junior to you, and what interest you take in wider company matters.
As soon as your management is satisfied that you've got the experience and the character to do a senior job, they'll give you the job title to help you do it.
But to me, your new-found ambition sounds as if you're much more interested in climbing the ladder than in knowing what you'd do when you got there. If your company's assessment of you is anything like mine, your ambition is unlikely to be satisfied any time soon.
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.