Very few people get in at the bottom floor of a company and immediately set their sights on the top, but companies typically assume that everybody is ambitious and ready to climb the corporate ladder. Some people, however, are sufficiently challenged in their current position, and have no desire to move up in the ranks. Others always have their eyes on the prize...or on that corner office with the personal assistant.
These are the people who always have the bigger picture in mind, and an underlying motivation behind their hard work. The question is, do they really know what they’re getting into when they ask for a promotion, and if they do, do they have the traits and skills needed to handle it? And how can you tell when the time is right?
Collecting data from nearly 2,000 people who took the Career Advancement Profile (CADVP), our statistics reveal that those who are ready for a career change tend to have a proactive “edge” to their attitude and behavior. Those who are ready for a promotion are more likely to:
- Thrive on change and variety
- Want to be a part of the decision-making process in the company
- Be challenge-seekers
- Be on the constant lookout for opportunities to develop their potential
- Be active networkers (e.g. looking for business contacts at social gatherings)
- Be willing to accept that with career advancement comes the potential for additional stress
- Not only find it easy to learn a new task, but also show a willingness to learn even the most difficult of skills
- Confidently share their ideas – and even assertively disagree with their boss’ ideas if they don’t think they have merit
- Consistently put in the effort to make their work more efficient
Employees seeking a higher-level position, like supervisor or manager, need to fully understand what being promoted entails, however; they need to be prepared, or they risk being totally overwhelmed. Being promoted means being responsible for their own work as well as other people’s. It means dealing with employee grievances, firing unproductive employees, and making major decisions that could have a huge impact on the company.
This is what catches a lot of people off-guard. They think moving up the ladder means status and power – what they don’t anticipate is huge amount of stress and responsibility that comes with it. In essence, as an employer, you need to figure out who is ready for promotion, whether that person has what it takes to do the job both in terms of personality and skills, and what kind of training they need to be equipped to do an outstanding work. On top of that, you need to manage expectations of those who make the cut, and explain your choice to the ones who did not.
So what advice can you offer an employee who is just not ready yet? Here are some tips for employees who didn’t make the cut:
- Rethink what you really want. Take time to consider what you really want to achieve in your career. Don't assume that just because a promotion brings a bigger paycheck or more prestige, it will be a better deal for you. Will you actually like the day-to-day duties and challenges that come along with the new position? Are you willing to accept any of the possible drawbacks, like longer hours, bigger responsibilities or more stress? Do you want to help people, mentor people, or make corporate decisions? Do you want creative freedom or to work with other people? Sometimes, a lateral move in the company may be a better fit for what you really want. Take some time to ponder what matters to you and it will be easier to determine whether a particular promotion is really right for you.
- Ask yourself what the company has to gain by giving you a promotion. In order to move up, don’t focus on your own need for a promotion but rather, on how the organization will benefit if they promote you. Approach it as though you were applying for a new job in a new company - you need to show them why you're the best candidate for the job. Clearly define what you have to offer and you will be better prepared to sell yourself.
- Document your success. Keep a file with a timeline of your accomplishments, new skills you have acquired, training you've undergone and initiative you've taken. When a client gives you positive feedback, for example, ask if they could put it in writing. This file will come in handy when it comes time to request that promotion.
- Let your employer know about your intentions. If you ask for a promotion out of the blue when your employer has no idea that you're interested in moving up, you probably won't get very far. Mention your intentions to move up ahead of time, perhaps during an evaluation or one-on-one meeting. Don't be arrogant or overly aggressive, but show genuine initiative to get ahead. The process of planting the seeds should begin with asking what your boss is looking for in a promotion candidate, then determining whether you're well-equipped and suited for such a position. Remember, timing is critical. Don’t ask for a promotion in the middle of a financial crunch or when your boss is overwhelmed with demands. If you choose the right time to approach the issue, you increase your chances of being heard.
- Don't take things personally - and keep trying! If you don't move up as quickly as you want, don't throw in the towel. Revise your plan, talk to your boss, and keep working at it. Perhaps you haven't yet shown you are ready for a major move, or the timing is off financially. "No" in business may often mean "not now.”
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