Before You Accept That Promotion …

Tips to help you make a decision that will elevate your career

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Statistical reports show that promotions are down, no pun intended. In this environment, no one is surprised. Although companies continue to tell workers that they can’t sustain raises and that they must do more with less, it is important for employees to continue to identify the best opportunities even in a challenging environment to further their career goals. Not every promotion opportunity is a good one, so it is important not to rush into a decision, says Mike Ryan, senior vice president of marketing and client strategy at Madison Performance Group, an employee recognition and sales incentive marketing firm based in New York City. “People should have a realistic sense of what their capabilities are and if those capabilities match up with what the job requires,” he explains. “If it’s not a good fit, it’s not going to work out for you. You will damage your career in the long run.” Your evaluation should be comprehensive. Treat it like you are entering a new organization, he says, “Because in many ways you are.” Here, Ryan offers advice on what to consider before accepting or pursuing a promotion at your company.

Decide if it’s what you really want. Most new positions provide an opportunity to acquire experience and learn new skills, but it is important that any new position fulfills your personal career goals. “Is it consistent with the career path that you envisioned?” asks Ryan. “If it’s completely out of where you want to be as an individual and requires that you bring to the table skill sets that you don’t have or that you’re not interested in, then it’s not a good fit. You want to make sure that what you’re going to be learning is working for you.”

Know the status of the position. How are the position and your prospective new responsibilities viewed in your organization? Are they part of its strategic direction? “If the position is important to the organization, not only will you get resources, you’ll get a seat at the planning table, which is important for career development. If you’re [not] involved in something that represents growth in the organization, then you’re not going to be in a dynamic leadership position.”

Do thorough research. Don’t make any assumptions. Ryan suggests asking lots of questions: Who was the person that previously held your position? What were the key markers of success? What could they have done differently? How would you assess the team dynamics between that manager and the employees who are there? Does that manager plan to stay in his position long term? “If that manager hired you and leaves three months down the road, you may not be in as favorable a position with new management.” Team dynamics tend to be critical—ultimately people stepping in may not have the ability to manage the team they’ve inherited. Either they don’t have the authority to hire or fire, or they may not be a good fit for how the job may work.

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