This concept was brought home to me this week while talking to a client who was excellent at their job. They were exceptional in their performance and because of this were offered a leadership position. The thing was, they never wanted it. They were very happy and fulfilled in the role they were doing. But, like most of us, a promotion and the prospect of a higher wage, tempts our self-esteem and our bank balance. Yet, a few years in and my client was miserable, under performing and feeling less confident than they ever had felt in their life. They didn’t want the promotion but felt conflicted to say no.
We are expected to have ambition in this materialistically driven world we created. It is nearly discreditable to suggest that achieving in every endeavor might not be your own particular dream. Ambition is a highly valued cultural characteristic. It means we have drive, are not lazy, want more and have the ability to learn, grow and develop. When we are ambitious we are seen to add worth to our lives and by our actions the greater good.
However, ambition needs to be relative to our personal needs and motivators. Caring for children by staying home is ambition. Volunteering for charities is ambition. Working hard and enjoying your job, without desiring promotion is also, still ambition.
What is ambition, if it doesn’t mean climbing that ladder of success?
Ambition by definition is, ‘a strong desire to do or achieve something.’ It includes our aspirations, intentions, vocations, dreams, hopes, wishes, purpose and mission in our lives. It also includes determination, eagerness, motivation and enthusiasm. Ambition means a lot of different things to each of us, it is not the same for all.
All of these actions that describe ambition, can be gained by just doing your job well and taking pleasure from what you do. Ambition isn’t only about moving up a position, a bigger pay packet, more people to manage and the status accrued as your job title becomes more superior. It is what you want it to be.
Promotions are a recognition of your ability to do well, to manage stress, demonstrate responsibility and endurance. But before you take that promotion, make sure it is truly what you want, and that the benefits will outweigh the demands all promotions bring.
1. Will the position be advancing you in the direction you want your career to go?
Take a moment to consider your long-term career goals. Is the promotion you are being offered a step in the right direction, could it keep other opportunities from coming your way or is part of your life track?
2. How will you balance your personal and professional lives in the position?
A promotion means more commitment and time in the job. Try to outline your priorities in your professional and personal life and consider any roadblocks the new position could present for you, and your commitments to your friends and family.
3. Will you thrive in the new position or be crippled by fear or anxiety?
This is important. Make sure you have the skills and emotional fortitude to do the job on offer. If you’re simply not qualified to do the job, and you’re more worried about failing than excited about growing, that’s going to be a problem. You may need to ask for additional training and support before you accept the promotion.
4. Will you be happy to wake up and go to work each day?
We all work better if we are inspired or passionate about what we do. If the promotion involves managing problematic staff or a product you don’t believe in, will the sleepless night be worth it?
5. Will your relationships with colleagues and coworkers be affected?
When colleagues become under your supervision, have to report to you those old working relationships and even friendships can become problematic. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable with changing relationships as a result of the promotion. How will you cope with overt or covert resentment when you have to do your job and that may affect those colleagues. Are they really okay with the change in position? Will they work for you or against you in the long term?
6. Are you well suited for the role?
It happens all of the time. The most common failed transition in promotions is where a business moves someone from a task-oriented position into a management role. Think how well suited you are for the role, especially if you are being asked to move into a leadership role. Not all of us are good managers and naturally efficient at managing people. It turns out that some of us are better suited to producing things as opposed to managing other people.
7. You don’t want to manage people.
Oftentimes a promotion comes with new responsibilities, specifically managing a group of junior employees. But not everyone is cut out for or enjoys directing and instructing people to do things at work. That’s fine. We often don’t realise the mental and emotional energy and skill required to shift from being an employee to a team manager or supervisor. Becoming responsible not only for yourself, but for a group of people can be a daunting task to ask of anybody. Often, businesses think because you’re a great individual contributor, you’re going to be a great manager. But that doesn’t always work and often these type of promotions fail because nobody really sat down and went through the new responsibilities, on all levels.
8. There’s no pay increase.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not uncommon for employers to offer a new title and new responsibilities without the pay raise. I have heard this so many times. We can be lured by a title believing that it will lead to more status or financial gain. This is fine if the new position provides a mental challenge you are seeking, and you don’t mind no extra monetary rewards. Experience tells me that sooner or later this type of agreement leads to feeling taken for granted, regret and lower productivity. And think a little towards the future, if another company tries to lure you away and they ask your current salary, you may be at disadvantage. If you are doing the current job for a low rate why would they offer you more? For under numerated promotions don’t get dazzled by the excitement of the short-term offer, consider the long-term ripple effect it can have on your career.
9. You love your current job.
If your role is fulfilling and you’re comfortable there, you don’t have to leave it behind. Happiness cannot be bought. However, be mindful, that remaining at your current level comes with the inevitable pay ceiling. Salary increases are often given with more responsibility. Everything is a compromise.
10. What would be the top goals you need to accomplish?
A new role comes with more than a title and an office. It will be attached to new responsibilities and goals. If you are taking the promotion be sure to ask your boss which top two or three goals they would like you to tackle first. Your new position will come with accountability and increased expectations of your delivery on tasks. Make sure you are confident you can deliver.
It is kind of a general assumption that everyone wants to be promoted. But that simply isn’t the truth. Success is a self-determined concept and it is measured by our own perception of what is meaningful to us and what is valuable to our lives. Success is not always measured by climbing the corporate ladder and being given a promotion. Sometimes just taking pleasure in your own ability to do your best is enough.