- 1.7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for a Promotion
(This article – “7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for a Promotion” – is part 1 in a four-part series, “Getting the Job You Deserve.”)
One of the toughest questions early career employees face is, “Should I ask for a promotion?” In my experience, there are two kinds of people. There are people who actively seek promotion, sometimes letting their confidence outpace the competence they will bring to the new position. These folks are often still mastering their current job. The other kind of person has doubts about taking on a bigger portfolio. They may be hesitant to take on additional work that could have a negative impact on work life balance. Or lack confidence in their ability to become masterful in a new role, especially one that involves managing budgets or people. So, how do you know when the time is right? Here are seven questions to ask yourself before applying for a promotion.
1. Will a Promotion Advance My Career Goals?
Before throwing your hat in the ring, think about your long-term career goals. Ask yourself if moving up in your organization or at another organization within your industry will move your career forward. The answer to this question may seem simple, but it is often far from cut-and-dried. First, think about the job itself. Some “promotions” are merely lateral moves in disguise. Will you really be taking on new responsibilities, or will you just be doing the same things with a new title? Take a hard look at the new position to see how it fits into your long-range plan.
Second, do you want to stay at your current organization long-term? Are you happy there? Do you feel supported by management and executives? Do you get along with your co-workers? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” making an additional commitment of time and energy may not be right for you. Rather than a promotion, you might consider moving to a new organization that can give you what you need to thrive.
2. What Are People Saying About You?
We all have blind spots. It’s essential that you pause to get feedback about your current performance level and other’s impression of your potential before asking for a promotion. Think about what your managers and supervisors have said about your work. Start by looking at your past evaluations. If they are glowing, it’s a good sign that the people who will promote you have faith in your abilities.
But don’t’ stop at evaluations, think about the informal conversations you’ve had with your supervisors. Have they asked about your future goals? Have they suggested that you think about promotion? Has a manager recommended that you take on more responsibility? These conversations are a good sign that you are being groomed for a larger role. The fact that they haven’t initiated these conversations doesn’t mean that you should worry. However, you may need to make your desires known. (Part two in this series will cover that topic.)
Though the opinions of the people you report to matter, you should also consider the opinions of those at your same level and those who report to you, when applicable. Do the people you supervise respond well to your leadership style? Do peers come to you for advice? If the people you work with most often value your opinion, you may be ready to lead a larger team. Conversely, if your team morale is low or you’ve been told to change your management style, you should address those issues before moving forward.
3. What Do You Think About Your Performance?
As you consider input from others, also do your own work. Do some self-analysis about your work, your past and current level and quality of contribution to the organization, your commitment to excellence that will be needed for a larger contribution. Give yourself an honest evaluation. Have you successfully completed the major tasks you have been given? Have you consistently met deadlines and come in under budget? Do you communicate well, demonstrate consistency, and instill confidence in others? Evaluating your current performance is a good way to see if you’re ready for more responsibility.
Even if you’ve done well thus far, everyone’s performance can improve. Have you done everything possible to make yourself better? Have you addressed any concerns about your performance raised in formal or informal evaluations? Are you investing in your professional development? Make sure that you’re doing everything you can to excel in your current role. That’s the best way to show yourself – and others – that you have the attitude and requisite follow through expected of a leader.
4. Are You Ready?
New positions often require new skills. Will a promotion require skills that you don’t have? Do you have the same number of clients, years of experience, professional accomplishments or revenue generation accounts as those who have recently been promoted? Do you have the required certifications? If you are missing any of the necessary pieces, make sure you are willing to put in the work to get them.
Also, ask yourself, “Do I feel completely and totally ready to move up right now?” Don’t worry if you answer no. Most effective leaders are nervous before taking on a new role. Don’t let your humility get in the way of your next move (but hold on to that humility—it’s a gift).
5. Is it the Right Time?
Timing is everything. Before applying for a promotion, think about what is happening right now and in the future of your organization. Are business changes happening (mergers, restructuring, buyouts, retirements, etc.)? After major changes, many companies restructure. It makes little sense to spend hours applying for a position that might not exist in a few months. Conversely, being patient could work to your benefit. Major changes often create new positions. Changes could also mean that current positions will now have better pay, a new location, or other perks. Let your managers and champions know about your aspirations and perhaps a position could be crafted that takes advantage of your unique talents. Either way, time your application to consider what is best for the organization and for your personal ambitions. Effective leaders are always acting “in the service of” the organization. .
Beyond work, think about your personal life. Are any major personal life events (marriage, divorce, having or adopting a child, child graduating from high school, etc.) on the horizon? If so, can you handle these personal issues and more work responsibility at the same time? Taking on a new position will require investment in learning new skills and how to manage time with a new professional portfolio. There will certainly be a learning curve, especially at the beginning. This investment of time may have implications for personal commitments. Are you able to make that adjustment? If not, it’s fine to wait for things on the personal front to calm down before applying for a promotion. On the other hand, I’ve known plenty of people to wait for “the perfect time” for all sorts of things, and that time just doesn’t come. Do what makes the best sense for you.
6. Are You Willing to Relocate?
If you work for a large organization, your perfect opportunity may be in another city. While some employees are more than willing to relocate, others have valid reasons (spouses’ jobs, children’s schools, family ties, etc.) for wanting to stay put. Are you willing and able to move for the right position? Will your loved ones support the move? If you answer yes, forge ahead. But if there is any hesitation on your part or theirs, it may be best to get everyone on board before making any major decisions.
7. Are You Willing to Take on More Responsibility?
A promotion will change the day-to-day of your work life. Promotions usually mean longer work hours, particularly in the beginning. A promotion can also mean more travel, more weekend work, or more work-related evening socializing. If you are ready to take on these additional challenges, you may be ready for a promotion.
Also, your new position may require you to create, build, and, staff a new department from the ground up. It could require you to turn around a failing department or take on some other major challenge. If you are willing and able to take on a much heavier, more unpredictable workload, you may be ready. Think about what new obligations the promotion will bring before you commit.
Now, consider your readiness for a promotion, and forge ahead when the time is right for you. If you are committed to investing in yourself, please join us in The Inclusive Leader’s Management Toolkit. The Inclusive Manager’s Communication Toolkit is an 8-week online course for anyone in a formal or informal leadership or managerial role who wants to have inclusive and practical tools for maximizing workforce performance. This program is jam-packed with best practices, immediately applicable tools, and expert coaches to help you excel in your current and future leadership roles. We look forward to being part of your journey.