Ask for Experiences, Not Promotions

Updated Jun 7, 20224 min
Ask for Experiences, Not Promotions

Ask for Experiences, Not Promotions

Caroline BantonUpdated Jun 7, 20224 min
Ask for Experiences, Not Promotions

Asking for a promotion is risky. If you don't have a solid grasp of the challenges and the responsibilities the new position will bring, you might be biting off more than you can chew. 

There is another approach that is practically risk-free. Requesting micro assignments is a great way to assume a new role one step at a time. This method will have you climbing the ladder with confidence rather than slipping on a rung or two. 

Read on to learn how to prepare yourself for promotion the right way. Find out why it is better to take on assignments that give you exposure to a higher position without the full responsibility of decision making. We explain how a more measured approach to career advancement may take longer in the short term but will ultimately pay higher dividends.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Asking for a Promotion

Asking for a promotion can be a risky proposition. Unless you have experience in your targeted role, you may be reaching into the unknown with detrimental consequences. You may think you fully grasp what a promotion entails, but without direct experience, you could be far off the mark.

Here are some things to consider.

Related: “9 Signs That You Are Ready for Promotion

You Need Access to People and Information

When you're promoted, you enter a different realm as a decision-maker. To make good decisions, you need reliable information. Do you know what information you need to make the best choices? Do you know how and where to get that information?

For example, let’s say you are in sales, but you are moving to a vice president position in marketing strategy. You currently deal with customer satisfaction, customer feedback, and customer relationships. You have your finger on the pulse of your organization’s customer relationship management (CRM).

Once you move to a higher-level position, you are removed from the frontline as you take on an overall management role. You will not have time to check social media platforms to monitor customer loyalty, and you will have to rely on your team members to keep you informed with reports and real-time analytics.

You will also need to establish strong relationships with people you will depend on for the information you need. These relationships will include direct reports, peers, your boss, and a mentor who can guide you in your decision-making.

It’s Lonely at the Top

Once promoted, your relationships change. The team members you used to laugh and joke with may now be your direct reports. You may have few people you can confide in because much of what you manage is confidential. Often, you will be alone in your work with few people to turn to for help. In fact, rising to the highest levels can be a lonely proposition.

You Might Not Be Right for the Role

Some companies promote staff because it is cheaper than hiring a candidate externally. But if you are not suitable for the role, it can be detrimental to your career. Let’s say you join a startup, and you are instantly made director of product design. Your level of experience with new products will not be the same as someone with ten or twelve years of experience, and that can directly affect the startup’s success.

Your Future May Be Limited

There are two ways that being promoted prematurely can limit your professional outlook. First, once you rise to a senior position, you tend to be pigeon-holed, and it can be difficult to switch to a different discipline. For example, it is difficult for a director of human resources to apply for an assistant financial analyst position.

An early promotion also affects your worth. Once promoted, you become a more expensive hire. If you later decide to apply for a job with a lower title because you don’t have the experience, your current $80,000 salary could become $50,000 as you are forced to accept a pay cut.

The Politics Can be Brutal

As you climb the corporate ladder, politics come into play. Unfortunately, many decisions made at the management and executive level have little to do with what’s best for the company and a lot to do with power plays. Do you understand the dynamics in your organization, and can you navigate the politics and emerge unscathed?

Will You Even Like the Job?

A promotion brings status and a higher salary, but it might not be worth it if you don’t like the job. With status comes stress and accountability. You may be required to work longer hours and be available 24/7 to sort out problems when they occur.

As a manager, you are not only responsible for your own performance but that of all your direct reports. You must find ways to motivate your teams through incentives to boost retention and ensure the work gets done according to a timeline and budget. Are you ready to take on all that a promotion entails? Without testing the waters first, it can be hard to envisage what life in your new position will be like.

There is another path to promotion that is less risky and gives you time to adapt to the demands of a new environment. It involves gaining exposure to your targeted role in micro doses. This option minimizes the likelihood you will make mistakes because you have time to learn the ropes and establish critical relationships before you are solely responsible for decisions.

A Smarter Path to Promotion

Exposure to a higher-level job and its responsibilities in micro doses will fully prepare you for a leadership position without putting you or the organization at risk. Also, it is easier to ask your boss to give you new and challenging assignments than it is to ask for a promotion. 

These experiences should be a part of your career development plan with metrics to assess your readiness for the next stage of your career.

Have a conversation with your boss about your path to promotion. Accumulate positive reviews by taking on assignments that give you more exposure and responsibility to prepare you for your next career move.

Related: “Thinking About a Lateral Move? Position Yourself for Success

The Logic Behind Micro Assignments

As you take on new assignments, you will climb the learning curve and build the relationships you need once promoted. You will have the opportunity to learn the position and become competent in that role. Then, once you are confident and have the experience under your belt, you can follow up your solid grounding with a request for promotion, knowing that you have minimized any risk to your career and to your company.

For example, if you have experience in back-end product development processes, you could work in marketing to understand new customer touchpoints and front-end user experiences. You could work cross-departmentally and gain a perspective of how other areas of the organization contribute to a thriving company with loyal customers.

Ideally, you might be able to stand in for your supervisor on an increasing basis. This will give you the grounding you need for your potential new job.

Set Yourself Up for Success

It’s always a good idea to consult a professional for career advice and to help you determine what micro assignments make sense for you. A career professional can judge whether you are ready for the next step in your career and the accompanying new opportunities.

The bottom line is that it is exciting and flattering to be promoted, but that doesn’t mean you are ready for all the responsibilities a new position brings. Take a measured approach and build the experience and relationships you need before you take on a new role. That way, you set yourself up for professional success and happiness at the next level in your career.

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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