Career advancement – it’s about give and take

Let’s face it most people welcome the opportunity to advance their careers. Whether adopting a cunning strategy to map out a route to the top; have been ‘tapped on the shoulder’ or, as with the majority of cases, have simply worked hard and have applied for a more senior role when it has been advertised; many of us are looking to develop our careers.

Whichever route is taken, it is important that individuals know what is motivating them. Promotion should be a doorway into more senior positions, offering enhanced career prospects, increased remuneration and the ability to take on more interesting and challenging work. For many people this is exactly how they wish their career to develop. Equally however and particularly true of younger generations, jumping at a promotion without really understanding both the organisational expectations as well as what is pushing them to seek out the advancement, can result in disappointment for both parties.

The importance of understanding personal motivators for promotion

Schein’s Career Anchors can offer a degree of insight around motivation. Individuals whose career anchors include autonomy and independence for example will see promotion as a way in which these outcomes can be enhanced. Equally, individuals who exhibit the lifestyle career anchor may see the increased compensation that would typically accompany a promotion as supporting a better lifestyle. Those who value technical or functional competencies will view promotion as a route through which their; expert status can be enhanced. Of course career anchors may not offer an explanation in all cases, however for any employee wanting career advancement, we should encourage them to look at what they want to achieve as a result of the promotion – and, conversely, what they might wish to avoid.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Typically, more senior roles are accompanied with increased accountability and responsibility. As such, being promoted will inherently lead to a change in an individual’s role. How people adapt to this is key as it will determine whether or not the promotion is a success – both individually and organisationally. Encouraging individuals to engage with relevant line managers to fully understand what the role involves and the expectations is a must. Forward thinking organisations already embrace these types of discussions; recognising the benefits to succession planning as well as helping individuals to fully prepare well in advance of when they may be promoted.

Early planning is time well spent. Moving into the first tier of management can often be the most jarring; with some of the most basic scenarios frequently necessitating a change in outlook. Whilst the contractual hours within a role for example, may indicate one thing, there is frequently an expectation that people in more senior roles will work ‘over and above’ these hours. The 9-5 mentality has to go, and go early (particularly in private sector roles). Whilst the employing organisation should certainly not expect people to be available ‘all the time’ it is likely that there will be some sort of compromise (often unwritten) that will result in the employee accessing emails or responding to calls outside of the contracted hours. It’s a grey area and one that requires a degree of ‘give and take’ on both sides to enable a positive and consensual outcome.

Add in the more complex expectations around team management, leadership accountability and technical excellence and the promotion can, in some cases, feel a step too far – particularly for the unprepared.  Employing organisations will often look to support first line managers with appropriate management development, coaching or mentoring support – and newly appointed individuals would be well advised to take advantage of as much of this available support as possible. It will help.

So, to ensure that promotion is as successful as possible, it’s worth thinking about the following factors:

  • Ensure potential candidates understand what is motivating them to seek promotion
  • Encourage conversations around career development, to help individuals understand what is motivating them, what opportunities exist and ways they can develop themselves in preparation
  • Make sure individuals understand what responsibilities and accountabilities will fall within the scope of the role
  • Help them to understand that their role and place within the organisation is changing, and therefore they may need to be more flexible
  • Provide support, whether formal or informal coaching, mentoring or development programmes to help them successfully assimilate into their new role

Promotion is a big step for both employee and employer and not without certain risks on both sides. However if handled sensibly, with a clear, open and flexible approach there is no reason for it not to be a successful one.