Once upon a time in what feels like a lifetime ago. I was a talented and ambitious TV journalist. I was good at my job and was fortunate enough to have incredible managers with coach-approach leadership styles. They cultivated my talents and helped me develop into a valuable part of their teams.
Because of my energy, skills, and ambition, I got promoted… and quickly. By the time I was 25, I was an executive in a top 10 news market, producing shows and segments for local and national broadcast. I was on top of the world- ahead of schedule in achieving my goals, and was in way over my head. Because I was so good at one job, I found myself in another that exceeded my capabilities.
My story is common. A person who is an incredible asset receives a promotion for which they are not prepared. I was fortunate that it did not ruin my career; I had phenomenal contacts to help me backtrack into a position where I could excel and grow toward the promotion I’d received too soon.
How can you be an incredible asset to your company, but not get caught in this trap?
1. Be honest.
Honesty is always the best policy. If you’re approached for a promotion and have concerns about your ability to produce results at the level that earned you the position in the first place, talk about it. Tell your manager that you need some time to gather your thoughts and make an appointment to discuss them. If you’re just nervous and don’t have anything specific justifying it, then maybe you should think about stepping outside your comfort zone. If particular items are leading to your reluctance, make a list and discuss them.
2. Get ahead of the game.
Usually, promotions don’t come by surprise. If you’re paying attention (at all), you’ll see it happening. Get ahead of it. Discuss your career with your boss, and get a mentor if you have any indication you’re getting promoted or considered for promotion.
3. Have a timeline.
Use a professional coach or mentor in your industry to help you create a timeline. The timeline is your game plan for your career. With this in mind, you can have appropriately timed discussions with your manager regarding your personal and professional growth. Sometimes promotions come because the employee has expressed interest
4. Don’t care.
Many of us say we don’t care what other people think of us but how many honestly do not care at all? I’m talking about deep down to the marrow of your bones that you don’t care. It is an area where you really should not care about appearances to your peers and below. I’ve promoted and demoted the same person. Her skills were fantastic, and she deserved the promotion. When she got there, she was drowning. When we discussed going back to her old job, neither of us looked at it as a demotion; Instead, it was a position where she was most comfortable and her skills most valuable. You never know what a job is like until you have it, and sometimes you may find the grass is greener where you used to be.
5. Know thyself.
Good old Socrates had it right. I once interviewed for a job that was perfect for me. From first reading the description through the application and halfway through the day-long interview, I had wonderful intuitive signals about the position. It was for ME! I was KILLING the interview! It didn’t matter who else was interviewing… I was stealing home base here. Then the afternoon came, and the people with whom I would work most closely and I got to meet each other. They were not collaborative or pleasant. While the job was perfect for me, and the people who would be my supervisors were my kind of people, the other possibly more critical piece was not there. I had to trust my gut. I had to know myself and turn down the job even though it was “perfect” for me.
With any promotion, it’s possible to succeed with the right support, however, having the insight to understand what job best suits your unique talents can help you be a unicorn in a field of horses.
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Jane Mims is a Life Coach and Management Coach in Memphis, Tennessee who has one child, two dogs, a cat, and an incredible husband named Bob. Bob is an accountant who is a CPA and has served as interim CFO, consultant, and auditor for many types of businesses. He has worked in Louisville, Kentucky, Jackson, MS, and now works for a consulting firm in NY.
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