Career Advice Sep 21 2011

When a Promotion Is a Bad Idea

By kelly eggers

Feel like you're hitting the ceiling on the job? While it may seem counterintuitive, taking a job with little upward mobility could be a step in the right direction.

In FINS' informal question forum, Sign or Decline, 45% of 670 respondents said they'd turn down their dream job if no one in their new group had been promoted in four years.

A group with a history of keeping employees on the same level shouldn't raise an automatic red flag, experts say. If your goal is to grow within a company, it's smart to do some research to find out if promotions from within are scarce company-wide.

That being said, promotions aren't always all they're cracked up to be. Climbing the ladder isn't for everyone, nor is it the right tactic at every point in one's career.

There are times when it's okay to sit tight and take a role that won't involve promotions and traditional forms of advancement:

When Your Focus Isn't On Work

Many people would prefer to strike a work-life balance than scale the ranks.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," said Steve Kasmouski, a career advisor with New England staffing agency Winter, Wyman. "If everyone wanted to be the Indian chief, we'd have a real problem."

"At certain life stages, people might not want that kind of advancement," said Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of client services with Boston-area career consultancy Keystone Associates. "Some people might be focused on going back to school or having a family," she said.

If you aren't looking to make significant career advancements in the next few years, a position with this type of stability could be ideal, Mattson said. "It's about finding the organization that can allow you to do what you want to do and what you do best."

When You're Changing Careers

"Paying your dues" all over again is a reality of career change. For those who are shifting their career paths, taking on a position for a few years that helps lay the groundwork and focuses on the fundamentals can be the way to do that.

"In the first few years, you could be learning a lot," said Kasmouski. The goal should be to learn as much as possible in that position so when the opportunity to move up comes along, you have the necessary skills. "Career changers need to earn credibility and get some accomplishments," said Mattson. "A position without promotion can still help you develop successes in a new area."

There's also an added benefit for workers who have had a lot of movement in the recent past. A longer stint at one company can show stability on a job hopper's resume, said Kasmouski.

When You Just Don't Want to Manage

The corporate ladder can be daunting. For some, a managerial role is one to shy away from.

"Employees with no people skills try their hand at management and decide they don't like it. They change their mind, they take a step back," said Kasmouski. "You can want the next job and chase the next level, but then get there and realize that you don't like it as much, and that you're not as good at it." If you can admit your flaws and stick to a role in which you thrive, you can experience growth and fulfillment in a different way.

Leadership qualities aren't exclusive to managerial positions, and you can develop them without having a title change. Becoming the point person on projects within your division or an expert in your field can make you a leader within your group.

What Would You Do?

Answer the question and see how you match up with the rest of the FINS community.

You've just been offered your dream job, but... no one in your new group has been promoted in four years.

Sign...or...Decline

Write to Kelly Eggers

Sign or Decline is a series of questions on FINS.com that ask what you would do for your dream job. Since its launch in 2010, over 100,000 answers have been received and compiled in our database. Participate in Sign or Decline here.




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