Are You Ready for a Promotion?

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D.

If you’re angling for a promotion, what steps can you take—other than working hard and showing your dedication to the organization—to improve your chances of success?

PsychTests, a provider of psychological assessment products including online personality, career, and IQ assessments, has released research results that shed some light on what it takes to get promoted. Collecting data from nearly 2,000 people who took their Career Advancement Profile, PsychTests' study reveals that those who are ready for a career change tend to have a proactive "edge" to their attitude and behavior.  According to their research, those who are ready for a promotion are more likely to:

  • Thrive on change
  • Want to be a part of the decision-making process in the company
  • Be challenge-seekers
  • Be on the constant lookout for opportunities to develop their potential
  • Be active networkers (e.g. looking for business contacts at social gatherings)
  • Be willing to accept that with career advancement comes the potential for additional stress (as long as it's not too intense)
  • Not only find it easy to learn a new task, but also show a willingness to learn even the most difficult of skills
  • Confidently share their ideas with their boss—and even assertively disagree with their boss' ideas if they don't think they have merit
  • Consistently strive to become more efficient

Employees from PsychTests' sample who indicated that they had been working hard toward being promoted were more proactive and industrious than their less ambitious counterparts. Those who put in a lot of effort to get promoted showed a much stronger desire for growth (90 vs. 66 on a scale from 0 to 100), a greater willingness to take on more responsibility (70 vs. 43), stronger leadership potential (81 vs. 54), stronger desire for change and stimulation (87 vs. 67), more initiative (93 vs. 66), more confidence (86 vs. 59), better adaptability (83 vs. 66). They were also better at dealing with stress (80 vs. 54). The sample of newly-promoted employees indicated that of all the traits assessed on the test, it was the desire to be a leader that propelled them to the top.

For employees who have been eyeing the top rung of the corporate ladder, PsychTests' offers the following tips:

  • Rethink what you really want. Think about what you really want to achieve in your career. Don't assume that just because a promotion brings a bigger paycheck or more prestige, it will be a better deal for you. Will you actually enjoy the day-to-day duties and challenges that come with the new position? Are you willing to accept any of the possible drawbacks, like longer hours, bigger responsibilities or more stress? Do you want to help others, mentor people, or make corporate decisions? Do you want creative freedom? Sometimes, a lateral move within the company can be a better fit for what you really want. Take the time to ponder what matters to you and it will be easier to determine whether a particular promotion is really right for you.
  • Ask yourself what the company has to gain by promoting you. If you want to move up, don't focus on your own need for a promotion but rather, on how the organization will benefit if they promote you. Approach it as though you were applying for a job in another company. You need to show them why you're the best candidate for the job. Clearly define what you have to offer and be prepared to sell yourself.
  • Document your successes. Keep a file with a timeline of your accomplishments, new skills you have acquired, training you've completed, and situations where you’ve taken the initiative.  When a client gives you positive feedback, for example, ask if the person could put it in writing. This file will come in handy when you ask for a promotion.
  • Let your employer know about your intentions. If you ask for a promotion out of the blue, when your employer has no idea that you're interested in moving up, you probably won't get very far. Mention your intention to move up ahead of time, perhaps during an evaluation or one-on-one meeting. Don't be arrogant or overly aggressive, but show genuine initiative and desire to get ahead. The process of planting the seeds should begin with asking what your boss is looking for in a promotion candidate, then determining whether you're well-equipped and suited for such a position. Remember, timing is critical. Don't ask for a promotion in the middle of a financial crunch or when your boss is overwhelmed with demands. If you choose the right time to bring up the issue, you increase your chances of being heard.
  • Don’t give up. Don't take things personally. If you’re not moving up as quickly as you would like, don't throw in the towel. Revise your plan, talk to your boss, and keep working at it. Perhaps you haven't yet shown you are ready for a major move, or the timing is off financially. And keep in mind that in business, “no” often means “not now.”

"Employees seeking a higher-level position, like supervisor or manager, need to fully understand what being promoted entails,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. They need to be prepared, or they risk being totally overwhelmed. Being promoted means being responsible for your own work as well as other people's. It means dealing with employee grievances, firing unproductive employees, and making major decisions that could have a huge impact on the company. This is what catches a lot of people off-guard. They think moving up the ladder means status and power—what they don't anticipate is huge amount of stress and responsibility that comes with it."

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About the Author(s)

Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D. is president of PsychTests. Contact her at [email protected]