When I think of promotions and moving up the ladder, I think of the many Simpsons episodes where Homer made his way to the top (through one scheme or another) only to come tumbling down. My favorite was when he got promoted because Mr. Burns liked is new head of hair: “Who is that young go-getter Smithers?”

Not everyone gets in at the bottom floor of a company and immediately sets their sights on the top. Some people are sufficiently challenged in their current position and have no desire to move up in the ranks. Others, however, always have their eyes on the horizon…or on that corner office with the personal assistant. These are the people who always have the bigger picture in mind, and an underlying motivation behind their hard work. If you’re one of these people, the question is, do you really know what you’re getting into when you ask for a promotion, and if you do, do you have the traits and skills needed to handle it – traits, according to Queendom’s research, such as the desire for growth and a stimulating work environment, a willingness to take on additional responsibility, leadership potential, confidence, initiative, adaptability, and the ability to cope with stress.

Collecting data from nearly 2,000 people, Queendom’s statistics reveal that those who are ready for a career change tend to have a proactive “edge” to their attitude and behavior. Our study results showed that 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 put in the effort to make their work more efficient

Gender differences indicate that men show more of an edge in terms of reaching for that brass ring. They are much more willing than women to take on more responsibility and a leadership position, and have slightly higher levels of both confidence and initiative. Gender aside, Queendom’s sample of newly-promoted employees indicates that of all the traits assessed on the test, it was the desire to be a leader that propelled them to the top.

Now, you’re likely well-aware that getting promoted means extra responsibility, but a lot of people end up completely blind-sided by how much harder things get at the top. Put aside for a moment your notion of sitting in a big office with one of those leather chairs that recline. Stop fantasizing about that new good-looking assistant you’re going to hire, and think on this: If you’re promoted to leadership position, for example, it 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 the huge amount of stress and responsibility that comes with it. There is a whole shift in dynamics. Can you handle being in a position where your former friends and colleagues are now subordinates? Will you be able to give them orders and offer criticism? It takes more than ambition to make it to the top – you’ll need finesse with an extra layer of thick skin.

So for employees who have been eyeing that top rung of the corporate ladder and feel that they are truly prepared, here are some helpful tips:

  • Rethink what you really want. Take time to consider 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 like the day-to-day duties and challenges that come along 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 people, mentor people, or make corporate decisions? Do you want creative freedom or to work with other people? Sometimes, a lateral move in the company may be a better fit for what you really want. Take some 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 giving you a promotion. In order 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 new job in a new company – you need to show them why you’re the best candidate for the job. Clearly define what you have to offer and you will be better prepared to sell yourself.
  • Document your success. Keep a file with a timeline of your accomplishments, new skills you have acquired, training you’ve undergone and initiative you’ve taken.  When a client gives you positive feedback, for example, ask if he or she could put it in writing. This file will come in handy when it comes time to request that 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 intentions 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 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 approach the issue, you increase your chances of being heard.
  • Don’t take things personally – and keep trying! If you don’t move up as quickly as you want, 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. “No” in business may often mean “not now.”

Got any tips to move up the ladder? Share your comments below!

Join me for next week’s discussion on intelligence!

Insightfully yours,

Queen D