Meet David – the corporate guy. He has been working as a sales director for a multinational company for three years. He met or exceeded his sales targets each year. He is well-connected with the senior management and very keen to move to the next level. An opening for a vice-president position comes along. Although the franchise he will be heading is losing constantly market share, he is thrilled with the promotion. It has been his dream for some time now.
Fast-forward 1.5 years later: Despite his efforts, David didn’t manage to change the downward sales trend. He got fired.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
Is there anything that David could have done differently?
It is always easier to give advice when you know the outcome of an event. However, I’d like to use this example (any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental) to elicit some learnings that can be used in future situations.
Here are 5 areas that David should have considered:
- Find out more information about the job. What is the reason behind the market loss? Why the previous VP was not successful? Is the company willing to provide the necessary resources? How fast they expect a change? Is this a critical franchise for the company?
- Assess whether this position fit his strengths and interests. A specific skill-set is required for turnaround leaders. They need to optimize processes, cut inefficiencies, get rid of wrong people fast, develop a stretched but achievable plan to name just a few. Does David have these skills? Does he have experience in these type of situations? Also, is he interested in this area?
- Think long -term. Will this promotion help him to build the expertise he needs to achieve his 5 year plan or will it pigeonhole him in an area he doesn’t want to be long-term?
- Get an external perspective. An honest discussion with his mentor(s) may uncover other useful areas to consider. Also, will this new job have an impact on his family life? Are they ok with it?
- Connect the dots. Based on the information above, David should decide whether to accept or turn down his promotion. For example, if he doesn’t have the skills to make this assignment successful or if this promotion doesn’t help his career to the direction he had in mind, he should wait for another opportunity that fit his abilities better.
There has been this belief that corporations expected complete loyalty from their employees. So, if you turned down a promotion, you basically said ‘goodbye’ to your career advancement in the specific company. Even if this used to be the case before (I doubt it though), it definitely doesn’t apply to the current work environment.
Nowadays, most employees work on average at 5 different companies during their working life. As a result, they learn to be more in control of their career progression and not to depend only on HR recommendations.
The bottom line: Make sure your next promotion will benefit both the company and yourself. If you are not certain, turn it down (politely). You will be better off in the long-run.
Have you accepted a promotion that didn’t go the way you wanted? What happened? What did you learn from the experience?
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, consultant and speaker. She is a former executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.
I agree completely with this assessment. The only thing I would add is that getting an external perspective should not just be limited to his mentor – talk to other people in the company to get their perspective on where the franchise is going, especially the people that work in it. This may have gotten him a realistic view of the potential downsides.
Totally agree. Important to find out what the company’s expectations are about the franchise.
he could have lost his job directly by saying no!? my view is that is always better to regret for something you have tried and not for something you have avoided!! in this case possibly experience in higher position by itself is an advantage for the future, same or different job matters less!?
Fair point; I also believe that it is better to regret for something you have tried than for something you have avoided. Nevertheless, we need to learn to manage our careers more actively.