Getting promoted is a huge moment in your career.
Whether you’ve been gearing up for this promotion for months, taking on strategic projects and building key relationships, or maybe it came as a surprise – either way, getting a promotion represents a milestone that is worthy of celebration.
When you get promoted, you’re probably feeling a range of emotions all at once—surprised, excited, nervous—especially if this is your first promotion or it’s still early in your career. It is time to capitalize on all that energy you’re feeling so you can respond appropriately!
First things first when you get offered a promotion, say thank you! Whether the promotion was a surprise or well-anticipated, your manager chose *you* for this opportunity because they believe in your ability. You want to follow up on this by showing them that you are happy that they shared this opportunity with you.
There are two common types of promotions. Chances are you’ve been awarded one of these:
- You’ve been doing your job and your hard work is being recognized. If this is the case, you’ll likely get promoted from a junior position to a senior position, like from a software engineer to a software lead or senior engineer. You’re not moving into management, but you are moving up in the level of responsibility for projects and influence on the team.
- You’ve been a part of a team and you’re getting promoted to either lead the team that you were previously a member of or managing another team. You are going to be doing less of the technical work you did before, and are beginning to take on managerial and leadership responsibilities instead.
No matter which one applies to you: you were promoted because you were exceptional! However, you should take time to consider the type of promotion you are being offered and make sure that it fits in with the career trajectory and goals that you have for yourself.
A promotion inherently entails change, new responsibilities, and different career challenges
Before you accept, make sure this promotion is something you really want. We can get so wrapped up in the idea of advancement that we forget what happens after we receive a promotion: more work, taking responsibility for a team or group of people, and possibly a change in your career trajectory. Consider these things before you accept your promotion:
- What do you anticipate will be the challenges and expectations of your new role? Are you ready to put in the work required to meet them?
- Is this promotion a good fit for you? Does it align with your skill set and interests?
- How will this promotion affect your goals? Your career trajectory? Your personal life?
All of these questions will have important implications for your life so it’s important to thoughtfully consider them now before accepting the position.
If you really enjoy the work that you do now, are you prepared to leave that behind to assume a leadership role? If you step out of a technical role to take a leadership role, it will affect your ability to go back to the specialty you had before – you are essentially changing career tracks. Is that a change you want to make?
Would you rather be the driving force behind projects, or the one executing the work in the trenches? Give some consideration to whether you enjoy getting stuff done or empowering others to do a great job executing work; a promotion usually means leaving the former to take on the latter.
While you may experience some fear and anxiety thinking about the changes that will result from a promotion, don’t let those emotions dictate your willingness to take the opportunity. Feeling those emotions is a normal part of any change (everything is new and scary until it’s not) so try to channel your feelings into productivity and preparation to help you succeed in your new role.
As you think about your options, ask a few helpful questions to determine whether or not this new role really fits with your ideal career trajectory and goals:
- Write down what *your* goals and priorities are today. When you imagine yourself in five years, what kinds of things is the future you doing at work? What are your goals today? Does this promotion fit into your goals and priorities? Does it help you achieve your goals and priorities?
- Talk it out. Get advice from a couple of trusted mentors and peers. Ask them about their experiences and what helped them evaluate their decision to take or deny a promotion. Talk to people who have your future job title – what do they like about it? How did they get there?
- Picture the future, and write down what you see. What will taking this promotion look like a year from now? Five years from now? What would not taking the promotion mean a year from now? Five years from now?
Don’t burn the bridges you have built
Whether you like it or not, your relationships with your peers and superiors undoubtedly played a significant role in landing you this promotion. Opportunities come from people who trust and believe in us, and you almost certainly had someone on your side who recommended you and vouched for you for this position.
But now, as you move ahead of some of your peers, it can feel awkward and exciting all at once. After all, who doesn’t like to be the best?
However, you don’t want anyone to feel like you are rubbing it in that you got an opportunity and they didn’t.
You’ll most likely have the opportunity to talk about the promotion with other people who were vying for it or who are on the level you were on before you got promoted. It is absolutely okay to talk about being excited and happy about the opportunity, but be respectful that other people might feel hurt or jealous too.
If you get the sense that some people are less than happy about your new job, give them space for a while. It might be hard for them to interact with you and fake enthusiasm, and you don’t want to force them if they don’t want to see as much of you while they get over their hurt feelings. Remember, it is probably less that they are mad about *you* being promoted and more than they are disappointed that *they* didn’t get promoted. See the difference?
Keep in mind that if you are their new manager you will need to work to mend this relationship over time, but you don’t need to force it right away. Respect their feelings and give them space. Don’t try to avoid them either, though. You do still have to work together, so you should start thinking proactively about how you can position yourself as an ally to them in the long term.
In your new role, you should continue to treat everyone you work with respectfully and approach every relationship from the angle of making each other better. Whether it is showing deference and good listening to your new peers (since you are the new kid on the block, after all) or being friendly and understanding to former peers.
The more you are someone who makes other people happier and more successful, the more successful you will be – so stay focused on adding value, not feeling superior because of a new title. Focus on being an ally to the people around you, rather than trying to judge people for not being happy for you.
It is important to still treat everyone around you with respect
Don’t let this promotion get to your head.
Treating anyone like they are beneath you because you’ve gotten a promotion will hurt you in the long run. Even if someone’s petty behavior makes you feel like bragging or shutting them down, it is always better to politely exit the conversation or figure out ways to steer the relationship in a positive direction than to lash out back at them.
You never know when previous coworkers will also get promoted (or even be your boss someday!) or when you’ll have to ask for their help resolving a problem. While it’s true that you might be higher up in the company hierarchy than the people who were previously your coworkers, don’t forget the role they played in helping you get there by helping you meet deadlines, troubleshoot issues, and giving you positive reviews along the way. Stay humble even when it’s challenging at times to not toot your own horn.
This is not the finish line!
Getting a promotion can feel like winning a game of tug-o-war. You’ve been pulling with all your strength and the moment you’ve pulled the flag over the center line, there can be a strong temptation to let the rope go slack and go celebrate.
Getting promoted doesn’t mean you’re done, though. It’s actually just the opposite. You’re back to Day One.
Now that you are essentially in a brand new job, you have to navigate the waters of a new job, including new bosses, new peers, new responsibilities, and new perspectives all over again.
Too many people think, “Hey! I just got promoted, which must mean I’m doing great. I can take a break now.” This is completely wrong.
A promotion is a milestone, not a finish line. It’s just the first step of many.
Think back to when you started your current job. Think of all the projects you had to excel at to get on your supervisors radar. All the one-on-ones it took to form connections with your peers and bosses alike.
It took a lot of hard work to be the superstar you are today. It’s important to take a moment to applaud yourself for this accomplishment and all the hard work that preceded it, but it’s equally important to look to the future.
It’s time to start laying the groundwork for establishing relationships that will be critical to your success in your new role, so you can go on to even greater things in the future. Unless you want this to be your last promotion, it’s important to outline your new priorities, new goals, and new expectations as soon as possible so that you can start exceeding them.
Create the next set of goals you want to reach. Outline the people you need to connect with. Define success in your new position. This promotion is going to entail a lot of hard work but it’s also another opportunity to shine as a superstar.