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How to Avoid a Career-Killing Promotion

A career-killing promotion may sound like an oxymoron, but as career expert Anita Bruzzese points out the phenomenon is actually more common than you might expect. When an employee's specific technical expertise produces excellent results and gets noticed by the higher-ups, the result is often a promotion to a management position that demands an entirely different skill set. Many people flounder. Scott Erker, a senior VP at talent management firm Development Dimensions International, explains:
[Senior managers] look at an employee in a current role and see what a great job the person is doing. So they consider (him or her) for a promotion," he says. "They don't stop to find out if this person has leadership skills or not, such as the ability to mentor or coach others or rally a team around a goal.
So how can you avoid falling into the trap of the career-killing promotion? Bruzzese passes on a few suggestions from Erker:
  • Ask for the job's parameters. Understand the requirements of the job. Ask what the purpose, goals and objectives will be, especially in the first year.
  • Read the job description and ask questions about specific duties.
  • Inquire "why me?" Find out why they think you'd be successful in the job. You want them to point to strengths you have shown, such as the work you did on a task force. If they tell you they don't know why they chose you, that's a red flag.
  • Find out what support will be available. Leaders learn from training, coaching and mentoring and on-the-job experiences, so those offered a promotion should find out how they'll be supported in these areas. "Don't think you're going to learn these skills from a leadership book," he says.
  • Network. Find people who now fill a similar role and take them to lunch or even meet for 15 minutes to ask about the work. Get an unbiased view of the job before making a decision.
  • Don't be afraid to say, "Next time." "You don't have to jump at the first opportunity," he says. "You can tell them you'd like to stick it out where you are and go at it next time" when better prepared to take on a management role.
All in all it sounds like sensible enough advice, but do you really think those interested in career progression won't pay a penalty for turning down a promotion, especially in the early part of their careers?

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mykl Roventine, CC 2.0)