There’s a lot of reasons why employees want promotions and to advance their career. Some want the prestige of the title that goes with a role, the increase in salary, some even crave the extra workload and responsibility involved while many cite the opportunity to influence and direct staff; “I really want to make a difference.”
We’ve come to a point in many organizations where if you don’t advance yourself within a few years, you’re cut loose; you’re not performing up to expectations. It’s true! There are organizations that promote from within and expect front-line staff to move up in seniority and stature, creating opportunities for new staff in entry level roles. The thinking is that employees are most effective when they started on the bottom and as they rise in the organization, they have the memories and experience of having been on the bottom, so they carry that knowledge first-hand as they advance.
So you might be feeling that in order to fit in, you’ve got to throw your name in the next job competition for a promotion – even when you’re perfectly happy in your current role. There’s advice out there to this effect too; “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Hold on. Go back to that very first line in this blog. Did you even notice how I used the words, “promotions” and “advance”? I bet you just read along taking both these words to mean the same thing. In other words, to advance your career you need a promotion. That’s a widely held assumption and belief that’s just not true. Here’s my personally held belief: If you want to make the biggest impact in an organization; make a real and lasting imprint on how your customers/clients/ etc. experience interacting with your company, work on the front line.
Now many people will argue that if you stay on the front line in an entry-level role, you’re not ambitious and you’re going to stagnate. I like to tell those people that while they are entitled to their opinion, I don’t share it. I myself have been an Employment Counsellor now for 12 years in the organization, 4 more before that as a Caseworker and those positions are at the same level on our organizational flow chart. So that’s 16 years employment at the same level in the same organization.
Now while I’ll happily admit I’ve not got a promotion in our organization, I’ll also tell you I’ve never sought one. Have I advanced myself though? Absolutely! I’ve evolved and developed my skills; worked on various committees and contributed fresh ideas and been open to change that’s happened and continues to happen where I work.
My reputation for competence, dependability, program development, creativity and service excellence has enriched my work life and I’m a much more effective Employment Counsellor now than I was not just 12 years ago when I started, but I like to think better than any of the years before. I’m advancing my knowledge, working to improve my service delivery, overhaul workshops and create new ones, stretch myself by learning best practices and sharing my knowledge.
Believe me, when I feel I’m just putting in time and stagnating, I’ll be aggressively seeking to move on – within or beyond the organization. I’m much more concerned about floating along and not developing personally than my employer could ever be. I never want to be, ‘that guy’; the one that everyone knows should be put out to pasture, riding off into retirement or let go because I’m flatlining. You think I’m not advancing? Just try and keep pace with me. Oh and that’s not arrogance by the way – that’s personal confidence and drive; two qualities you want in your employees no matter where they are in the hierarchy.
So now to you. When you’ve got your own performance review coming up, you may feel some expectation to indicate your plan for career advancement – in other words a promotion. I can’t tell you what you should say or how you should feel about that. I’d hate to contribute to your release from a position if the company’s policy is you only work in a role so long and up you go or out you go!
What I will say to you is this though; you can be incredibly effective and impactful on the front-line where you interact first-hand with those you’re in business to serve and interact with. You are the face of the organization, the ambassador for how they perceive the company; you hold that organizations reputation in your hands as much as your own. If you excel in your role, show up every day (well most days – we’re human after all) energized and work with drive and passion, why would you risk giving up what so many are longing for in their own careers?
Moving up doesn’t bring any guarantee of increased happiness and fulfillment. In fact, many a happy and productive employee has moved up and found the new job isn’t all they hoped it would be. They were happier and better suited to work on the front line, but in some companies, there’s no going back. That is the ultimate sign of failure in some places. What a shame.
If you love your role on the front line, show up happy, work with passion and deliver service excellence, my goodness feel validated in your present job!