Moving Up and Freaking Out? 3 Ways to Deal With a Promotion


corporate ladder image

CC Image courtesy of Sarah Leo on Flickr

Professional advancement can be a hard-won accomplishment that takes months or years of planning and patience to achieve. Alternately, it can appear suddenly—like a stealthy Ninja Godmother—catching you off guard with a leg-sweep of success.

Either way, if you’ve recently taken a step up the career ladder, you may be experiencing a mixture of excitement and dread. The air can sometimes feel a little thinner while you’re adjusting to the change in altitude—but don’t panic.  Do your best to take a deep breath; there are strategies and resources to help you deal with the transition until you’ve managed to acclimate.

Ask and Receive

New roles come with new processes, jargon, communication strategies, and more. Although it can be difficult to stop and ask questions when you need to, make room for this habit. Whether you prefer to do so one-on-one with a trusted member of your team, or benefit from the input of the group, ask for what you need. You may worry that your question will make you sound ignorant, but as Careernook bluntly puts it, “the stupidest thing you can do in that situation is to NOT speak up.”

If you’re concerned about the reception, they suggest making time to organize thoughts and questions in advance to avoid projecting an image of incompetence. This way, “you come off as someone who is professional and is simply seeking important information in order to get the job done…someone who is determined to do well—and knows how to get what they need.”

You Do You

Likewise, rest assured that you are where you are, because of who you are. Your skills have earned you this opportunity. Let that knowledge sink in, so that you can project confidence and pride. Like Forbes tells us, “The company pays you a salary because they think you’re worth it. You have every right to be in the room and to be having that conversation.”

Just don’t take the swagger too far. They suggest repeating this mantra to yourself as often as necessary prior to key meetings or interactions: “Be confident, not cocky.”

Job Retention Polls from the Society for Human Resources Management also confirm that merit-based promotions are part of a “people-management strategy” that’s good for the employer, bodes well for the employee, and is even a sign of an improving economy. “Promotion from within the organization is frequently a method of rewarding high levels of job performance,” and increasingly “seen by HR professionals as a more effective retention strategy.”

So, take heart; a promotion in and of itself likely indicates that you are a valuable asset to your company.

Shared Wisdom

If you still need guidance that you just can’t find through team members, consider looking for a mentor.

Developing a mentorship is one way to build a lasting connection with someone whose advice you can trust; your mentor is a confidante who will always be in your corner. The peace of mind this alone brings can often be enough to quiet the inner voice of self-doubt. Try or the U.S. Small Business administration, which offers government-sponsored resources for pairing mentees and mentors. Counseling, training, and mentorship are all available at no cost through these programs.

You may also consider becoming a mentor yourself. Sharing your own knowledge with a mentee can dramatically shift your perspective, in addition to changing their lives. In a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “a number of studies have revealed a correlation between a young person’s involvement in a quality mentoring relationship and positive outcomes in the areas of school, mental health, problem behavior and health.”

Lastly, bear in mind that assuming any new position comes with the expectation that there will be a learning curve. No one anticipates perfection. In fact, as career blogger Ronnie Allen points out, “it’s the one time when you don’t have to know it all.”

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