Should You Take That Promotion? Well, Maybe

Before you accept the offer, here’s how to tell if a promotion is a smart step to take.

If you don’t have specific objectives in mind — identifiable skills you want to sharpen, an idea of the direction you want your career to go — you’re not going to know if this promotion is going to get you to closer to those goals.

“When you’re not clear on your goal or what you’re trying to accomplish, then everything sounds good,” said Marsha Haygood, founder of StepWise Associates L.L.C., a career and personal-development consulting firm. It’s easy to be charmed by more money or prestige, but those rewards might not be in line with what you truly want out of your career.

Ms. Haygood suggests using self-assessment tools (she likes Strengthsfinder) to figure out if the promotion plays to your talents. For example, if teaching children is your life’s passion but a promotion would eliminate teaching and anchor you to a desk, you probably wouldn’t enjoy that new role.

Vicki Salemi, a career expert for, recommends ranking the top three things you’re looking for in any position you take. Everyone’s priorities are different. For some, it could be proximity to home, the ability to engage in challenging work and maintaining a certain salary bracket. For others, flexible work hours, being on a cohesive team and access to mentors are priorities.

Acquaint yourself with the circumstances surrounding your promotion. Ms. Salemi recommends investigating why the position is open and why management chose you to fill it. Look for red flags, such as whether the person previously in the role was fired, or if the department is undergoing a troubling reorganization. If there’s excessive turnover in the position, determine if you’re being set up for failure.

Inquire about the temperament of your new boss (if you’re getting one). Will this person be a valuable advocate or do they have a reputation for being difficult? Ask for a job description or overview of the role. If the supervisor giving you the promotion is vague at any point, take note. That might mean there isn’t a clear definition of the role’s responsibilities, which can create headaches once you start the job.

“You want to think about those things because it’s hard to go back once you’re promoted,” said Lori B. Rassas, a human resources consultant, employment attorney and author of “The Perpetual Paycheck. “It’s not like your job is going to be held for you if it doesn’t work out.”

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