Ready or not?

Unsure if you’re ready for that promotion? Try this framework to find out

It may be time to take on a new role at work—or not. These 4 steps will help you decide.
Unsure if you’re ready for that promotion? Try this framework to find out
Photo: KOTOIMAGES (Shutterstock)
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Have you ever had a boss who made you question your career choices?

Perhaps they enforced rigid work hours: requiring you to disclose each time you had a doctor’s appointment or you were picking up your daughter from soccer practice. Or perhaps they excluded the women in your team from crucial meetings, thus hindering your career growth. According to one report from Deloitte, an increasing number of women feel uncomfortable talking about mental health in the office and can never “switch off” from work after hours.

Women want more advancement to the rooms where decisions are made while also enjoying more flexibility and recognition. McKinsey finds that women will leave their current organizations to get these opportunities. All of this data points toward the fact that we need more diversity in leadership to foster cultures that support the needs of women. Accepting a promotion is scary. However, your newfound power could contribute to the change needed in your organization.

3 ways to know if you want the promotion or not:

1. Are you experiencing rust-out?

When I was in corporate America in a banking role, I experienced what I call “rust-out.” Rust out is what happens when we are understimulated at work and feel underutilized. (You may have heard a bit about quiet quitters recently?) In my banking role, I constantly felt tired and demotivated despite the relatively low demands of my position.

In a panel discussion on Leading With Confidence, Padmasaree Warrior, former CTO of Cisco and Motorola and CEO of Fable said something that stuck with me:

“If I can do something in my sleep, it is time to move on.”

Ask yourself: Do I feel understimulated at work? Is my current position offering me the growth and learning opportunities I desire? Am I tired and demotivated despite low demands at work?

2. Are you content and focused on other priorities right now?

There is a crucial difference between desiring career growth and fearing negative backlash versus being perfectly content in your current position. You may not desire the demands of a higher leadership position. This can be because you are happy in your current role, you don’t want a shift in work-life balance, or your personal life is particularly demanding (for example, if you have young children or are looking after an elderly family member).

Try not to fall victim to the lie of hustle culture. To have value and worth, you do not need to keep accelerating.

Ask yourself: Am I content with the responsibilities I currently have? Does the idea of a promotion fill me with feelings of nervous excitement or dread? Am I content to continue in my current position for another year or longer?

3. Is this promotion in alignment with your goals and values?

A couple of years ago, while working a full-time job, I remember feeling cranky one Sunday. For the third time that morning, I snapped at my husband. When he asked what was up, I burst into tears.

A few minutes later, I blurted out that I needed a break from the travel.

This was perplexing to me. I loved my job. I was working with a mentor I admired, learning a great deal about leadership development, and making an impact. But there was one crucial problem: the frequent travel this job required conflicted with one of my core values—family. I made the call to limit travel in any future roles I held and felt better for it.

Ask yourself: Is this promotion in alignment with my goals? Is it in alignment with my values? If I want it, why do I want it? What is my ultimate goal? Why does this promotion matter to me?

A 4-step framework for working through fear and taking action

When I published my book, I felt like I was opening Pandora’s Box. Putting my inner thoughts into the world meant opening myself up to a world of scrutiny. Ginni Rommetty’s quote was a helpful reminder: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

The doubt and fear I felt did not go away before my book launch. Instead, I learned to work with it, practicing the framework I also teach:

Notice it: Can you lean into the discomfort? When you think about the promotion, what do you feel?

Name it: According to psychologist Susan David, giving a name to feelings helps us effectively process and deal with them. Naming our emotions doesn’t give them power; it creates emotional clarity and resiliency.

Normalize it: 70% of people experience imposter syndrome. Doubt is a normal and healthy emotion, and it can be useful to remind ourselves of this. We will feel doubt any time we stretch our comfort zone.

Reframe it: One of my favorite reframes is “This is what growth feels like—I’m stretching my comfort zone.” Leverage your reflections and write your own reframe.

Finally, take action despite the doubt

It is normal to feel worried about exposure or critique as we grow in our careers. When deciding on your next move, focus on what aligns with your goals and values rather than the status quo. Remember, you can successfully advance while also feeling doubt, insecurity, or imposter feelings.

You can create your own path. Even if it is the right path, it is normal to feel doubt or fear of exposure. Take action anyway: confidence is a side effect of taking action.

Kelli Thompson is a leadership coach and speaker. She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.