It used to be that I would get asked a lot about promotions and, when conducting interviews, “what’s the next move I should make so that I can ensure I am moving “up”? I have a different answer for this today versus 18 years ago. Now that I am witness to people getting hired and promoted almost daily, it has actually dramatically changed my perception on the topic overall.

Back in the day, I would have comfortably gone into advice mode and offered up suggestions for making yourself more visible, volunteering to take on more, maybe offering to fill an open vacancy while the right person is found just to make sure there is no adverse impact all while keeping your current responsibilities, these sorts of things. Today, however, I find that when people even broach the topic, I am quick to reply with a litany of questions, “why do you want to get promoted in the first place?”, “what is it about that title or role that you believe will change things for you?”, “is it only a power thing?”, what have you done to ensure you are equipped to handle the new responsibility other than simply¬†putting in your time?”, and, finally, “have you mentioned this desire to your boss?”

If you cannot or you are challenged to answer these questions, then you need to reflect on them (and many more as a first step). What I have found is that the more you ask, the more you may come to realize that the promotion is not what you are really after. Maybe it is more money, more responsibility (which can come in other ways, obviously), greater visibility or even just a bigger challenge. When you speak to your boss first, you may discover that these things could be available simply by asking.

Let’s assume though, that you have answered these questions (and more), and you are determined, “Nope, it’s a promotion or nothing. This is my final answer.” Having a plan is a great first step, so you have your plan – get promoted. If you’ve set your sights on the CEO seat, moving into the VP of Logistics role or becoming a department manager, whatever the role might be, first and foremost, be absolutely certain that the ladder you are about to climb is leaning against the right wall. How frustrating must it be to get to the top, look down and realize that you spent all that time climbing the coveted “ladder” inside the wrong company?

When you are motivated to move “up” so to speak, you need to really evaluate the company before you make the investment – especially that top layer of your future peers. Believe me, they are evaluating you and, hopefully, the investment they make in you will pay them dividends – it is quite alright for you to also evaluate them. Some things to consider:

  1. Are the current leaders just as good dealing with subordinates as they are at dealing with their peers and superiors?
  2. Do they promote and lift one another up or is there a lot of backbiting and posturing when not side by side with each other – is there a sense of a unified front?
  3. Do they have the same ethics and values?
  4. The people currently on the management team. Have they been promoted from within or all hired from outside and is there tenure at that level or churn?
  5. Would there be glaring things that you would be looked at to “fix”? Not a huge issue unless they have been sitting in the “to be fixed” area for a long period of time.

This is clearly not an exhaustive list, but is one that can quite quickly be gone through without a ton of effort or inquiry and should help you determine whether or not that next rung on the ladder is worthy of your effort to reach for!