Feeling hollow after Job promotion?
Welcome to this week’s blog where I talk about a different way of approaching career advancement, specifically job promotions. An enhanced perspective here can help organizations retain good talent and more importantly, help one make meaningful career progress where both the quality and the magnitude of advancement can be enhanced simultaneously.
“Work to become, not to acquire.” — Elbert Hubbard
This may or may not be a “scientific” fact but it seems to me that many folks these days do not seem to derive any kind of sustainable happiness from job promotions.
A friend recently changed jobs after a job promotion rarefied echelons of senior management. The trigger to change was disappointment from material aspects of promotion. Another friend was asked to be withdrawn from promotion process as he secured a job with another organization. A third friend is quite tentative about even wanting to be considered for promotion. To put some more context on these cases, all these friends as such, are in senior roles in highly reputed global organizations. Also, they have been high achievers in their respective careers.
While increasing cases of disappointments may be a recent trend, in my experience, a fair chunk of promotions in the past also left the promotees in similar predicament.
One could argue that there constitute a small number to extrapolate a trend and that is justified.
Even when people finally get promoted to higher roles, after years of targeted toil, satisfaction from the job advancement tends to evaporate rather quickly. I believe this is largely because in most modern organizations, promotions are implicitly accorded materialistic quality. Promotion process is generally not designed as experience creating process — any promotion is generally marked by only two factors — new title/designation and new salary. Both these factors are essentially material in nature. We all know that material things do not have in them the ability to provide lasting satisfaction or happiness.
There is also the dopamine factor which wears off after the anticipation ends — that is after one is formally congratulated by one’s boss on being promoted to the next level.
“It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.” — Carlton Fisk
House is probably the most coveted material possession for most. But house as a material structure does little in creating lasting satisfaction — what really contributes are the amount of hardship one endures, the number of sacrifices one makes in acquiring the house and also the experiences and the memories that one creates while living in that house. A house becomes a home only upon creating memorable experiences in them.
In the end, it comes down to being a traveler while also being a tourist, acquiring experiences while also acquiring material possessions.
Coming back to careers and job promotions, Organizations can improve their promotion process and significantly add to satisfaction of their employees. In today’s acute shortage of good talent, this presents organizations with a fundamental way of distinguishing themselves from their competition in terms of talent retention.
Making promotions a little less about influencing stakeholders and more about how various challenging assignments will improve skills and capabilities, emphasizing a little less on just the project outcomes but also giving weightage to the process of getting to the outcome — the experience that goes into creating those outcomes. Having seniors from the organization participate in fire side chats (or some such formats) and talk about how their career experiences improved their skills, capacities and capabilities as opposed to just talking through their career timelines (career timelines tend to create narratives of the past where lucky breaks are dressed up as conscious moves and hence these timelines do not serve as effective guides for career development).
Another recent trend that is adding to the hollowness of job promotions is “job title/designation” inflation. This trend is inline with the “entitlement” society that we have been moving towards anyway. As a society that celebrates kids moving on from Kindergarten to 1st standard via a graduation ceremony, ‘job title’ inflation does not really seem at odds at all. This will only add to the feeling of entitlement of an individual and its implications for human society are well beyond my ability. However, this trend could be taken advantage of by astute career minded people by willing to sacrifice on short term nominal promotions so as to focus on growing essential capabilities that will enable them to take up substantial, large roles later on. Catching up with job titles will happen as a side effect.
Job promotions are important and will be aspired by growth minded individuals. Managers and HR have an opportunity to improve their promotion process by enhancing their nature from mere milestones to be crossed to experience paths to be journeyed. Growth minded individuals can create long term value for themselves by aspiring not just for job advancements but also for worthwhile experiences in capability building along the way (the fact that these two do not generally coincide is an irony!). Just like life, careers can also be lot more about the journey than just the destination alone.
Thanks for taking time to read this article. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals and desires. I share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile, please do share it with others — of course, only if you do not mind it.
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