Ask the Question: Getting a Promotion and Determining Your Career Destiny


I constantly encounter talent seeking a new position or promotion. Sometimes the headhunting antenna just isn’t 100% on target. As a result, I’ve learned to approach my searches for unicorns with an open and curious mind. Talent can hold some incredible experience cards up their sleeves that can only be unearthed through probing and discussion. On occasion, I speak with promising talent about an opportunity to discover they aren’t quite a fit yet because they lack some critical part of the necessary experience. While I cannot offer to present them for the role, I take the time to provide talent with constructive feedback. I often discover a major stumbling block for these prospective employees is not asking for what they want from their current employer.


The other day, I talked to a talented Mobile Product Manager to discuss a senior opening in a new mobile division. I can see her positive career trajectory, but she’s a few years away from really being a viable candidate for a senior level position. Before hanging up the phone, I told her I was also a certified executive coach with a passion for coaching and asked her if she would value a 10-minute laser coaching session. I asked her how she could get the experiences she needs at her current employer. Her response: “She didn’t know.” It is a phrase I often hear from candidates who get stuck and aren’t clear on how to assert themselves in order to keep their career trajectory moving forward. What was curious to me (and to her) was that she did not ask her current (fantastic) employer a fundamental question: “My experiences can help in areas X and Y. How can I be involved to achieve results A, B and C?” I challenged her to ask the question, and she agreed to take the action. As a result, instead of this person leaving a company that she really enjoys just to get ahead elsewhere, this very talented individual will find a way to achieve her career goals at her current employer and get a promotion.

The Lessons

  1. Give and get constructive feedback. Too often recruiters shy away from sharing their insights and observations with prospective candidates, which really doesn’t do anyone a service. Without feedback, talent does not know how to make the needed adjustments to attain their goals. Often individual careers stall because professionals don’t have a strategy for (or know) how to move on and up to the next position. Hearing the dreaded, “you’re not a fit feedback” from recruiters a few too many times without an opportunity to discuss corrective action, professionals can lose precious time and miss some significant career beats and lose out. I’ve also observed many talented professionals fail to actively shape and mold their career because they don’t assert themselves in a manner that’s beneficial to their current and future environment at which they’ll be judged as the interview stage. Spending a few minutes coaching someone can make a big difference and be a major turning point for the talent. It also takes time and practice to form new habits. Talent needs to seek out support to examine what they are doing and get where they want to go. Now is the time to develop new habits and change patterns that don’t serve them.
  2. Speak up. Ask the question. If the company fits in every other area, talent can really benefit from seeking and exploring career growth internally before beginning to look elsewhere. I have witnessed many professionals turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one by being assertive, creative and resourceful, and therefore taking charge of a situation. It seems rather obvious, but if talent doesn’t state his or her needs then no one is going to know what they want to (or can) accomplish for the team, department and company’s future. In fact, they can appear disengaged, when really they’re just not being challenged. Bosses aren’t psychics (well some, maybe).

If you’re among those who shriek back from going for it, take a deep breath, get some feedback and ask the question. Keep moving forward.

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions.  FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.

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