Posted by: Korry | January 26, 2012

The Promotion Dilemma

Picture this: you’re sitting in your office when you hear that your boss is getting a promotion. For months–if not years–you’ve silently thought to yourself, “I bet I could do my boss’s job. In fact, I bet I could even do it better!” Now, that job is open. You meet all the qualifications. You always pictured yourself in that position. The new gig would pay more. You’d get more responsibility. You’d even have direct reports! It’s basically everything you wanted in a new job.

But for some reason, you just can’t decide whether you should toss your name officially into the ring by applying. You struggle with the new time commitments it may present. As you think more about it, you wonder if you really would do the job better than your boss did. You ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t do well. You figure you’ve got a good thing going at your current job. It’s comfortable and you do it well. So as the deadline for applying draws nearer, you’re just as torn as the day the job posted.

Sound familiar? Now, I’m not about to tell you whether you should or should not apply for a promotion. Valid arguments can be made either way. But, I will ask you two questions: What are you hoping to get in life? And, what are you willing to risk to get it? The answers to those questions will guide your decision making.

This promotion dilemma is alive and well at the airlines. Every pilot starts his or her career as a First Officer, not a Captain but almost everyone desires to one day be the Captain. Over time, people retire, the airline grows and hires new people. Slowly but surely, a pilot’s seniority increases until the point at which he or she is able to hold one of the long-awaited and highly coveted captain slots. This is where the dilemma begins. Should the pilot who is presumably a reasonably senior First Officer and thus able to enjoy the benefits that seniority provides (monthly schedules, vacation, etc.) give up that relative seniority for a 30-50% pay raise, the satisfaction of being the Captain and the ability to set the tone? It’s a question of quality of life and “comfortability” vs. money and responsibility.

That choice is not always an easy one. Deep down inside, however, I think most of us know what we really want; we just have become experts over time at telling ourselves that what our heart wants isn’t what’s right in our lives.

Remember being a kid and dreaming about what you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you ever once say, “When I grow up, I want to work 9-5 for a company that’s ok (at best) in a job I sort of enjoy because it’s routine, comfortable and pays the bills”? If you said yes, I think you may be fooling yourself. Most kids I know want to be actors or professional athletes. They want to be teachers or doctors or lawyers…or even pilots! They haven’t yet learned how hard some of those positions are to attain, but they also haven’t yet learned any limits!

It’s only as life takes hold that we start to impose limits on ourselves. We say our commitments and thus the risks are too great. We’re too old. We’re not smart enough. We’re not capable enough. We become defeatists. We settle. And we kill ourselves a little, each and every day.

I don’t buy it. Tell Guinness Book of World Records holder Nola Ochs she was too old to go to college. She earned her bachelors degree at 95 and her masters degree at 98. Tell that to high school physics teacher turned major league baseball pitcher Jim Morris. They weren’t defeatists and they sure didn’t settle. They pushed on, reaching for goals they both once saw as impossible–and they succeeded!

Yesterday’s Quote of the Week was about risking your life or risking even more–disapproval, economic security, beliefs, etc. So when the big promotion opportunity comes up, which will you choose? It’s ok either way…if you make the decision for the right reasons. But don’t settle because it’s comfortable. Don’t settle because it seems too out of reach. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone. And if you don’t succeed, well, at least you didn’t just risk your life–you risked it all.

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