Why the next promotion is not a goal

I am chatting with a friend about goals. “My next goal is the promotion in a year from now”, she says. I am nodding. Sounds reasonable. There are these job profiles which make goal-setting easy – there is always an upcoming promotion. A system that mimics the trained sequence of school and university deletes the necessity of finding a ‘why’ for continuing the job. You don’t have to think for yourself. You can just follow the beaten path.

I am wondering if this is one of the reasons why you find so many uninspired and uninspiring people in hierarchical companies with clear career paths. I am wondering if this missing vision kills so many careers in the middle management. No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he/she is going. Therefore, people will be promoted until mid-management for their skills but for leadership positions there are additional qualifications needed.

Does that mean careers in hierarchical companies should be disregarded?

Probably not. But during the course of your time in the company, you need to develop an idea of your personal pathway. If that pathway aligns with were the company is heading, it is great and a strong indicator that you will be successful in terms of getting promotions. And if your personal values, ways of working and ideas for your professional life do not work with your current company, start exploring new options. Be bold and take your professional life in your own hands.

Whatever you do: Don’t set your next promotion as a goal.

If you focus only on the promotion, you will become uninspiring. You will only ask what is needed to be promoted – and forget what you want, who you are and what you can bring to the table. Who you are as a person is what makes you unique. It is the way you think, talk and solve problems that is attractive for your colleagues and bosses. You first need to find yourself and your personal style – and then there will be people asking you to come in their teams and take on certain roles. And some of these opportunities will lead to promotions.

Therefore, a good goal is to become the best version of yourself in a defined area, e.g. leadership, public speaking, sales meetings. The upside of this way of acting is: Even if you never get the promotion you initially intended, you still love your life because you are working in the style you actually choose for yourself. You have already succeeded – and if you get a promotion on top that’s wonderful.

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