Striking the balance between nurturing and building a career at your current company while still being open to new opportunities can be stressful. When we’re invested in our team and work, our judgment can become clouded, and we don’t always know when it’s time to stay or go. Let’s discuss the different contexts and possible courses of action to take when offered a promotion if you’re planning on leaving the organization.
Scenario 1: You’re looking to switch industries or careers
If you’re looking to switch careers or industries, then seeking a new role outside of your organization might be necessary. You can’t jeopardize your current role by letting your employer know you’re prospecting a job elsewhere, but you also should not be seeking out promotions from within.
Should a promotion come your way: It could look suspicious to turn it down. Of course, there are some instances where saying no to a promotion is reasonable. For example, you might not feel ready for the responsibility, or the promotion might be a job that you don’t see yourself enjoying in the long term. If you’re able to articulate your reasons for declining in terms that make sense, then great, you’re in the clear! However, if declining this promotion could raise suspicion, your best option might be to accept, and give your current employer your best effort while you continue to look for something else.
If you’re one foot out the door: Don’t go out of your way to seek out a salary increase or promotion just to satisfy your ego. However, should a promotion land on your doorstep, you’re entitled to reap the benefits of your work.
You don’t actually know how long an interview process might take with another organization. If you’re still learning, then accepting the promotion and continuing to give it your all while searching on the side could be a great personal move. It might take you weeks, months, or close to a year to find the perfect opportunity worth leaving for. Until you have ink to paper, you should still be giving your employer your undivided attention and best effort, says Alan Zelnicker, Founder of Zel Human Capital.
Scenario 2: You’ve been doing the job for months, or maybe years, and you’re finally getting the recognition and title change
Given the fast-paced nature of the corporate world, we often find ourselves picking up the tasks of the people below or above us, and managing responsibilities well beyond our job description. This can be a positive, as it allows you to stretch beyond your current position and develop new skills and qualifications. However, doing the work of multiple people without the proper recognition for an extended period of time can be discouraging and make you feel like you’re being taken advantage of. Here, you should definitely push for a promotion and demand the appropriate compensation.
Oftentimes, organizations will prolong the process of giving you that title and recognition. If, after months of underpaid work, you finally get the promotion, but have begun to explore new opportunities outside of your company, go ahead and take it. You’ve been doing the job already, and deserve to be properly compensated for your exceptional work.
If you’re a top performer on your team, there’s a good chance your employer will come back with a counteroffer. It’s important to consider what initially drove you to apply for a new job before accepting more money from your current company. If it was simply a matter of money, and this counteroffer solves for that, staying with your organization could be a solid option. Perhaps the counteroffer will come with a promotion, a significant step up, and a brand-new career worth exploring. Here, accepting a counteroffer might be of value as well, says Zelnicker. However, if you’re unhappy as a result of an organization’s culture, leadership team, industry, or any other factor that won’t change with a higher salary, you likely won’t last more than six months before deciding to relaunch your search, says Marina Byezhanova, cofounder of Pronexia Inc. Before making a decision either way, be honest with yourself about why you’re feeling unfulfilled in your current job.
While it might be uncomfortable to resign after accepting a promotion or raise, as long as you hand in the required notice and provide solid work until the end, there is no need to feel guilty. What’s best for your leader’s business might not always align with what’s best for your future, and any reasonable boss will come to understand your decision to leave for a new opportunity. Remember to be respectful and avoid burning any bridges, as you never know whose door you might be knocking on in the future.