Don't Take That Promotion: Why Moving Up May Not Be The Best Move


“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.” -Stephen Covey

Our society has an interesting relationship with prestige. It’s common to think more money, a fancier title and boasting about working longer hours is the ultimate achievement. This is so ingrained in our way of thinking that the glorification of  this narrow definition of success often overshadows a very important question we should be asking ourselves – what is it that we really want?

I recently watched an interview with Eve Ensler, best known as the creator of The Vagina Monologues, and she noted, “Most people never stop to ask themselves ‘What makes you happy?’ and ‘What is enough?’” This stopped me in my tracks. The concept of having enough is rarely discussed when we bring up conversations about careers and finances. The unspoken answer is almost always that there’s never enough, and we must continue to consume all we can to be the very best. I am a huge proponent of striving for excellence and making advancements in your life, but the conversation around larger life goals and purpose is often lacking.

You may have recently heard about a major change in the life of PIMCO’s CEO, Mohamed El-Erian. El-Erian received a letter from his 10-year-old daughter listing all of the major events he had missed in her life to date. Upon receiving this letter, El-Erian promptly resigned, noting that this was a major “wake up call” for him and his priorities.

Many people automatically assume that being a CEO of a major company is an enviable position to be in, but we often forget about the other aspects of our lives that must be sacrificed for a bigger paycheck. In most cases, a promotion may be the best decision for you, but it’s important to take a step back and think of your overall life goals and how this promotion is bringing you closer to those goals. In fact, in 2012 LifeHacker found the new salary happiness tipping point was actually $50,000, stating that, "Americans found significant differences in almost all aspects of happiness between those who earn less than $50,000 and those who earn more—measures of their quality of life, free time, health, spiritual life, feelings of loneliness, etc."

Neil Gaiman put it perfectly when he said, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author... – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier, I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”

For example, I know multiple young men and women who are currently balancing their full-time job with a flourishing side business. A few have made it clear that their long-term goal is to make their side business a full-time gig, which means taking on a larger role at work may not be the most strategic step.

Ultimately, you have to define your mountain, and whether or not moving up the corporate ladder is the right move for you. This isn’t your father’s goal or your boyfriend’s dream projected onto you. It’s about what you want for your life and finding the best way to get there.

Career, TipsKate Gremillion