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How Do I Succeed at a Promotion at Work (Even When I’m Scared)? (video)

by | Jul 22, 2019 | Asking For a Friend Featured |

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Leap Into That New Promotion at Work
With Confidence and Poise

You’ve been offered a promotion at work, but you’re a bit scared. Makes perfect sense. That frightened feeling means you’re about to stretch and grow. Even if you don’t feel ready for a promotion, you’re probably more prepared than you think.

In fact, if you don’t feel like you’re flying off a trapeze, you’re probably playing it too safe.

Karin, I just don’t feel ready for a promotion.

Everyone thinks I’m ready for this promotion at work but me. My boss, my mentor, my peers … People I respect say I’m a natural for the gig. But I just don’t see it. I’m worried that my fear will cause me to fail. Should I take this job? #AskingForAFriend

How to Succeed at a Promotion at Work (Even When You’re Scared)

1. Get real about what scares you

succeed in your promotion at work

It’s easy to let fear derail your confidence.  When you can name and acknowledge your fears, their grip loosens and you can go from being stifled to making a plan.

Are you scared of letting the team down? Check in with what they need.

Scared of the learning curve? Prioritize what’s most important to know in the first thirty days, and learn that first.

Read more about our research on psychological safety and courage.

2. Leverage your strengths

Take a deep look at your past success. What skills translate well to the new role?

You don’t have to lead like the last guy. In fact, that’s almost never the right approach. Own your past success and figure out which talents and skills will work best in your new role.

When I took over a 2200 person sales team, I had never sold a thing in my life. But what I did know was how to craft a compelling vision; the art of rallying a team around an audacious goal;  attracting, developing, and retaining talent. And it turns out that, coupled with a talented team, was more than enough.

3. Admit what you don’t know

I’ve seen “fake it till you make it” derail more than a few careers. If you don’t know what you’re doing in a certain arena, don’t try to fool your team. If you’re showing up confident and leveraging your strengths in other areas, your team will deeply respect you when you tell them where you’re still learning.

4. Partner with your peers

On the first day in my contact center director role at Verizon, our biggest customer had a huge network outage.

Having spent my entire career in HR up to that point, I didn’t have a clue how to talk to their IT Vice President about the root cause. I called my peer Dan for help. He said, “Conference me when you call him back and I’ll instant message you what to say.” I got through the call and we got the problem fixed. Then Dan said, “Now to return the favor, why don’t you come to Brooklyn next month and help me with some employee engagement initiatives?”

Perfect, back to leveraging strengths.

5.  Maximize the talents of your team

Not knowing what you’re doing can actually be a real advantage for leading a team. Including your best people in decisions becomes a matter of survival. You’ve got to trust your team. You’ve got to ask a lot of strategic questions and learn from them. All of which turns out to be great approaches for building high engagement.

Your turn.

What advice would you have for this friend who’s scared to take this promotion?

See Also:

You’re Not Ready For A Promotion? Take it Anyway

Overlooked for a Promotion Again Now What Should I Do?

How to Be a More Courageous Manager

Asking For a Friend

Do you (or your friend) have a leadership or career question that you’d like me to answer?

Check out our Asking For a Friend Page and share your question.

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Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

  Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!


  1. Gabriel Cassaro

    Hi Karin, thank you for this piece on taking the next step. I particularly agree with your second point. I would add that leveraging your strengths is vital not only when taking a promotion, but also in your current role. In order to build credibility to earn a promotion, you must first consistently demonstrate these qualities and build upon this foundation prior to having the privilege of leading others in a new role.

    Thank you for the great content.
    Gabriel Cassaro

    • Karin Hurt

      Gabriel, Thank so much! Totally agree! There is so much research that says that people who leverage their strengths are not only more productive, but happier.

  2. Katie Bailey

    Maximize the talents of your team. Great advice, and b doing so, your team will likely support you more through any learning curve you have.

  3. Karin Hurt

    Thanks so much, Katie! Yes! And that support is so vital.

  4. Ajay

    Hi Karin, I like how you have explained the points to succeed on promotion. Admitting what you don’t know will clear our mind to focus on what we know and what we need to learn. But if we are faking we are creating environment to make busy our mind on other false stories.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Ajay. I love your point about keeping your mind clear.

  5. Simran

    What an amazing piece of note…thumbs up to you.really enjoyed the reading and was rejuvenating

  6. Karin Hurt

    Thank you Simran. Glad it was helpful!

  7. Sarah J McCrea

    Being promoted into roles with great responsibility can be very intimidating and scary. These are excellent strategies that break the transition into actionable steps or objectives. Thank you for these as they apply when tackling any new adventure!


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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