Paid in Full #007: Why I turned down 2 promotions in 2 years

publishedabout 2 months ago
4 min read

Read time: 6 minutes

During my first impact review in my previous role, my boss asked me about my career goals. I told her I wanted to be the best employee working in my job level – but I didn’t want to get promoted. I knew she was going to bring up promotions because I had been performing well. But I also knew progressing to the next level would make me resent my job (and possibly get me fired) so I pushed back. It’s important to be self-aware enough to know which opportunities will do more harm than good to your career and income. Here’s the principle I use to make these decisions easier:

Guiding Principle:

The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

Timing is everything. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before, but I have really found it to be true. Getting something handed to you at the wrong time can make or break you – even if it feels like the right thing. Being self-aware allows you to accept the fact that you might not be ready just yet. Patience allows you to accept that your time will eventually come. Trust the process.

More work for not enough money

The Peter Principle states that people are promoted until they reach a position where they are no longer competent. This happens often in our careers. We do our jobs well enough to get offered a promotion and more responsibility. Then it happens again, then again. We do our jobs with ease and see success. But one day, we reach a point where it feels like our career has grown stagnant. The joy in the challenge and new opportunities we once had is nowhere to be found. When you don’t have a sense of clarity around where you ultimately want to end up, you accept things too early. Sometimes you accept the wrong things. So how do you avoid this trap?

Start with the end in mind

One of the greatest lessons I learned came from a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I don’t remember what the habits were, but one of the exercises gave me so much clarity that it continues to shape my life decisions today. The funeral exercise helps you imagine what your spouse, kids, friends, co-workers and community would say about you at your funeral. Morbid, I know. But going through this exercise helped me paint a picture of the person I want to be when I am 80 years old – and pushed me to start living that way now! This translates into every aspect of my life, including my career. When I pictured myself working long hours or clocking in on weekends to finish boring projects to fulfill a “senior” title, I immediately said no. Did I want a promotion one day? Possibly. But now I understand the type of promotion that would bring the best out of me, instead of the worst.

Do the math

We often get excited by a title or the status that comes with a promotion. We care what people think about us – and we make the mistake of assuming they think about us all that much in the first place. When I was offered the chance to get promoted the second time, I asked my lead what the requirements were. They gave me a two-page document filled with 15 responsibility points. When I asked how much more compensation the role would provide, the answer was $5,000 annually. I was offered all that work and doing tasks I would not enjoy for about $134 more per paycheck. The math did not make sense. Especially because I was already earning $4,000 a month outside my job through LinkedIn, doing truly meaningful work (I’ll be teaching how soon). Remember that a true promotion should elevate your paycheck – as well as your status and your personal fulfillment! Make sure you actually calculate what it is going to cost to accept one.

You can use websites like Rora, Levels, or Robert Half to find out what other companies are paying the same role you're being offered.

Sow several seeds

Something like 80% of jobs are never advertised online. They are found and filled through relationships. One of the most underrated ways to get a real promotion is to start building friendships with no strings attached. Connect with one to three new people a week, inside and outside your company. Spend time helping them make progress in their lives and share resources that will help them. Connect them with people in your network if they need it. Eventually, someone will think of you when a new role is opening up. It’s not really about who you know; it’s about who knows you when the position becomes available.

The promotion I finally accepted came because I saw someone I knew sharing about their promotion on LinkedIn. I sent a quick congratulatory message and offered to help them find people for their new team. A few minutes later they responded saying they were looking for some leaders for their team and asked if I would be interested. It seemed perfect. First, I confirmed the responsibilities, then I asked them to confirm the compensation in writing before I interviewed. And they did!

One week later, I landed the role and received a 72% increase in my base salary alone. This has been my favourite job by far and it aligns with exactly what I pictured myself doing everyday – coaching. If you want to reap a bigger harvest, sow more seeds into people’s lives.

Recommendation of the week:

Book a recurring call with someone you’ve met before.

This could be someone within your company, someone you met online, or a mentor. You can meet bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly – whatever works for the two of you. Thirty-minute recurring calls are a great way to build friendships over time. My longest recurring call has been running for over two years. We have shared so many opportunities between us during this time. I know firsthand how it is a simple but effective way to provide value for someone while building a friendship for life.

If you're having trouble thinking of who you can call, try joining professional communities like Monday Girl, RevGenius or Pavilion.

The companies will help open doors and unlock your potential by connecting you to like-minded professionals seeking fulfilling careers.

If you enjoyed this issue of Paid in Full, you can click below to share it with someone who might find it valuable too!


Keep sowing.


P.S. – The waitlist for my new 4-week cohort-based course, LinkedIn Revenue Accelerator, already has more than 800 people on the waitlist. The first cohort is launching May 6th. You can join the waitlist here.

Paid in Full Newsletter by Tobi Oluwole

Join 17,000+ subscribers. Every week, receive 1 new idea to earn more money and 1 new concept to help you live a more fulfilling life.

Read more from Paid in Full Newsletter by Tobi Oluwole