You may be longing for a better title, more money or more responsibility. In essence, you are longing for a promotion.
Promotions are the golden egg that so many ambitious people covet. But in a competitive landscape, it’s not enough to dream of it silently. Here are some tips for earning and getting that promotion.
1. Do the Work
It may seem obvious that in order to be promoted, you need to be worthy of a promotion. But in an era of entitlement, some forget this basic truth. Put in the hard work even when it seems like no one is looking. Trust that your humble, focused action will be recognised when the time is right. Sometimes drawing attention to your efforts too soon will backfire. Start with building a strong track record.
2. Keep Track
As you build this track record, keep note of it somewhere. It could be a file on your computer, or in one of your personal notebooks. Record key projects or initiatives in which you had a meaningful impact. Where possible tie metrics to your achievements. This will be helpful later.
3. Develop People
Many people are focused on the bottom line. But don’t forget that it’s people who are driving the results. If you have responsibility for managing people then invest your time and efforts in developing them. The higher up you go in an organisation, the more people management you will do. Demonstrate your commitment and ability early on. Remember: when your people win, so do you. Don’t get too caught up in wanting the achievements for yourself.
4. Build a Reputation
Don’t underestimate the importance of your reputation across departments and levels. How you treat one person is reflective of how you treat everyone. Be genuine and respectful. Be someone that others want to work with, and ultimately for. You may be surprised at the power of reputation, and just how much it will influence your potential to be promoted.
5. Ask For It
This is a mistake that so many people make: they don’t ask. They assume that their hard work will be recognised and rewarded. More often than not, this is not the case. In most cases, you will need to clearly communicate your desire for a promotion. So how best to do that? Read on…
6. Be Grounded in Facts
Since you’ve been keeping notes along the way, this step will be easier. Consolidate your wins into a one or two page presentation. It doesn’t need to be fancy but it should be clear and concise. You may like to separate your achievements into categories (project management, people management, financial deliverables, targets, etc.). If you had some especially great feedback on your work, include that too. This could come from higher ups, peers, or people from lower levels or other departments in the organisation. Demonstrating your ability to work well with a variety of people is great.
7. Know the Gatekeepers
You are not necessarily just selling yourself to your boss. Depending on the organisation, a number of levels higher may be involved in the decision, as well as the Human Resources department. Your “promotion presentation” (outlined in the point above) can help your boss sell their boss on the idea. Knowing the gatekeepers can also help you with planting seeds along the way, ensuring that you have made a good impression on the people who are deciding your fate.
8. Time it Well
Now that you know who to talk to, choose your timing wisely. Do not ask for a promotion just after layoffs, or right after a budget is missed. Ideally do it on the wings of a win. Preferably one of your wins. Also be mindful of the timing of the meeting. Do not try to squeeze it into the end of another meeting. Set up a time with your boss or whoever the right gatekeeper is. Perhaps 15 minutes would be appropriate for the initial discussion. That way it is your meeting and the energy is focused on your request. You have the floor, so be concise and prepared.
9. Know Your Target
If there is a specific job available then follow the steps above, ensuring that your presentation is tailored to the job description. If outside people are being interviewed, they will be coming in with a resume. You may like to do the same. Your cover letter could then outline your recent wins, achievements and/or testimonials from within the organisation. If there is not a particular promotion available then be clear about where you see yourself (a promotion to another department, your boss’s job, etc.). If you want your boss’s job then just be aware that this could be a tricky subject. Unless they are after a promotion as well, in which case your suitability for the job may help them too.
10. Be Aware of the Timeline
It is unlikely that you will get a promotion right in that meeting. Normally a lot of steps need to happen first. Do your best to get a sense of the timeline or what they need to see in order to promote you. Then water those seeds, checking back in with your results as appropriate. Do not bring it up so much that it becomes annoying, but do not go silent either. Be confident about checking in, particularly after good wins.
11. Keep Being Excellent
The best thing you can do while you’re waiting for that promotion isn’t to wait. Keep working hard. Demonstrate your value. Be indispensable. If that promotion doesn’t come within a time frame that works for you, then at least you are setting yourself up as an attractive employee for another organisation. It becomes an easier discussion to explain why you are leaving if that promotion didn’t come. Note: this may lead to you getting a promotion because they want to try to keep you. We don’t recommend this as a negotiation tactic as it can create some bad feelings. But if you’re genuinely planning to go and then their offer to keep you is attractive, you may want to consider it.
In closing, self-promotion and selling yourself as a good candidate for promotion is important. But focus first on your foundation: be reliable, hard working, goal-oriented, and a team player. Be respectful and kind to others, and then be strategic when the time comes to make your pitch. Keep working hard, trusting that you have and still are planting & nurturing the right seeds.