Want a promotion but not sure how you can elevate beyond your current role? If you’re ready to transition to the next stage in your career but need some guidance on doing so the right way then this is the article for you. Continue reading to glean some advice from three experts who explain how you can secure that coveted promotion and set yourself up for career success.
Do you actually want to be promoted?
Before implementing any sort of strategy to try and secure a more senior role it’s important that you’re clear on exactly what it is you actually want. Where do you ultimately want to be and what steps do you need to take in order to get there? Maybe a promotion isn’t what you need, or perhaps you need to reconsider whether or not now is the right time for one.
“Generally when we look at promotion we’re looking at promotion today, so the first thing I do with my clients is say let’s look at where you want your career to be in 10 years,” says founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, Lee Chambers. “What position would you like? What financial earnings? What employee benefits are you looking to have 10 years down the line? Is a promotion right for you now based on what you want in the future? Because sometimes people say they want a promotion now but then they look at where they want to be and realise that actually they don’t want to be promoted at their current company. They might have to move sideways and then get promoted in a different direction.”
Building your case for a promotion
Once you’ve decided that a promotion is indeed what you want, you need to set the wheels in motion. One of the best ways to do this is by documenting your successes and collating them into something tangible that you can use to demonstrate your readiness for a new role.
Interview coach Margaret Buj suggests preparing a one or two-page document that clearly outlines your proven track record. “You can maybe have some bullet points that provide concrete metrics of the impact you’ve had. That’s so important because even when I work with people on their interview preparation a lot of them are very good at talking in general terms about what they’ve done but it’s important that you talk about the impact,” she explains.
“It’s a good idea to have a document that you keep adding to throughout the year because it’s very difficult to remember everything you’ve done. So whenever you get good feedback or you’ve done something that made an impact, put it in the document. Include solutions you’ve delivered, maybe some financial outcomes, and if you’ve done something that saves time or money it would be a good idea to add it there as well. Basically you’re trying to prove that you’re already working at the level you’re asking to be promoted to.”
Lee adds: “We quite often ask people to visualise the data because it tends to work really well when you actually show someone in a visual form – like with an infographic – that the work you’re doing is good. So in some organisations it’s going to be that you need reams of data to prove that you’re ready for a promotion. They’re going to want to see evidence and they’re not really going to be bothered about anything other than the sheer facts. Other places are going to want the complete opposite. They’re going to want to see where you failed and then how you improved through those failings.”
Asking for a promotion vs. waiting to be promoted
At this stage you may be wondering whether or not you should ask your boss for a promotion or wait until you’re offered one. Well, as the old saying goes: if you don’t ask, you won’t get. “I think in general to advance your career you really have to learn to advocate for yourself,” says Margaret. “A very common mistake is people think ‘If I do a good job the organisation will promote me’. I wish it worked that way but there is a degree of self-promotion that’s needed. If you don’t ask you don’t get, and asking for a promotion is not a one and done discussion. It’s usually a series of ongoing conversations. Plant that seed and then once you’ve planted the seed nurture it over time. Ask your manger for feedback. Don’t do it every week, that would just annoy them, but maybe every month or every quarter.
“You can also present your boss with ideas of how you would spend your first 90 days on the job so you can show that you’ve done your homework and you’re serious about earning a promotion.”
Business coach and founder of Ren Organisational Consulting, Karen Kwong, agrees that self-advocacy is your best bet. “If you have a manager who’s supportive of progress and development then you should feel free to talk to them about your aspirations, either during your appraisal time or a random pub chat or whatever,” she says. “And then ask them for their advice and guidance as to what you need to do and how you can prepare yourself for the role. It’s important to raise your profile because if you don’t say anything and you’re just quietly being the accountant in the corner, unfortunately people probably won’t look at you.”
Demonstrating leadership and trustworthiness
Whether or not your promotion means you’ll be in charge of a team or line managing someone, possessing leadership qualities will always stand you in good stead. “For a more senior position you need to be seen as someone who thinks strategically and has an eye for how to take your department or the organisation forward in the best possible way. You need to show the drive and desire to do more and you need to obviously be willing to step up to greater responsibilities. It’s typically the person who wants to lead that gets the promotion, not someone who has to be convinced into moving up,” says Margaret. “If you already manage a team you should have a strategy that’s producing results and be performing at a high level, not just moving from crisis to crisis.
“You also need to be someone who is influential. This can also apply to someone who’s in a more junior position because I’ve seen people with just two or three years of work experience who are really well known and respected by stakeholders. They have interpersonal skills to influence people and outcomes so if that’s the way you’re viewed then typically that’s a sign that you’re ready for a promotion.”
Identifying your weaknesses
If you’re trying to secure a promotion, self-awareness is a necessity. You need to be able to identify your weaknesses so that you can improve upon them and ensure that you’re as promotion-ready as possible. “People who say they’re self-aware usually pick on one slightly negative thing, like “I can be very impatient.” But actually they don’t explore beyond that. What they mean is that actually they don’t get what they want and so they have a temper and a tantrum. If you’re not self-aware you won’t know where you’re going wrong,” says Karen.
Lee suggests looking to colleagues for some honest critique, saying: “We ask people to give a series of questions to their colleagues and ask that the colleagues answer honestly about the person in question. The questions should be about what their colleagues think they’re good at and what they think they can improve on. If you can actually read that feedback and take the emotion out of it, because naturally someone is going to say something that offends you, there’s no better guideline for where you’ve got strengths that you didn’t realise and for areas where you can improve. If you notice continual themes of people saying you’re really good at one thing but not so good at something else, there’s your blueprint.” LLY