How To Secure A Promotion

Recently I wrote about How To Ask For A Raise, which is linked to getting a promotion but focussed more on upping your base. Upgrading your job title’s a different matter.

In a meritocracy like recruitment, sometimes securing a promotion is as simple as putting seven figures on the board and asking nicely.

If that’s not an option, you might need a strategy.

I’ve been following the most recent Career Challenge from Forbes. This one’s called “Position Yourself For A Promotion In 15 Days“.

And I’ve written up the most relevant bits for Recruiters keen to secure a promotion themselves. First:

Ask Yourself Why

And do so three times.

“Why a promotion, why now and why you”

It might be because you want more responsibility, the company’s current growth strategy looks favourable and you know the business back to front.

It’s almost never “because I deserve it”.

You’ll need a degree of impartiality to answer properly. So grab your best mate or an office rival. Someone that doesn’t mind putting your nose out of joint if it’s for your own good.

Have them critique your answers. Robustly. Because the powers that be will be just as critical. And if you can get through that, you’re probably ready for what’s next.

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Define Your Dream Role

“Plan for your dream promotion, but be prepared to pivot, because something will change”

And not always for the worse. Sometimes planning to take the next rung in the ladder’s more limiting for your career.

Keep your options open. And don’t write anything off.

That could mean exploring opportunities in different departments. It could mean immersing yourself in tech.

Be mindful that AI’s an increasing its presence in recruitment. So future-proofing your career by learning new – or developing existing – skills could be more valuable than chasing an upgraded job title.

Look For Opportunities

Depending on the size of the company you work for, there might be a number of different routes to progress.

Talk to your boss about your career path at your next review or monthly business meeting.

Talk to your peers, cross-functional departments, recently departed colleagues. You’ve hit gold if you can find where they tried and failed to secure a promotion in the past.

Pay attention to internal communication announcing upcoming roles. And ingratiate yourself with any new Heads Of once they start.

So when they’re building out their team, you’re the front runner. And remember:

“If you are stymied in your attempts to move up within your current company, you may have to look outside“.

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Timing

This is the part of the process you really can’t rush. 

There’s no exact science to it in recruitment, but if you’ve been in your current role less than a year, you might be getting ahead of yourself.

If you’re looking for a moment in the year to time a promotion, the start of the financial year’s usually good. 

Even if it’s a case of planting the seed for later, your company will be looking at what they can shell out and when. And promotions will be a factor in that.

Upskill

Learn new things. Ideally things that will make you a shoe-in for your dream role, ahead of time.

Find ways to not only educate yourself, but demonstrate that new knowledge in your day to day.

LinkedIn Learning’s free to trial for a month and contains bite-size video courses from experts in career development, leadership, and finance & accounting among others.

I covered it in the LinkedIn edition of our Productivity Hacks series.

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Drill Down On Your Skill Set

While you’re upskilling in other areas, you’ve got to be absolutely smashing your current job.

Lest you fall victim to ’The Peter Principle’:

“The phenomenon in most organisations where employees continue to get promoted until they hit a skill set-ceiling and eventually fail”

These 12 Soft Skills are good for anyone to work on, from Junior Cons to MDs, impending promotion or not. And you can never max out learning any of them.

Show Leadership

It’s much easier for management to see you in an elevated position if you embody leadership traits already.

This doesn’t mean mincing around the office barking orders at people.

 In fact, this article takes a long hard look at How to Go From Great Biller to Great Leader.

We’re forever told managing your desk’s a lot like running your own business. So embrace that comparison.

You’ll be more in tune with the needs of the business if you take ownership of it. That makes identifying opportunities to add value – and then deliver – much easier.

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Be Responsible

Stop thinking like an employee and waiting for your boss to delegate tasks to you.

Think about management as your number one client.

One whose needs you’re proactively catering for.

When you ask to take on new responsibilities, pitch for it the same way you’d propose new business.

Don’t just ask for the login to the company Instagram. Make a plan to fit social media management into your schedule, strategise how you’re going to drive engagement on the platform, and forecast how you’ll impact key business objectives – ideally, revenue – as a result of your actions.

Think of this less as taking on something new and more about finding extra ways to add value.

Don’t Just Play To Your Strengths

Focus on your weaknesses too. Because if you’re vying for promotion, these’ll be on show just as much as the things you’re good at.

Key to overcoming weakness is being tuned into your emotional intelligence.

That is, your ability to manage yours, and others, emotions.

These are key skills for anyone seeking a promotion.

There’s been plenty of study on the subject. And we’ve written about it, here.

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Schmooze

Make an effort to be nice to people. Whoever’s in charge of promoting you will ask what you’re like to work with and you want their response to be glowing.

And for a boss move: get a mentor.

Someone to champion your skills, work ethic and suitability to key decision makers on your behalf.

This article is all about how to get a mentor externally, but the same rules apply to career role models at your current company.

Ask For It

In the article on How To Ask For A Raise, I put forward a three step strategy to getting what you want. In essence:

1. Ask what you need to do

2. Go do it

3. Come back when it’s done

And the same applies here. When you’re ready to pop the promotion question, ask specifically what you need to do to get promoted. You should be given an objective to fulfil.

Fulfil the living daylights out of it.

Then come back to your boss and tell them. Although if you’ve followed all the advice in this article, you may have already covered step 2.

Weigh up any offers – or lack thereof – as carefully as you’d expect your candidates to.

And remember that nothing’s guaranteed in recruitment. But you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to advance your career if you promote yourself in advance and then work on your company catching up.

But if that’s just not happening where you are, there might be another way to secure a promotion. Right here.