Are you hoping to get a promotion? One thing that really annoys me is the belief that promotions should go to the longest serving member of staff. It is a bit of an old-fashioned belief, but it is one that leads certain people to think that they are deserving of that next rung on the ladder, whether they have put in the work or not.
You know me, I am not one to mince my words when it comes to that sort of stuff. Sometimes the guy or gal who has been with the company the longest is not the right choice. Regardless of how long you have been with your employer, if you see a promotion at any stage in your future, I would suggest that you start working towards it now. Demonstrate that you are interested in new opportunities using these thoughtful tips:
1. Lift those around you
I talked about this extensively in my last blog post, so I am not going to harp on about it too long, but I will say this: If I was considering two candidates for a promotion and one of them had demonstrated a commitment to lifting their colleagues and fostering strong, productive working relationships, they would definitely receive brownie points. Obviously there would be other things to consider, but as a manager and a HR professional, I have seen how much of a positive effect this type of behaviour can have on a team's success.
2. Demonstrate that you believe in the company values
You know those statements on the company website and the office wall? They aren't just there for decoration! You may have heard me talk about values before - I am a huge advocate of building awareness around your personal values and making sure that your employment is aligned with them. This time though, I am talking about company values.
By taking a personal interest in your employer's values, you are showing them that you are on the same page and that you are committed to working together, in a way that they have identified is important. Obviously I am not telling you to compromise your own personal values, but you will usually find that your values and your employers values will be quite similar - you probably wouldn't be working with them (or considering a promotion with them) if that wasn't the case. Demonstrate that you believe in your employer's values by sticking to them. If your company's values are honesty, respect and integrity, then be honest, respectful and do the right thing, regardless of whether anyone is watching.
3. Take on extra responsibility - without being paid for it
If you are one of those people who aren't willing to take on additional responsibilities until you are paid for them, then in my humble opinion, you aren't going to get a promotion. Employers want to have the opportunity to try before they buy and rightly so. You wouldn't (usually) buy a car without test driving it. You wouldn't (usually) buy a house without doing a building and pest inspection and you wouldn't (usually) make an investment in a new business product without doing all of your research. So it make sense that before making a significant investment in YOU, an employer might want to see if you cut the mustard! (I say usually because you never know, right?)
You might argue that your employer has had the opportunity to see you perform in your current role, but a promotion comes with additional responsibilities and you should prove that you are up to standard. I might be unpopular for having this opinion, but I am cool with that. I believe in making calculated decisions. It is extremely difficult to demote someone, from legal and company culture perspectives, so I would much prefer to take my time and promote someone once I am sure.
Knowing this though, wouldn't you also prefer to have a chance to try some of the responsibilities of the new role before you sign on the dotted line? This benefit works for both parties.
4. Have some big wins and don't be afraid to talk about them
Nobody likes a bragger, but if you are interviewing for a promotion (or even asking for one) you should be able to highlight to your employer what your greatest successes have been and how they have impacted upon the company. Have you:
- Consistently achieved more than your sales target? If so, by how much? Know your figures!
- Signed on a new client or clients? How much were they worth? How has it benefited the company?
- Made changes to the systems, processes or operations of the organisation? What were the flow on effects?
- Received an award or some kind of recognition? What was it for?
- Managed a project that was particularly beneficial to the company? How so? What happened as a result?
- Achieved regular and consistent client feedback or increased the amount of repeat business? What are the numbers that back you up?
- Improved team morale by instituting more opportunities for team work and socialisation? How has this affected the business?
Do you see where I am going with this? It is important to be able to identify, measure and communicate your big wins. Past behaviour is a great predictor of future behaviour and reminding your employer of your achievements can be a powerful way to demonstrate what you can bring to the company.
A word of warning though. Make sure you frame your achievements in a light that shows how they could help you in your new, more senior role. If you are the top salesperson, your employer will not want to lose the revenue that you are bringing in, which they will if you move into a team leader role. Don't make yourself irreplaceable. Show how you can use your skills and knowledge of the market to train other team members to replace and exceed your results.
Seriously! If you want to get a promotion, you need to check out this post! <3
5. Participate wholeheartedly
We have all been to those company events, seminars or training programs that have bored us senseless and it might be tempting to zone out or start planning what you will have for dinner. If you are interested in a promotion, however, or are planning to climb the company ladder, zoning out is a big no-no. Fake it til you make it, my friend, and participate wholeheartedly. If you appear to be disinterested or not involved in group work, your employer may assume that you lack engagement in broader company objectives and this throws a spanner in the works when it comes to your promotion plans.
If you participate in the event but don't find much value in it, consider talking with your manager or employer about it afterwards. Choose your words wisely - telling them that their seminar was rubbish probably won't earn you any gold stars in the promotion process. Instead offer suggestions about how you believe a future event could provide more value/ be more informative/ encourage more participation from the team. This type of forward-thinking is what leaders are looking for in their employees.
6. Share innovation
Speaking of forward-thinking... innovation! Yep, that's right - if you have ideas, share them! Innovation can sometimes be seen as "just another buzz word". But really, it just means "new ideas". If you are angling for a promotion, sharing new ideas that can improve the organisation is a fabulous way, not only to get noticed, but also to show that you actually give a damn. I have completed and taught quite a few units on innovation and for some reason it has a tendency to freak people out. You might be thinking "how can I come up with new ideas?" Well, here are a few suggestions:
- Is there anything that you or your team are currently doing that feels disjointed, requires double handling or seems to take up too much time? What could improve or change that?
- Which part of your work process usually creates the most mistakes, issues or complaints? What could improve or change that?
- What do your customers often complain about? Is it a particular part of the process, a problem with the product, response time or something else completely? What could improve or change that?
- What do you have the most trouble training new staff members about? What could improve or change that?
- Is there a specific area of the business that experiences a higher level of product or profit loss? What could improve or change that?
- Are you aware of any areas within the company that could be improved? What is the improvement and what is required?
I could go on like this all day, but I am guessing that you probably get the picture. A great way to demonstrate innovation is to improve something for the better. If you have ideas, then chat with your manager or if you have the delegation, go ahead and make a change! It is worth keeping in mind that the larger the change and the more impact it has on other people, the more consideration will need to be taken into ensuring that the change is managed effectively, but don't let that stop you from discussing your ideas. You never know, a great idea could be a catalyst for your next promotion!
7. Talk to your manager and create a plan
My final tip is simple. Have the conversations and have them early. I am not talking about starting with the company and sharing plans of your rise to the top after a couple of weeks of employment, but I do believe in being open about what you feel is in your future.
If you have ambition and would like to climb the company ladder, set some time aside to talk to your manager, whether as part of your annual performance review or as an additional discussion. Remember that this is not about being aggressive or demanding - it is more of an opportunity for you to let your manager know what you have in mind, and to ask them for their support (and perhaps mentorship). Work with them to create a plan for your development, for example, you might decide that over the next 6 months you will focus on improving a particular skill.
Please keep in mind that this technique does not provide any guarantees that you will advance. A promotion may not become available or you might require additional development. It is, however, a brilliant way for you to prioritise your learning and demonstrate to your manager that you are committed and resilient.
Best of luck with your next career move. Let me know if you have had success with any of these techniques.