If you’re working hard to get noticed and given a promotion, you are missing the most effective strategy for getting considered.
Originally published for Fast Company Decemeber 31, 2021
As the New Year fast approaches, you may have a promotion as one of your goals. While there is a lot you cannot control in the decision-making process, you are in control of a few things. It is also important to keep in mind that even if you don’t get promoted in the time frame you expected, you might still want to lay the groundwork for a future promotion.
Here are three strategies you can put in motion when you want to be promoted.
Tell your manager
I have worked with many clients who tell me they wish to be promoted. My response is: “Great! What is your game plan to accomplish this?” Often, I hear they are putting in more hours, volunteering for more projects, and/or working harder than they ever have in their career. When I ask them if they have let their director or manager know they want to be promoted, they say, “No, but I am hoping they will see my extra efforts.” These people are missing the most effective strategy for getting considered for a promotion, letting their manager know what they want.
While extra effort is great and will certainly help build your case for moving on up—your director or manager cannot read your mind. Not everyone wants a promotion. Some employees are very happy at their current level and do not want more responsibility.
If you do not let your manager, director, or board know you are striving to be promoted they may not even be considering you.
It is important to have a conversation with them about your desires and goals separately from your regular reviews. Get in front of them frequently. Let them know you want to be promoted and ask for feedback about what else you could be doing to get there. This should only be a quick 10-minute call with a few pleasantries at the beginning and then “I am calling because I have a goal for next year to be promoted and I wanted to make you aware of this goal. I would appreciate any feedback you have on my current performance that could help me and if you had any advice for next steps on how I can get there.” Then stop talking and listen. It’s as simple as that. Now they know you want this and may begin considering your performance and potential prior to your next formal review.
Keep the receipts of milestones and accomplishments
It can be very difficult to talk about yourself. You may feel like you are bragging or showing off. But you must keep track and “show your work” if you want to make it to the next level.
One of the biggest faults of so many aspiring promotees is that they underplay (or even forget) their accomplishments. I recently worked with one client and asked them to present their accomplishments from the last year. They offered, “I led the team on x project, and it was a success.” Further probing revealed (among other successes) that they made the largest sale among their teammates two weeks prior, had also contributed to the development of a new product that went to market faster than expected. They had overlooked all of their achievements.
Make sure you keep track of your successes so when the time comes and someone says, “What have you been working on?” you can tell them (concisely, with a prepared answer). Keep a journal with bullet points (x sale on this date, project completed on this date). It will make it easier to recall your work when the time comes.
Don’t be afraid to speak about your accomplishments and expertise in an accurate way when you present the facts ex: (I have made x happen, I have made x sales this year, I solved x problem.) You don’t come off as bragging but rather, as someone who’s accomplished a lot and deserves to be given consideration for a promotion.
Where there are opportunities, take them. While it may be easier to opt-out of leading a meeting or giving a presentation—challenge yourself to accept these offers when you can. I am not saying you need to bend over backward and add another pile of work onto your already busy work life, but I have heard countless times where people were given opportunities because upper management wants to see how they thrive in these environments.
While it can be hard to speak up in meetings if you are not used to it, try to start small. If you are in a virtual meeting, you can raise your virtual hand. This is one of the benefits of the virtual world because most people don’t raise their hands in in-person meetings, they just jump in. You can also contribute by adding to the chat or asking questions. By doing this more and more you can become more comfortable in the spotlight and get used to the practice of speaking in front of the group. Visibility begins with participation, and if you are sitting on your hands, you may become invisible to the group.
There will always be a lot out of your control when it comes to your company’s hiring and promoting practice, so it is important to make the most of what is in your control when you are looking to move up.