The Real Secret to Getting the Promotion You Deserve

Tried-and-true ways to make moves in your career.

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What is the real secret to getting promoted? As you know, there are a limited number of slots. So how does your boss decide who gets promoted? Have you noticed any pattern or trends within your organization around who is picked and what skills and traits got them there? Perhaps it looks like promotions are a popularity contest. Here are some ways you can position yourself for that next promotion.

1. Do great work. One important component of great work is exceeding performance expectations. The second component is being viewed as a strong team member. And the third component is that your boss knows you overachieved. You can achieve impressive results and still not get promoted if you come across as a hotshot or know-it-all. Your arrogance may be seen as a turnoff by your boss and block your chances. Doing great work means you humbly communicate the impact you had on the team, organization or project and recognize the team members who helped you achieve the results

2. Track your accomplishments. It will be difficult to prove you are exceeding expectations if you don’t have evidence. It is your responsibility to track your accomplishments. Keep a simple spreadsheet listing your task or goals, the actions you took and the result or outcome of your actions. When you step forward and take on special projects or tasks, remember to include these results as well.

3. Meet regularly with your boss. This doesn’t mean you have to be a kiss up or a braggart. Once you start the meeting momentum, you’ll find that regularly touching base with your boss is about making sure you are on the same page. The goal is that you and your boss begin to understand each other better and can comfortably share problems, solutions and goals. Don’t hold back from letting your boss know what you’ve been doing. Stick to the facts and data and share the moments you are proud of. Always be sure to share the impact this has had on customers, the department or the company. 

4. Hang with the cool kids. Become recognizable by engaging with upper leadership, top performers and key influencers. Don’t let fear or intimidation stop you from making small talk in the break room or parking lot. To build long-term relationships, identify common interests outside of work and use those interests to continue future conversations. Your mission is to become a familiar face. 

5. Become involved in activities. It isn’t uncommon to face a brick wall at work. Maybe there are other great performers in line ahead of you or your talents haven’t been recognized yet. This is the time to look for opportunities to volunteer outside your company to gain exposure and experience. Join professional associations or organizations that have high visibility in your community or area of expertise. The next step is to look for volunteer opportunities within the organization that provide you with the opportunity to use your strengths. 

6. Learn new skills. One way to set yourself apart from the pack is to learn new skills. Read trade publications, professional association newsletters or ask around to see what the hot new technology is. You could also look at the skills, degrees or knowledge shared by people who were recently promoted in your organization. You can either pay for the training yourself or teach yourself through MOOCs or mentorship, or you can tap into career development reimbursement options that may be available through your employer. Investing in your professional development is just one more way to show you are ready for a promotion.

7. Ask! Most importantly, if you want more responsibility, you have to ask for it – and keep asking for it. Prove to your boss you have what it takes to handle more or new responsibility. You may be familiar with the saying “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” It might be worth the risk to take on a special small project, initiate a process redesign for your work flow or present a proposal to your boss. Part of being promotable means you know how to take smart, calculated risks. And remember, promotions don’t always mean more money, sometimes you have to demonstrate you can handle more responsibility before you see the financial reward.