In today’s highly competitive job market, talented executives need to be more strategic on how they vie for the coveted top spots. Here are top tips on moving up the career ladder
In the race to get promoted, you might think it very important to somehow cut down or knock out the competition. In reality, you are much better off focusing entirely on what you can do to improve your chances of promotion.
1. Think about ‘How to get promoted’ as an essential leadership skill
Thinking about how to get promoted as an essential leadership skill is a useful way to consider something that is very often viewed as a company process. By thinking about ‘getting promoted’ in this way, you view it as something you can learn, and need to learn. Furthermore, by viewing it as a leadership skill, you can apply it again and again in order to navigate your way up through the corporate ranks.
2. Be prepared to do the hard work
When I say “the hard work” I mean more than your on-the-job performance. Naturally you will need to deliver good results in your day job to prove you can get to the next level. But what I really mean by “the work” is the total sum of energy and effort that it takes to get the promotion. You need to be focused on differentiating yourself by adding value over and above your role objectives.
3. Set out a vision for your career
Discovering (or rediscovering) your purpose at work, can be the catalyst for getting promoted. Have you really thought about why you want a promotion? Rather than take a job simply because it comes with a pay rise, try to step back and think strategically about what you want from your whole career. Think about your overall career vision and how your next role could be set in that context.
4. Develop a game plan
With your end goal (your dream job) in mind, it’s important to think strategically about how you are going to get promoted. Identify the next 3 to 5 roles that you need on your CV in order to land your dream job. Once you have decided on your next promotion goal, or a desired promotion opportunity has presented itself to you, you need to position yourself accordingly for success.
5. Communicate your value proposition
As well as appreciating your strengths, what is your unique “spike” ie. A specific talent that you are particularly skilled at. For example, you might have a spike on the ability to build senior client relationships very fast. Try to understand and catalogue your strengths and spike, and communicate these to decision-makers as the reason why you stand out from the crowd.
6. Invest in your leadership skills early
There is so much emphasis on technical skill at the junior level, that very often a few roles later, people find themselves managing others without much training at all on how to be a good people manager. As early in your career as possible, if you can encourage company investment in you on people management skills – ahead of being in the situation of managing large numbers of people, or privately invest your own funds in yourself on courses outside the company, then you can stand out from your peers early on and get a great reputation as a people person. This kind of differentiation will be crucial for future promotion prospects.
7. Figure out who really makes the decision and connect with them
Try to figure out who really makes the decision, and how the decision is arrived at. Learn how to read your organisation and understand the politics of your promotion. Your line manager will likely play some role in any decision about your promotion, but there will also be a number of other decision makers and formal processes to go through. Take the time to identify all of your stakeholders and list the decision makers in order of priority. Connect with the decision makers and warm up the relationships. If they don’t know who you are, introduce yourself. If there are any conflicts, now is the time to extend an olive branch.
8. Just ask!
A lot of people think that it is too pushy to ask for a promotion. We don’t want to be seen as aggressive or “ill-mannered”. While you may not be a pushy person by nature, in the world of business not asking for promotion is definitely taking the idea of politeness a step too far! You need to articulate what you want. The worst thing that can happen is that the answer will be ‘no’. Even if this is the case, you have the opportunity to ask ‘what do I need to do in order to get promoted?’ This will get everything out in the open. It will allow you to understand what you need to do to get promoted, and what your options are and it will let your boss know that you want a promotion.
9. Don’t fall at the first hurdle.
Remember, you are developing your ‘how to get promoted’ leadership skill. If you don’t get your promotion right away remember that it is a first step in your approach. Learn from any setbacks and use the experience to succeed at your next promoted attempt. Getting promoted takes time and is best set in the context of your entire career.
10. Don’t annoy your boss!
Usually your boss has the biggest say in your promotion, so try to please your boss by doing your work well, volunteering for extra tasks, being a loyal and contributing team member. Bring solutions as well as problems, and where differences of opinion arise, try to challenge constructively.
Niamh O’Keeffe is a leadership consultant and the author of Your First 100 Days How to make maximum impact in your new leadership role and Lead your Team in Your First 100 Days. Her latest book, Your Next Role: How to get ahead and get promoted, is currently Business Book of the Month in WHSmiths.