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How to get the promotion you want

Take these ten steps up the corporate ladder to career success.

20 June 2018
5 minute read

Group of colleagues standing together and clapping

Have you been passed over for promotion? Or are you new to the job but already looking to climb onto the next rung of the corporate ladder? Whatever your circumstances, promotions very seldom just land in your lap; you have to work towards them. We spoke to Phiona Martin, an industrial psychologist who focuses on career development, about how to get yourself prepared, noticed and promoted.

1. Fill in your gapsThe first thing you should do, Phiona says, is look at the competencies you should have for the next role up and measure yourself against those requirements. If you don’t have the relevant skills or experience, set about acquiring them.

“If for instance, you don’t have experience in budgeting or managing a project, put a plan in place to get exposure to those aspects of your job, so that you can gain the skills to move to the next level,” she says.

2. Record your successesUnfortunately, managers don’t always notice good work. It’s up to you to show them what a good job you’re doing. “You should record your successes and keep a portfolio of evidence,” says Phiona.
Compliment from a client? Print and file. Complicated task completed successfully? Make a note and file it. Difficult staff situation resolved on email? Save the emails on your desktop. Then, whatever your feedback cycle is with your manager, make a point of highlighting your achievements with evidence to back this up.

“If you haven’t been doing this, there’s no time like the present to start,” says Phiona. “Set aside some time to think about what you’ve already achieved in the past six months and try to track down documentation to support this.”

3. State your ambitionPhiona advises being explicit in your ambitions to your boss. “At the beginning of the year or in your performance review, discuss the trajectory you want to be taking. If in six months, you want to be considered for a higher role, then say so.”

This will not only help by putting your aspirations in mind for your supervisor but might also get them to offer you the necessary guidance or feedback to get you to the next level.

4. Speak to others who’ve been promoted“Every organisation has its own culture and way of doing things,” says Phiona. “For this reason, it’s a good idea to speak to other employees who have recently been promoted and ask them how they got ready to move to the next stage.”

She says that determining office norms – like simply being aware of how positions are advertised and how others successfully applied for them – will help you to be ready when the time comes.

5. Learn everything you canPhiona says that all employees – but especially those who want to get promoted – should embrace all continuous learning activities. “If your company has a training budget, take full advantage of that. If it doesn’t, consider paying for relevant studies for yourself, depending, of course, on the cost of the training.”

If you are paying for a course out of your own pocket, Phiona says that online courses through Udemy are more affordable. You can also consider looking into MOOCs (massive open online courses) that offer free access to lectures and course material from some of the leading universities around the world.

And remember, add any learning successes to your portfolio of evidence. It’s no good learning if no one knows what you learnt.

6. Find a mentorMentorship is an important aspect of career development. Finding a senior person to coach you through the complexities of advancement and to help you prepare both professionally and personally for success is hugely beneficial. While a mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same organisation as you, for the purposes of gaining a promotion, their familiarity with your workplace is helpful.

“A mentor can help to accelerate your growth. Identify the areas you want to develop and then have a person coach you on how to get to that next level in terms of your organisational culture,” says Phiona.

7. Put your hand upWhenever you have the opportunity, put your hand up to volunteer for additional projects or responsibilities. And then, of course, deliver.

“This will allow you to demonstrate that you have taken on increased scope in your job. If you can show that you are, for instance, doing 30% more work than your average peer, that will cast you in a very good light to your manager, come promotion time,” says Phiona.

She says that if there are any projects that involve inter-departmental teams, it’s a good idea to volunteer for those, because it will give you insight into other departments, and give other managers an idea of your competence.

You have to deliver excellent work, including the basics of your job

8. But don’t shirk your current dutiesWhile taking on additional work is great for getting you noticed and to expand your skills set, never neglect the job you are currently doing. “You have to deliver excellent work, including the basics of your job – even if they are mundane or boring tasks,” Phiona says. “To demonstrate you have outgrown your current role and are ready for the next move, you need to be delivering on all aspects of your everyday job.”

9. Play the gameIt is a harsh reality of the world that we do not live in a meritocracy, says Phiona. This means that even though you may deserve a promotion on the merits of your abilities, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will get it. Organisational politics often play a role – and sometimes the successful candidate was simply a part of the inner circle, or of the boys’ club, rather than having the relevant capability.

“In trying to navigate that, take strong consideration of organisational politics, and work out who you need on your side, so that your efforts won’t be futile. If you can get someone at a senior level with influence to advocate for you, that will assist,” she says.

10. Have a great attitudeGetting on with others and having a brilliant attitude at work are extremely desirable attributes for people in high-level positions – particularly if that position requires you to manage people, Phiona says.

“Make sure you display your positive, can-do attitude, because that will get you noticed, and convince your supervisors that you have what it takes to succeed at the next level,” she says.

Go out and get that promotionPhiona has provided great, practical steps to get you to that next promotion. Try putting them into action in your career, and who knows what you could achieve in the next six months?

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