A promotion is better than a job search


How to get a promotion


Are you considering a job search? Is your desire to leave your employer because you want a promotion and none is in the offering? Did you ask? Don’t leave your career to chance.

Promoting you is not a top priority for management. They like the status quo and if you are doing a good job, they want you to continue to do that job. OK, so during your review they discussed your future. But were there action items on either side? Are things happening at your intended pace?


Want to make it happen on your schedule? Your management wants to see what’s in it for them to promote you. At the end of the day, it is all about making your boss look good. Where is your value-add?  ”Beverley, I am passionate about mobile apps and am proud of the latest release my team completed on-time and under budget. I am proud to work for PhoneHome and hope to become a Vice President of Mobile Products within the next 18 months. I want to leverage my mobile industry connections to create competitive strategies to keep us ahead of the curve. I know the leap from Executive Director to VP is huge and want to discuss with you what you need to see to consider me for a VP position. Shall we create a timeline?”

What to expect. Don’t expect a commitment that if you do such and so, you will be promoted. Companies can’t make that promise. They can tell you what others have done to get promoted and what you can do to be considered. They are now on notice of your intentions and it is your responsibility to keep them informed as you accomplish and succeed with the objectives you agreed upon.

Don’t ask for a title change. The most effective technique for getting a promotion is to make clear to your management what contributions you will make, clear deliverables, and what makes you the right person to do it. For example, if you intend to create a strategic alliance with a company or product line, you need the new credentials to talk to peers. You know what you want well enough to define that extra something you  will accomplish with the new title and responsibility. Key to this appeal is specific outcomes you will deliver and even a timeline if possible. You will be promoted because of what you can do, not your ability or time in service.

Not sure what the job description should be? Do some online research about the job title you want in the niche’. Take the top three priorities and align your comments with those needs. Talk to people who have that job and learn what skills and accomplishments they rely on for their success. Speak in terms of outcomes, not skills, abilities or knowledge. “I want to transition into VP of Corporate and Business Development to structure, negotiate and manage all aspects of complex mergers and acquisitions. I do much of that now, focused on integration, and see myself growing into a role of strategic responsibility for selecting and creating the strategic plan for future mergers and alliances.”

Your skills. Know what additional skills, experience, connections and/or accomplishments you have to have under your belt to be considered for the new role. Take a granular look at those who have that job, their background and how they use it. One company, for example, only considers people for VP positions once they have grown a product line into a $500 Million business. Clearly, if your product line is not on track, you need an internal transfer or new product line to cross that immovable bar.

Start to acquire those credentials now, don’t make it conditional on your management’s attitude about promotion. If you don’t get your promotion with your current company, you may want to look outside. Already possessing the right qualifications is required.

Successful people attract successful people. Get a mentor, inside the company or outside. A mentor is someone who can guide your career by way of example, education and course corrections. Don’t expect your mentor to be your champion and introduce you or hire you. That is not the role. The role is specific to what you need to accomplish or learn to get promoted. This individual typically is at least two levels above your current position and does not have to be someone you already know; only someone whom you respect who is willing and able.

For example, management has made clear they only promote people who can run a stable organization. Reduce turnover. Learn to hire better. Your mentor might be selected because their unregretted turnover is very low. Learn how they do it.

Create a Timeline. You know your objective, now make a timeline with mileposts to get there. Don’t abdicate responsibility for your career to your manager because they now know your desires. Work to plan. Include all the new skills, connections and accomplishments with mile posts. Once you meet those mileposts, let management know. The end game on your timeline is the promotion. If it is clear your current employer is not on the same page, create a new timeline; a timeline for your job search.

Hire a Coach. While this seems like shameless self promotion, it isn’t. The fact is, most successful executives have rarely conducted a job search or aspired to a seat at the table promotion. There were no guides or proven techniques to teach you how to do it. This is your career and you only get a few chances for promotions. Why not ask for support from someone who has helped people do it for years? No guess work, lots of feedback and someone to use as a sounding board. Sure, it costs money, but as in investment in your future, it is trivial. Most people eager for an executive level promotion are in their peak earning years. The better you position your self for and negotiate for your promotion, the more lucrative that promotion can be. Think value rather than cost.

What does it take? What does your manager have to see in you to consider you for promotion? Learn how to challenge your manager. Be the devil’s advocate and come up with solutions not yet considered. Don’t make it a practice to argue, but if you can present a alternative, bring it up. Use data to back it up. Show you are committed to the company success and dare to challenge. Demonstrate you are a strategic thinker, not just an administrator of other’s ideas.

Make sure there are no surprises. Update your manager on problems and probable solutions with a timeline and needed resources. Admit mistakes and never make your manager look bad.

Demonstrate a collaborative mentality. Always include stakeholders and listen to their agendas. Team players get promotions, prima donnas get fired. Participate, attend those beer busts and company parties. Get to know and be known beyond your own department. Build an internal network that speaks highly of you.

Volunteer. Help others with their projects and undertake the tough problems. Engage with others for great solutions and share the spotlight when they work. Become a mentor to someone young in their career.

And of course, do your job well. Know what your manager believes success looks like, the priorities, the deliverables and focus on them for above expectation outcomes. Keep unregretted turnover low and hire ‘A’ players. Groom and promote your people. Run effective meetings and deliver what you promise.

Your replacement is your responsibility. Don’t forget, succession planning is part of your job. When you present your proposal for promotion, it is a stronger argument if you can identify someone who will take over your responsibilities with no glitches.

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