Career Management: Landing a Promotion

I doubt whether there’s a “user’s manual” for getting promoted, although I’m sure many books and articles have been written on the subject. It’s not necessarily an easy subject to pin down. However, you know that other people are getting promoted, so why not you? Whether you’re aiming for your first promotion into management or targeting your next move up the ladder, you probably know it won’t be a snap .

If landing a promotion is your goal, you definitely need to be prepared to work for it. As David Rockefeller once said, “Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.”

Your First Management Promotion

For those of you who are at the first step, I came across an article in Harvard Business Review that you might find interesting. Written by John Beeson, it’s titled “Getting that First Promotion.” He points out that the rate of promotions in many industries is a lot slower than it was before the recession, so a large number of talented people are eager to snag a promotion now. This increases the challenge for those of you who are either in that group or have recently decided you want to move up.

Beeson makes one very important point: “The first thing you must understand is that producing strong results in your current job won’t be enough. That’s just table stakes, the minimum needed to get you into consideration for a promotion. But finding out what else is required is tricky.”

Suggestions for Getting Promoted in Tough Situations

Beeson offers a few “rules of thumb” for you to implement:

  • Be not only a problem finder but a solution seeker–someone who takes initiative to find new ways to add value and improve your group’s performance, then presents the boss with both the problem and a proposed solution. This also requires professional maturity–thinking outside your group, understanding how the solution might impact other areas and gaining support from those people for your plan.
  • Demonstrate the interpersonal skills necessary to manage potential direct reports, who can vary greatly in their skills, problems and receptivity to motivation. For those of you not currently managing staff, this could mean showing how you interact with and influence others on group projects.
  • Seek out opportunities to show that you can anticipate and gather resources necessary for successful implementation of an important project.

First Promotion or Next Management Role

Again, although Beeson’s article focuses on first-time promotion, it contains truths that are valid for those of you who are already in management and want to advance. If you understand the challenges and are ready to put some mental muscle into career management action plans that can help open the door to a promotion, you’ve taken the first important step. As Beeson comments, “those who emerge from the pack will be the ones willing to go the extra mile to distinguish themselves from other talented people.”

Tip: Take a good look at where you are now and where you want to go. Ruthlessly evaluate your qualifications to determine whether you meet the essential requirements and have what it takes to handle that promotion if you get it–fooling yourself by cherishing unrealistic expectations will do you no favors! Even if you somehow talk your way into a promotion you aren’t well prepared for, when crunch-time arrives–and it’s going to–it will become painfully clear that you have set yourself up for a dismal, possibly career-damaging failure.

If you don’t have what’s needed yet, your short-term goal becomes doing whatever is necessary to prepare yourself to pursue the promotion you want and be ready for it. That could include actions such as increasing your expertise and building or strengthening your “political capital” with influencers in your network. Find out what you need to do and then DO it.

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