How to Get Promoted

by on May 18th, 2017

The first rule of getting promoted is that you have to ask for it. It’s amazing how many people think that if they put their heads down, do the work, and hit every deadline, a promotion will come their way. If that hasn’t worked out for you, it’s time to get proactive! Poke your head up, take a look around, and get smart about gaining recognition for your work. Ask yourself these questions as you plan your next steps.

What skills do your bosses have that you don’t?

As you climb the ladder, you realize that the problems you’re faced with only get harder. Sometimes, solving those problems requires an advanced set of skills. Whatever your industry, figure out what those skills are. Do you need a better understanding of accounting? More polished public speaking skills? Less rudimentary digital knowhow? Figure out what the people above and around you can do that you can’t, and learn how to do it. Be open to returning to school, if that’s what it takes.

How do you talk to the decision makers at your company?

To get promoted, you need relationships not just with your bosses, but with your bosses’ bosses. They’re the ones who will sign off on your promotion. Raise your hand for opportunities—even if they’re challenging—that will get you in front of these stakeholders. When your promotion comes up, you need them to say, “Yes!”—not “Who?”

Can you get interest from a competing firm?

Be careful here, but an approach from a competitor is one way to get your own company to act. Always be respectful, but let your superiors know that you are a sought-after employee. That said, if your boss calls your bluff or turns out to not care whether you stay, you should either be prepared to leave or to discuss other forms of recognition or compensation outside of getting a promotion.

Can you do the job before you have the job?

The best argument for a new title is that you are already doing the work, in demonstrable ways. To the extent you can, make it happen. Get promoted by approaching your desired title change as you would a job change. What is the job description for the next position up, at your company or at a direct competitor, and what parts of that job can you start doing now? If you were coming into the position from the outside, what would you need to demonstrate that you can do?

What qualifications could help you get promoted?

Finally, to make yourself extra attractive for promotion, think carefully about the direction your industry is headed. What skills will be in demand in a year? In five years? Then get ahead of those requirements. If it’s relevant, take coding classes, learn design, learn new software, get an MBA. Show that you’re the person who can take the company into the future, and senior leadership will fall over itself to promote you.

Hoping to get promoted or advance your career with an MBA? Sign up for a free online GMAT practice test to prep for business school admissions.

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