In light of all the celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s life amidst his passing, I thought I would resurrect a blog post I wrote about him from a while back.
Monthly Archives: December 2013
“How do I get promoted?” – a common question I am asked when speaking to groups of young professionals across the country.
For all intents and purposes, the answer is it depends.
Although there are unique circumstances and nuances depending on your industry, company and job function, there are, however, steps you can take to make yourself “promotion ready” no matter that your specific scenario is.
In my next few blog entries I will share with you the 7 steps you can take to make yourself promotion-ready.
Before delving into Step #1, first let’s do a quick attitude check. Making sure you have a “promotion ready attitude” is a foundational step (a Step #0, if you will) before going full force into promotion preparation.
Let me dispel any strong biases in your mind- NO you don’t deserve to get promoted. Nobody owes you a promotion and if anyone has ever “promised” you a promotion (unless it’s the owner/CEO of the company), you should be weary that it will ever come to fruition. Promotions must be earned. Plus, they don’t come around all that often. Think about it- most companies have somewhere between 5 and 8 levels of management, so that means if you end up making it to a C-Level position, you will only be promoted 8 times over a 40-50 year period – that means you will only get promoted once every 5 or 6 years, not every 2 or 3. Studies have found that only 1 in 10 people get promoted each year. This toxic feeling can be labeled as a sense of entitlement.
Closely related to entitlement (especially for us millennials) is impatience. We want instant gratification NOW. We want to know that the hard work we are putting in each day is recognized and will get us somewhere. Unfortunately, we can’t just snap our fingers and get promoted to the next level.
But what if I hate my job right now and would love it if I was in my boss’ position? you may ask… Then don’t show it. Even if your job sucks, you can’t go around airing your negative opinions out about it. People are always watching and this type of attitude doesn’t inspire anyone to give you a shot at the next level.
Earning a promotion comes from consistently delivering results over a long period of time (the operative words here are consistently and long period of time). Promotions don’t just appear overnight. They are earned long before the job opportunity arises. Plus, most of the higher ups in your company or organization already have a mental list of who they feel is ready for the next level.
Now at the same time, you want to diagnose whether your department or company has a toxic culture that isn’t conducive of getting a promotion. Maybe you have a boss who takes credit for all your great work, or a lack of support from your peers or no hope of personal development, even after getting promoted. In those cases, it may be best to find a new job at a new company. But, if your current company does pass this litmus test and is a place where you want to seek career advancement, it’s best to move through these 7 Steps to become “promotion ready.” In conducting this toxic environment litmus test, remember that in many cases it is easier to get promoted from within to look for a promotion elsewhere (so it’s not always best to seek out greener pastures for promotional opportunities).
Now that the foundational step (Step #0) is out of the way, let’s go on to Step 1, Goal Alignment.
No matter how long you have been in a job, it is always possible to recalibrate to better align your goals with those of your boss and the team. Through school and in many job situations we have been trained to focus on our own performance; our own accomplishments, job proficiencies and metrics. In reality, when you fully focus on not making yourself look good, but on making others look good and accomplishing the goals of the team, that is when people take notice.
In basketball, it’s statistically great to be a player that scores 40 or 50 points a game by not passing the ball to teammates, but if you always lose the game, then what’s the point? If instead you focus on passing the ball to your teammate and setting them up to make great shots in a winning effort, you make the whole team successful. While the former gets some of the glory, it is the latter that inspires others and leads to championships.
In a work context, goal alignment is understanding what the vision, objectives and goals of your boss and organization are and then using your talents to their utmost to fulfill these goals. True leaders know what they are good at (and bad at) and contribute their strengths to help the team.
At the very least, remember that your boss either decides or is a key influencer in determining what your annual bonus is, the type of raise you get and whether you are supported in seeking a promotion. If you do all you can to make your boss look good and be successful, don’t you think that will inspire him/her to give you the bigger raise or bonus and support you when you want to pursue a promotion?
Once you have your focus and actions narrowed to what is in the team’s or your boss’ best interest, it’s time to build toward Step #2 in the process, getting mentors.
What have YOU found to be the keys to getting promoted in your career? Let us know in the comments below.
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