Part 2- The 7 secret (and not so secret) ways to get the promotion of your dreams, starting today
After you have aligned your goals with those of your boss/organization’s leadership and found ways to make others look good, it’s time to build your support team.
As the saying goes, even Tiger Woods has a coach. Even if you are hot sh*t (or at least think you are), outside parties can help you to succeed and I would venture to say are completely necessary to succeed.
No one ever completely accomplishes any great goal alone. You need others to help you focus on where you want to go and to motivate you when you are faced with obstacles.
In the professional realm mentors fill this “coach” role.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and are tools that are often misunderstood and regularly underutilized.
While it is important to find a mentor who has accomplished what you want to accomplish, is at the top of their game and can help guide you along the way (I refer to these as “macro mentors”), it is important to have what I refer to as “mini mentors” to help you with specific (niche) things as you prepare to get promoted (they also help you once you do get promoted, as mentioned here).
To build on the Tiger Woods example, he doesn’t have just one coach. He has one coach that helps him with putting, a different coach that helps him with chipping and yet another who helps with his drive and perfecting his swing. In the same light, you should find mini mentors that can help you learn and develop the skills you need to show you are promotion ready (and to help you succeed once you are promoted). Find someone who is really good at one skill or characteristic that you need to get promoted and engage them to learn how they do it.
Do an inventory of the skills and characteristics you need to develop in order to get promoted. Brainstorm yourself and ask others. Some typical mini mentors may help you with things like: showing you can balance your workload while managing the workload of others (especially relevant when promotion gives you direct reports), executive communication (where you have to present complex topics to leadership in a clear and strategic manner), or it can even be gaining knowledge about a certain topic or internal process where making a subject matter expert (SME) your teacher can be very advantageous to helping you master the subject.
While it is fine to leverage mentors who don’t work at your company, it is a good idea to find at least a couple who are at a higher level within your company (or department) because they can become advocates for you, speaking to hiring managers about how great of a candidate you are or giving you a behind the curtain look at what a hiring manager is really looking for so you can tailor your answers to questions during the interview process. Their network of contacts in the company can make you aware of soon to be open positions and help you understand what your future boss would be like.
There is one important key to leveraging macro and mini mentors that you must keep in mind to be successful.
With mini mentors, you have more power to select who you want to get help from, but it is also important to find ways to return the favor to them. Identify something you are an expert in that can help them and mentor them on it. If you are an expert on a topic that interests them, teach them what you know or if you are effective at a skill they struggle with (let’s say they have poor written communication skills) then you can teach them (in this case, how to write better).
With your macro mentors who have reached the higher level you aspire for, you must remember that they also choose you. This means that finding these macro mentors can take time and may require persistence on your part. If someone you really want to mentor you resists at first, be persistent and show them that you are worth their time. Show them that you are passionate about something they are interested in to catch their attention. At the same time, keep an eye out for someone who proactively helps you. They may be a great candidate to mentor you.
Now that your goals are aligned and you have a team of macro and micro mentors, helping you build the skills necessary to get promoted, it’s time to start doing the job at the next level. Part 3 will discuss how…