The 7 secret (and not so secret) ways to get the promotion of your dreams, starting today (PART 3: Doing the job & Acting “As If”)
Ok. Your goals are aligned with your organization’s and you’ve got mentors. What next?
The 3rd step in getting promoted is to start acting “as if” and finding ways to do the job you want.
There is nothing that makes a hiring manager more confident in a candidate than seeing that they have actually succeeded in doing the job she is hiring for. While this can be pretty easy if you are looking for a lateral position at a new company, it can be difficult when you are looking for a job at the next level.
A few years ago I was hiring a new salesperson for my small business sales team. I interviewed one candidate coming from a consumer sales background. As most of us are aware, selling to consumers can be very different than selling to businesses. In his current position, this candidate also had the opportunity to sell products to businesses. When asking him how many business sales he had over the last few months, he responded that he had little to none. This communicated to me that he didn’t really want the job (or that he was letting our beloved millennial “sense of entitlement” get the best of him). He acted like he deserved the job but when I explained to him that someone who really wanted this role would have made an effort to prepare for it, he had no response (and as you can imagine, did not get the job).
Don’t let obstacles stand in your way though, there are things you can do to prove you are ready.
Before going out and taking on too much new responsibility, make sure to do an inventory of what skills are needed to be successful in the promoted role you are interested in. If it is a position managing someone the skills are very different than if you are an individual contributor. Moreover, you don’t want to spend time and energy building skills that those looking to promote you wouldn’t value.
One of the easiest ways to show you are ready for the promoted position is by backing up your boss (if the promotion is in your same organization) or someone who is going on vacation that does the job you want. This (1) helps you validate that it is a job you really want to do, and (2) gives you first-hand experience doing it. The experiences you have actually doing the job will do wonders in convincing people you are ready to be promoted (and make great references during the interview process).
Remember, however that responsibilities you would have in your own job don’t just come from filling in for someone, it also comes from building necessary skills elsewhere. Generally those that are preparing for a promotion have already proven they can be successful at their current job, so creating a new project or getting buy-in for a new initiative is much easier than if not. Be creative and find a way to morph some of your current work responsibilities into tasks that show you have the skills of those who get promoted to the next level.
Make sure to keep track of these additional projects and build a good story that is not only based on experience but also on measureable results.
To the point of acting “as if,” it is important that you begin to act like someone who would be successful in the promoted position. Find a way to distance yourself from your peers in the eyes of your group’s leadership. Start to dress, communicate and exude leadership qualities like those at the level you want to be at. Don’t get caught talking about the crazy thing that went down the previous evening at happy hour around the workplace. At the same time, be sure not to alienate your peers (or be thought of by them as a “sellout”), balancing your time between being part of the group and aligning yourself for promotion. Depending on the culture of your organization, your peers may have influence in you getting promoted (or may at least be someone polled by a hiring manager). You want your peers to think of you as a leader, but someone that is still part of their team.
Once you have started doing the promoted job you are seeking and being viewed by others as someone who has the qualities of someone who should be promoted, then it’s time to move on to Step 4, which we will discuss in the next post.
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…