The economy has been on the rise, but businesses are still conservative with their money and staff. Not long ago companies paid for experience; the longer you were with the company and in your position the more likely you were to get rewarded with a "promotion in place." With these promotions there was an assumption that you were bringing value because of your experience and loyalty. This just isn't the case anymore.
Today, employers expect value in the form of tangible productivity. Enter the "pay for performance" philosophy. To get a promotion today you need to sell the fact that you can bring additional value to your employer and that you can fill a business need. Standing out from the crowd isn't easy, but there are several things you can do right now to get you closer to that promotion.
1. Do Your Job Well
It all starts with your current responsibilities at work. Set a solid foundation by doing your job well and earn a reputation as a "high performer." Here are a couple of things you can do to get on the right track and get noticed:
- Set performance goals with your manager - make sure they feed into your department's goals, set measurable goals, and establish what "exceeding" your goals would mean.
- Schedule regular performance conversations with your manager - seek feedback, ask for guidance and make sure you know how your performance is being perceived.
2. Brand Yourself
When opportunities arise you better be ready. Make sure your résumé is up to date. Consider hiring a service to check it and make suggestions for improvement, or ask someone in your HR department to give you advice. Don't forget to straighten up your public social media accounts. Google your name and make sure you know what others can see about you.
Once your résumé is up to date, create a second one. Delete the content under each employer or job title section and rewrite it using a natural speaking voice, creating a short "elevator speech" for each section. This will help you sound more polished for the phone or face-to-face interviews.
3. Get Guidance
Find out if your company has a mentoring program and get involved. Expand your network, start reaching out to the people in your company that are highly regarded and set up an informal coaching or mentoring relationship.
It's hard to put yourself out there and take bold actions, but think if the roles were reversed. Would you enjoy another employee approaching you as an expert and soliciting your advice on work, career and corporate politics? Sure! As long as that employee was authentic, thankful and offered to repay the favor in some way.
Start by buying the person a coffee and just learning more about them as a person and how they got to where they are today. Then, keep mixing in personal small talk and business. For good leaders, just being a mentor is rewarding. Many mentors report feeling as though they got more out of the experience than the mentee. If you keep the conversation a two-way street and learn about your mentor you will find ways to repay the favor.
4. Make it Known
If you want a promotion, you need to make sure that decision makers know what you aspire to. Don't overdo this one, but if you schedule a career conversation with your manager, he or she will take notice and should give you feedback and advice. If you apply for roles above your current level, management will be forced to pay attention and give you specific feedback. Leverage your mentor to fully understand the culture and politics at your company, as it pertains to applying for open roles or asking for a promotion.
Once you get feedback and understand how these decisions get made at your company, it is time to create a value proposition...
5. Act Like You're There
I mentioned earlier that employers pay for performance. That means that you are only worth the level of value you bring to your employer. One way to show you are ready for a promotion is by performing at that level before you are even asked to. Because there is a risk these actions can be taken the wrong way, start out slow and, again, get advice from a mentor. But generally some tactics you can use are:
- Ask your manager how you can help
- Volunteer to train new employees
- Find employees who want to be mentored
- Identify ways to improve a key process or work condition and present to your manager
6. Get Exposure
Odds are, your manager is not the only one making your promotion decision. In "3. Get Guidance" you learned how decisions are made at your company and who those decision makers are. Now you need to get in front of those folks:
- Get involved in projects that those other decision makers are directly or indirectly involved with
- Ask them out for coffee to "get to know you / get to know your work"
7. Be Marketable
Bottom line is, this is business. Employers only owe you for the value that you deliver. If you want them to owe you more, you need to deliver more value or sell them on the idea that you can deliver more value if they put you in the right position. If you have done steps 1 through 6 then you have a strong argument with strong supporters to get that promotion.
Employers are people (or groups of people) too, thus they are susceptible to the same flaws we all are. So if you're not getting a promotion that you deserve, it's possible that they are taking you for granted or possibly even taking advantage of you.
Before you get burned out or salty from not getting that promotion you have worked so hard for, you owe it to yourself get a true assessment of your marketability. That means interviewing with other employers, getting one or more offers and bringing those offers back to your employer to work out a mutually beneficial deal.
Spell out the decision that is in front of you both:
- I don't want to leave but I have an opportunity to... (get paid more, get more benefits, work less, etc).
- I would love to stay but you have to decide to... (increase my salary, give me better benefits, improve my working conditions, etc).
Whatever you do, approach the situation with positive intent. Even if you leave, you do not want to burn any bridges. Be flattering - I have been with this company for ... years, I really believe in what we do, I really love this team, etc. But stick to business - I work hard and owe it to myself and my family to not leave anything valuable on the table.
Own Your Career
This is your career. Own it and take an active role in shaping it.