Very early on in my career I got passed over for promotion. I remember standing there clapping along with the rest of the office as someone with half the experience I had (which let’s be frank was 3 years at the time!), half the braincells and not much else apart from the gift of the gab got the promotion I’d been desperate for and I fought back tears until I could discretely excuse myself to the bathroom. Consider that a major learning experience. And consider me determined to never be in that situation again.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about getting that much wanted promotion and climbing that career ladder. Also, you know the reality is sometimes as much as you try and prove yourself, there are so many other factors at play, many totally outside of your control and you need to bear that in mind too.
With over 20 years in the corporate world and nearly 10 of those owning my own company, let me share with you my 5 tips on getting that promotion.
1.Promotions and pay rises come from value to the business, not time in the business.
I’ve lost track now of how many times I’ve had a team member approach me wanting to talk about promotion and they say, ”I’ve been here 6 months now and I deserve a pay rise:” Straight away my brain shuts down and it will be a very different conversation had. In my view, no-one deserves a pay rise or promotion simply from length of service, although loyalty and commitment is always nice to see.
Promotions and pay rises come from going over and above what you’re paid to do in your job description – it’s how you prove your value to the business and show you are capable of more and the next step up.
Consider a very different conversation that goes a bit like, “In the last 6 months I have secured 3 new business opportunities that have brought $100,000 of revenue to the agency, I’ve retained all my clients, my two junior team members are all managing smaller clients and are increasing their value to the busines”. How much more powerful is this? Straight away as a line manager this gets my attention and starts a very different conversation. It is business focused, clearly shows the value and has been quantified.
So, what is value to a business? Well, this could come in many forms depending on the type of business and your role within it, but think about how you made money, how you saved money, achievements that created economies, ideas that created awareness or impact, how you made your boss’ life easier. Even if you are doing it for your own progression, you need to pivot it to show impact on the company and of course your passion and commitment to growing, developing and doing more too.
2. Make my life so easy I don’t even know about any problems until after the fact
They joke about making yourself obsolete from the day to day running of a business, but truly for most managers and business owners this is the dream. So, when I have a team member who deals with any drama or challenges they face and I never know about them until after the fact, I’m not going to lie, that makes me very happy indeed and impresses me as conflict resolution is a tough skill to learn.
It’s taken me nearly 10 years in business, but sometimes now I don’t know what is going on day to day in my company and that makes me happy, as everyone is performing their role and handling any challenges that come along and I don’t get bought into anything unless I need to be.
This said, knowing when the right time is to escalate and ask for support rather than attempting to handle something you’re not sure you can is also important. It’s a careful balance to learn. Own your role and responsibilities, reduce conflict and headaches for your managers and trust me they will thank you for it.
3. Avoid office politics and gossip
Let’s be honest – no-one likes an office gossip and if you’re serious about your career and progress you need to learn fast not to engage in any. This can be hard, I get it, but I’ve seen people involved in politics and gossip fired and left in very untenable positions with companies and so you need to avoid and find a way to let it skim over you or better still to help in nipping it in the bud.
4. Don’t let your desire for promotion overshadow everything else
I know it may seem easy for me to sit here 20 years on in my career and say that promotion isn’t all that. But you know it really isn’t. Most times, when I got what I wanted I felt a bit deflated and it was such an anti-climax, like so many things in life can be.
To quote the cliché, remember it is about the journey and you need to focus on all the experiences, learnings, the great people you meet along the way – it really truly is. Although clearly promotion and more money and perks helps the journey along better for sure! Just don’t sit there at your desk each day so focused on the end goal that you forget what you need to do to get there and so you don’t enjoy each day as this in my experience can actually hamper your progress.
5. Don’t forget to tell your boss you want a promotion
In my career I was guilty of thinking hard work alone spoke for itself and I wasn’t always very good at making it clear to my boss that I wanted and deserved a promotion. I know this isn’t always easy, but you have to plant the seed in your boss’ head. Make it known you are hungry to progress (most bosses love to hear this and see passion) and don’t assume anything. Be sure to ask what they expect you to do in order to progress, check in regularly for feedback and be dedicated and committed to your cause without crossing the line to being annoying.
As simple as it sounds, I still believe whole heartedly that passion and love for what you do are the easiest ways to progress. This shows through in so many ways, so if you are sitting at your desk feeling this way, then you’re already on the right path. If not, maybe it’s time to re-look at your career and company and whether it really is the right place for you as if it’s not trust me, even a promotion won’t fix that and even if not now, one day soon you will need to address this and where your heart really lies.
I still remember that guy who got promoted over me.
But where is he now? …exactly! I have no idea.