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How to Earn a Promotion

September, 2014

The keys to getting a promotion are not what you say when asking for one, but what you do to make the promotion more likely. Some of those actions may be obvious, but others might surprise you.

Earning a promotion can take years of groundwork, so start right away. What you do within your organization is crucial, but Signe Godfrey, president of Olston Staffing and Professional Services, says another way to stand out is through volunteer work. That helps you develop a valuable network outside your workplace and gives you crucial experience. “How you manage a project in a nonprofit speaks volumes about who you are,” she says.

Godfrey says volunteer work also helps you attract mentors – experienced people who can guide your career and help develop your strengths. Panelists at a recent Hawaii Business conference on leadership made a distinction between sponsors and mentors: Sponsors advocate for you within your organization, whereas mentors are usually outside your organization. Both are vital to your career. One good question to ask both mentors and sponsors: How did you earn a promotion when you were at my stage of your career?

“The No. 1 thing is supporting what the company is trying to achieve. Too often employees make it about themselves. … (Instead) tie your achievements into the boss’s and organizations’ goals.”
Judy Bishop
President, Bishop and Co.

Judy Bishop, president of Bishop and Co., stresses the importance of knowing what your company expects of you. But just meeting those expectations is not enough. “You need to go above and beyond what is expected,” she says.

If those expectations are measurable, Bishop says, you should arm yourself with concrete proof that you have exceeded them before meeting with a supervisor to assess your performance.

Once the performance meeting is underway, Bishop says, employees should clearly explain what they have done for the company and then ask, “How do you feel about my accomplishments to date? What should I do going forward?”

“The No. 1 thing is supporting what the company is trying to achieve,” Bishop says. “Too often employees make it about themselves. … (Instead) tie your achievements into the boss’s and organization’s goals.”

Bishop suggests not directly broaching the idea of a promotion, but communicating your interests and your desire for increased responsibility and challenges. If the possibility of a promotion still doesn’t arise, ask, “Can you see me in another role in the future?”

Never make an ultimatum, Bishop says. Often bosses can’t instantaneously promote because of company processes. Instead, Bishop recommends, ask for a date to discuss the possibility further.

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Author:

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