How to get promoted: a guide for aspiring executives

Most of us would like to get promoted at some point in our careers - and some people seem to be very good at it! What is their secret?

1. Join the right company/organisation

Larger companies tend to have more openings than smaller ones but small companies often have opportunities for faster advancement. Much depends on the stage of the organisation’s growth cycle. Be conscious of this and ask probing questions about company growth plans at your interview before deciding to join up in the first place.

2. Are you outstandingly good but also have the right attitude?

It goes without saying that you need to excel in your current position before being considered for advancement. But it’s also true that some exceptional performers have been overlooked for promotion because of their mindset or negative attitude. You need to show you are solution oriented and have a ‘can’ do’ mindset every day on the job. 

3. Promotions are competitive

You will nearly always be in a competition for a promotion. That means you have to be better than the other people going for the job - and more importantly, that fact has to be known by the people making the promotion decision. Plan ahead for your next move up the ladder and make sure that a) you know what the promotion decision will be based on and b) that you illustrate all the traits needed for that promotion.

4. Are people aware of your achievements?

While your stellar work will not go unnoticed, don’t expect automatic advancement.  Everyone likes a quiet, dependable achiever who will just plug away doing a dependable and good job. These people are hard to come by and companies love them because they get the job done without (apparent) expectations of advancement. So you need to make your manager and their peer group aware of your performance so your name comes up when openings arise.

5. How well do you know your colleagues?

There is something of the School Captain approach to internal promotions. Factors at play are popularity and aptitude, but most importantly you must be respected. You need to be a good team player who can work collaboratively with colleagues and know your way around other departments. Find out who the decision makers are and take up opportunities to network with them. If your promotion involves a move in to a management role, this is even more important.

5. Have you shown that you can lead?

Most promotions will involve some form of supervision, management or leadership. Have you shown that you have the qualities needed for such a role? Being the best at what you do probably isn’t enough - you need to show you are ready to take on extra management responsibilities. That will probably mean showing that you understand and appreciate the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the business function that you are involved in, what you could do to improve it and how to motivate other staff to perform well.

6. Have you made it clear that you are ambitious?

This is always a balancing act. You need to let it be known that you have ambitions for advancement, but also that you are realistic and understand that promotions are based on performance and potential. You need to be sensible and not expect promotion before you have delivered many times over in your current role. Opening a dialogue at review time after some consistent wins makes good career sense.

7. Find the growth opportunities in the company

Perhaps your department isn’t growing but other departments are. Make sure the managers of the other departments know who you are, what you have achieved and that you are interested in opportunities. Talk to your manager about both your desire for growth and your wish to stay with the company. You need both sets of management support to get a cross-department promotion.

8. Who’s your sponsor?

Developing a trusting relationship with a senior influential colleague within the organisation takes time but is well worth it. Try asking early on if one will act as a mentor - someone you can talk to and bounce ideas around for the benefit of the organisation. Not many people do it, so it will help you stand out and obviously help at promotion time.

9. Who’s your replacement?

You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to promotion. You work hard and very effectively - and make yourself invaluable. But what if there is no one to replace you? Build your methods & processes and share them with a colleague – acting as their mentor if you like – so that when you’re ready to move on there is someone ready to fill your shoes. This also shows your aptitude for leadership, training and development.

As always, if you have comments we would love to hear them.

For more information or help

See our Career Planning coaching page, email us or give us a call on 1300 97 87 66. We will be pleased to help.