You’re talented, accomplished, and driven to succeed. But things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like in your career and you’re starting to get disillusioned and frustrated. Your confidence is low and you may be on the fast-track to a mid-career crisis, or worse yet, to quitting your job.
What you want is simple: a promotion.
Over the years as a workplace speaker, I’ve talked to thousands of people about their careers. In private consultations, I’ve encountered a number of reasons why people are seeking promotions that boil down to these three: a raise, recognition, and respect.
These are all reasonable things to expect. But like many of my clients, when it comes to talking with your manager or HR about your interest in a promotion, you’ve likely gotten the runaround instead: “We don’t have the budget right now,” or “Let’s talk in 6 months.”
This might leave you feeling hopeless, but don’t let it. Because when it comes to getting that raise, recognition, and respect, actions speak louder than words. Here are five things you can start doing today to put yourself in line for that coveted promotion.
1. Create a plan.
First, identify a timeline for getting promoted, whether it’s 3 months, 6 months, or a year. Then, identify the position you actually want. Be honest with yourself and conduct an audit of the requirements for this position versus your current skillset. Do your skills match up? If not, you have to fill in the voids by taking classes, seeking out mentors, and creating professional development opportunities at work that build trust and show you can do the job before you get it
2. Get reviewed.
Being reviewed at work is essential to getting promoted. If you’ve been reviewed in the past, be sure to dig into previous evaluations and look for any red flags. Were there stated concerns? It’s important to address these so you can demonstrate improved performance.
If you haven’t had a review, be proactive and ask for one from your manager. If they hesitate at the word “review,” reframe it as “some time to talk about how I can add value to our department and organization.” Ask what your manager sees as your strengths and weaknesses, how you can expand your role moving forward, and what a timeline for promotion might look like. You’re gathering information to see where you stand. It may be vulnerable, but you’ll learn a lot.
3. Look at yourself from the outside in.
A powerful question to consider is, “What do people say about me when I’m not around?” The answer to this is essentially your personal brand. For you to stand out, you want to be associated with excellence, rather than excuses. Don’t fall into the trap of: “People don’t know the real me because they never ask.” It’s your job to be proactive about interacting with people in your department and beyond.
Never underestimate the power of having a cup of coffee or going to lunch with colleagues. It’s during this time they get to know the real you beyond your resume — your story, work ethic, goals, and potential. And vice versa. These interactions have the added benefit of helping you develop powerful soft skills like self-awareness, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
4. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows…
For a long time, we’ve been told: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” I’d like to offer an alternative: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows what you want.”
If the people you work with day in and day out are unaware of your goals, how can they help you accomplish them? It’s critical to build allies over the long term in your company, alumni networks, community, social groups, and beyond. Think of these people as either mentors or your own informal “board of directors” — and perhaps you can play that role for them, too. Interested in building allies outside your immediate network? A good way to start is informational interviews.
5. Create a strong record that can’t be ignored.
It’s hard for people to argue with great results. This means going above and beyond on projects. It might even mean creating special projects for yourself that will help your company succeed. For example, you can volunteer to train your department in an area where you have expertise. Or, if your department loses an employee due to a maternity or medical leave, step up to support the loss. Become the go-to person. Along the way, don’t forget to document your wins to share regularly with your manager. This is your track record.
At the end of the day, the fastest way to get promoted is to promote yourself.