How to Get a Promotion:
the Inside Stuff
by Rick Brenner
Do you think you're overdue for a promotion? Many of us are, but are you doing all you can to make it happen? Start with a focus on you.
One common question that troubles many of us is, "How should I ask for a promotion?" A good place to begin to answer that question is with yourself — the inside stuff. After you know what's really happening for you, it's a lot easier to address tactical issues.
The 171st graduating class of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. Promotion ceremonies are often neglected in the workplace, but they're alive and well, and more of us should use them. Photo courtesy Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.
You're more likely to secure the right promotion if you know yourself — your real motivations, your true capabilities, and how others see you.
- Your real motivations
- Is a promotion what you really want? Your chances of promotion are much greater if you actually want the job you would be promoted into.
- Perhaps you really want the pay, and not the job. If you do, there might be other ways to get it — by changing jobs, moving to a different company, or changing industries or regions.
- Your true capabilities
- Where do you stand relative to others who already occupy positions comparable to the one you want? This is difficult to answer, because it calls for almost superhuman objectivity. Are you really in their league? If you suddenly found yourself as one of their peers, and you think you'd be a good fit in that group, then your plans are realistic.
- Where do you stand relative to others who might be promoted to that job, or relative to others who might be hired from outside the company? To get a fix on this, apply for a similar job elsewhere. You'll quickly learn what your chances are, and you might even land a job.
- How others see you
- You're more likely to
secure the right promotion
if you know yourself
- Is your goal consistent with management's view of you? Would your desire for a promotion come as a complete shock to management if they knew about it? Or has someone suggested that you pursue a promotion? Two very different situations.
- Here are some useful indicators. Do people at your supervisor's level consult you? Have you ever represented your supervisor's organization for cross-functional task teams? Have you been asked to mentor new employees? Are you recognized for expertise that would be valuable in your new position? Would your peers in your new position advocate for you if you asked?
If you find some red flags when you examine your real motivations, your true capabilities, or how others see you, you could give up on a promotion, of course, but that's not a very satisfying outcome.
Instead, address the issues you found. If you want the pay but not the job, widen your view and look for jobs you do want. If you're missing some skills, you can take courses, find a mentor, or get a coach. If others don't see in you everything you'd like them to see, work on relationships and find ways to be a real contributor.
It's hard work, but if you really want a promotion, you'll find a way to get it done. Top Next Issue
For more on promotions, see "How to Get Promoted in Place," Point Lookout for August 23, 2006, and "How to Get a Promotion in Line," Point Lookout for September 13, 2006.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. Order Now!
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I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates.
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