If You Have To Ask For A Promotion, It’s Already Too Late. Get Promoted At Work Without Asking. Be The Natural Choice. Includes A Printable Cheat Sheet.
There are four critical factors in getting promoted:
- Deliver on your goals consistently.
- Deliver your goals on time.
- Deliver your goals in the right way with professionalism & integrity.
- You are already a natural choice.
This article will provide you a proven 30 step system for propelling your career up the corporate ladder to help you fulfill your career aspirations. It is compiled from my 26 years and 10 promotions in large corporations. This article is split into 4 sections and has a printable cheat sheet guide available for free download at the end of the article.
Section 1: Deliver On Goals With Integrity
Deliver On Your Goals Consistently
If you are going to be trusted a trusted employee and be considered for promotions and career development, you have to be clear on your goals and deliver those outcomes.
In my experience of Silicon Valley corporations, you are only considered for a promotion if you deliver on your targets. If you are the one that delivers results you are usually going places.
Also, it is not just about achieving some of your goals, it is about building a reputation that you always deliver. The best compliment I ever got, was my manager telling me “Barry you always deliver”.
Delivering Your Goals Tip: We all get distracted at work with side jobs and issues that arise day to day. Ensure you deliver the big things and the rest will fall into place – print out your major goals and refer to them weekly to check if you made any progress against them.
Be Crystal Clear On Goals
Whether you are seeking promotion or not, you need to be crystal clear on your goals. Many low-grade managers typically want to micro-manage their staff and dish out small tasks one by one. If you want to claim you can consistently deliver on your goals you need to be able to quantify them with your manager and get sign off.
- Know the outcome: Increased sales, better customer satisfaction rating, new products developed, projects completed
- Measure the outcome: 10% increase in sales, 2-point shift on customer satisfaction, 3 new products developed, projects completed on budget
- Know the timeline: 10% increase in sales in 6 months, 2 points on customer satisfaction in 12 months, 1 new product every 3 months, projects completed on time.
Now that you are clear on your goals you need to keep your boss and team updated on the goals. If you feel you need support to achieve the goals, ask for support, from your manager or even your team.
[Related Post: Be Goal Oriented – SMART Goals]
Deliver On Your Goals The Right Way – Integrity
It is not enough to simply deliver on your goals. If you hit your targets and are disrespectful, inconsiderate or in any way intolerant of others, this will damage your career.
- You need to be patient and consider other people’s viewpoints and situation
- Never ever cross the line by being too intimate or personal
- Never discriminate against religion, gender, color, lifestyle, education or anything in any way
- Never be rude or dismissive
- Never ever, ever RAISE YOUR VOICE
Integrity Tip: Treat others as you wish to be treated with respect, tolerance, and honesty.
Build Trust With Your Manager
If you are the type of person that starts fires rather than helps put them out, you will have problems. Ultimately, all but the most egotistical of people want to have a good working environment where everyone gets along.
Build a good relationship with your manager by being the “safe pair of hands”. That means you are the one that does not drop the ball on an important task or deliverable. If you communicate enough with your manager, you will understand the state of the business and also understand their goals.
Additionally, with any good working relationship, you will understand how they tick, meaning how they operate and like to do business. The more in-tune you are with your boss the more you will be empowered to make important decisions without consulting them. You build trust by ensuring that when an important decision needs to be made and you are not 100% sure of the right decision, then you speak with your boss and discuss it to clarify the point.
Building Manager Trust Tip: Don’t just ask what to do, simply state the problem and what decision you think is the right one, if they agree or tweak it a little you build a bond of a trust.
Section 2 – Team Dynamics & Relationships
Build Trust With Your Team
Being a colleague that people feel they can trust is critical to getting a promotion. We discussed earlier achieving your goals the right way while treating people with respect and dignity. This extends to all of your activities, whether in a team meeting, at the water cooler, or on a lunch break.
Make each interaction with others positive and they will not have a word to say against you. It only takes one bad interaction to start a cycle of mistrust within a team.
If you are the type of person people enjoy working with, then you have the first base covered.
Building Team Trust Tip: Make each interaction with others positive and they will not have a word to say against you. It only takes one bad interaction to start a cycle of mistrust within a team.
Meeting your goals is one thing, but to build a strong following in the team you need to help others achieve their goals also. Never think of it in terms of “if I achieve my goals and others do not, I will be the one promoted”.
Never achieve your goals at the expense of other team members. Building a reputation and a following means helping others achieve their goals also. A great manager’s main function is to help the whole team to be successful. If you can help your manager achieve that by assisting others you will boost your credentials and lay the foundation for success.
Helping Others Tip: Take some time to look around the team to see who is struggling with their tasks. Approach them and offer your assistance in a respectful way.
Take On Mentoring Roles For New Team Members
If your team is growing then there will be new people joining the team on a regular basis. Speak to your manager and let them know that you are willing to help onboard new team members to help settle them in and introduce them to the team. This is time well invested as you will be onboarding a follower and building a strong relationship with that person.
Coaching Tip: Speak to your manager and let them know you want to help new team members.
Do Not Do Politics Or Play Favorites
Workplace politics can raise its ugly head for many reasons. One particular reason is if there are multiple people who are aggressively seeking career advancement. An average ambitious employee believes they need to promote themselves at the cost of others and they may exact that cost in terms of talking about others behind their backs, belittling the work of others and making a show of anything they do in order to self-promote.
Do not engage in any of these activities, they are a waste of time and lead to a mistrust and a poisonous work atmosphere. You need to rise above it all.
Avoid Politics Tip: Train yourself to not engage in gossip or discussing others behinds their back. If you get dragged into a conversation like that, politely excuse yourself from the discussion, people will quickly get the message about your level of professionalism
Develop Job Mastery – Be The Go-To Person
Another vital element in your getting promoted checklist is to actually be good at your job.
Most well-paid jobs require certain technical skills. Whether you work as I.T. technical support, a trainee accountant or in sales, mastering your job is a must for promotion.
Most teams are organized into a function. If for example, that function is sales and the next promotion is to the sales team leader for a region or channel, then you need to demonstrate that you have sales mastery. You need to demonstrate a track record of hitting sales targets and keeping customers happy.
Why, because often a promotion means more seniority and the ability to take your skills and leverage them across more people. If you are the person who knows how to make sales then you will be given the responsibility of 10 other salespeople and your job is to enable them to be successful. You cannot do this without mastery of your job.
Job Mastery Tip: Make continual learning a way of life. To be great at your job take the time to learn from the best at work, and also develop your own skills outside the team. Research professional training courses and take advantage of Podcasts, Audiobooks, and books to expand your horizons and knowledge.
Take The Tough Jobs
Inevitably, tough jobs come along, you know they are tough because no-one wants to take on the task. You can use this opportunity to extend your reputation and build credibility within the team by stepping up and taking ownership. This will build your profile and your team will respect you for it, but it can be a double-edged sword. You need to make sure that you have the skills or can build the skills to complete the job.
Taking the Tough Jobs Tip: If you think the job is highly likely to fail, specify this clearly to your manager. e.g. “This has a 20% chance of success, but I will take it anyway.” If you succeed then you are a hero against all odds, if you fail, well, they were warned.
Section 3 – Personal Attributes For Success
Be Super Prepared For One On One Meetings
If you really want to impress, be ready for meetings with your manager. The best situation is to have a notebook on your desk, or an excel spreadsheet always open so that you can note down topics as they arise during your working week that you need to discuss with your boss.
Topics will include things like new business ideas, updates on critical meetings, difficult customers, new business wins and inputs on important decisions.
If you do not develop the habit of capturing them when they occur, then you will forget them by the time your one to one meeting happens.
One On One Meeting Tips: When the one to one meeting happens, it is 5 minutes of “Hi how are you, how are the family” and then 25 minutes of powering through 10 different topics. No time wasted and maximum results. Your boss will love you for that.
Punctuality: Be On Time
There is no doubt about it, in most companies and especially in big corporations there is nearly always time pressure to achieve goals and targets. When you are invited to a meeting, whether it is with a client or an internal team meeting, be on time.
Being consistently late for any appointment shows you have the following characteristics:
- You are badly organized
- You do not perceive time correctly
- You cannot plan ahead
- You cannot meet deadlines
- You do not respect the valuable time of others
Demonstrating any or all of the characteristics above means you are not eligible for promotion.
Counting The Cost Of Being Late. Think of it like this, if there are 10 people in the meeting and they were all waiting for you to arrive and you were 10 minutes late, you just wasted 100 minutes of their lives. They will not thank you for it.
In my experience, the most often used excuse for being late is that the previous meeting overran. If you were leading that meeting, or if you did not inform the meeting leader that you need to leave at a certain time it is your own fault you are late.
Punctuality Tip: Make it a point of pride and personal integrity to always be on time. If you arrive a little early it means you also get to chat and build a relationship with others before the meeting, making you feel more comfortable and giving you time to think about the meeting and want you want from it.
Be A Good Oral Communicator
Having the ability to speak clearly and with structure is a huge plus when in the race for promotion. I am not even talking about presenting to an audience of 1,000 I am just talking about small groups and one to one discussions. Of course, being comfortable in larger groups is also a huge plus.
Being able to clearly and intelligibly get your point across is vital in today’s business world. Your words should also mean something. Avoid giving strong opinions when you are not well informed; if you do not know something say so.
Oral Communication Tip: All of us from the CEO to the individual contributor can improve their speaking skills. If you seriously want to grow your confidence and engagement the single best way to do it is by joining the not for profit organization Toastmasters. I was a member myself for two years.
Be A Good Visual Communicator
When I want to get an important point across I always use a visual. A visual is a graphical representation of the key points you are trying to make.
Important points warrant pulling up a PowerPoint presentation or a whiteboard. But in team meetings, it is simply worth sharing the meeting agenda and minutes so that the audience can see what the topic is and who the actions belong to.
The visual side of the brain is a lot more receptive than the audio receptors. As they say “a picture paints a thousand words” and this is as true in remote team meetings as it is in an art exhibition.
Visual Communication Tip: Keep your visuals to mostly images and diagrams, not pages of text.
Be Positive & Speak With A Smile On Your Face
When I was 17 years old at college I landed a tough summer job. I was being paid to go door to door trying to sell double glazing windows. In the late 1980s double glazed windows were like the electric car in terms of innovation… yes, it is sad.
Suffice to say, the people who answered their door to a snot-faced, pimply teenager who was trying to sell them windows were not the most polite people.
It was a miserable job, but what I did learn was to put a big smile on my face at the beginning of any interaction. A big smile and a firm, energetic and friendly voice do this with every one of your co-workers and you will do just fine, it could be worse you could be trying to sell them double glazing.
Positivity Tip: A big smile and a firm, energetic and friendly voice do this with every one of your co-workers
The best compliment you will ever get from a British person is they will say you are a “good laugh”. The British love humor, that does not mean they are all funny, it just means that even trying gets you bonus points.
Inject a little humor into your interactions with people and they will warm to you. I do not mean telling jokes, just trying to see the lighter side of life.
Humor Tip: Keep it clean and light-hearted
Attend Team Meetings & Speak Up
It is easy to sit and say nothing in a team meeting, but over time you will be slowly forgotten. To be successful you need to do the exact opposite. If your manager is good they will usually make time for a team round-table to enable everyone to share their progress and updates to the team.
Team Meeting Tip: Be ready for the team meeting, have at least one topic to raise on the round-table and be a speaker regularly on the fixed agenda. This does not mean speaking just for the hell of it, make it meaningful and value adding, and you are on the right path.
Be Focused On The Job At Hand
Distraction and interruption are the enemies of getting any job done. This is very prevalent in meetings, especially in group meetings. Some people really love the sound of their own voice and can hijack simple discussions to introduce another topic. Beware of that, after a while of being mindful you will learn to detect it quickly. Be polite and request that the distracting topic is tabled for another meeting.
Focused In Meetings Tip: If you need to get to a solution or outcome in a certain timeframe, be structured in the planning for the meeting. Plan the right time and include time for questions. Do not try to solve world peace in a one-hour meeting.
If You Raise A Problem – Suggest A Solution
To be a candidate for promotion you need to demonstrate you are a problem solver. Imagine you are a Marketing Specialist and one of your campaigns is running behind schedule and there is a risk of missing the deadline.
You do not approach your supervisor and say “we are behind schedule, what can we do?”
The best approach is to take ten minutes out to think about possible solutions. If you cannot think of solutions have a chat with more experienced team members and see what they think.
Then you can approach your supervisor and say “we have a risk of running behind schedule, so should we add some people from other projects until we are back on track, or move this deliverable until after the deadline because it is not critical to project success. Or do you have another suggestion?”
Solution Tip: Take time to organize your approach and suggest solutions
Build Your Work Network
Having a good network of people in the company will certainly help your career prospects. If you foster good relationships people will speak highly of you and opportunities will start to flow your way and you will be considered. When problems come along, if you cannot fix them, you should know someone who can.
Build Your Network Tip: Attend work functions, team lunches and the occasional evening out. Rotate who you go to coffee with during working hours and be friendly and chatty at the water cooler.
Most people mistake being committed with staying late and the office and doing lots of unpaid overtime. Sure we all burn the midnight oil occasionally to meet a deadline but do not make it a habit.
A good manager will not expect you to give up your personal life and family to get a promotion, if they do, find another role in the company or outside the company.
I promised myself when I was at university that I would never turn into one of those corporate guys who worked every hour that god sent and end up losing my wife and having no relationship with my family and friends.
This is easier said than done. The more you are promoted and the higher up the career ladder you climb, the more money you earn and that means greater expectations on your shoulders. This is what leads to burn-out.
However, you can show your commitment in other ways.
- Commit to the quality of your work not the quantity of hours
- Show your commitment through supporting your team to be successful
- Commit to helping your manager be successful and achieve business goals
- Demonstrate your commitment to the business by suggesting ways to improve the product, service or even productivity
Continually Develop Your Skills
We are surrounded by information and knowledge everywhere we look. Unfortunately, most of us choose to ignore most of it.
Every six months you need to take some time out of your schedule to think about your career:
- Where do you want to be in one or two years?
- What knowledge, training or experience will you need to get there.
- Make a list and take action.
There are so many choices available and you can make them fit your needs:
- Professional Qualifications – ask your employer to pay or contribute
- Industry Journals – your employer might pay for them
- Books – the time-tested cheap and effective way to improve knowledge
- Audiobooks – my preferred way of absorbing knowledge and expanding my horizons without having to sit down in front of a computer or in bed with a book. Listen to books whilst exercising, gardening, commuting or cleaning the kitchen.
Self-Development Tip: Plan where you want to go in your career and choose the best method for attaining the knowledge you need.
Get A Mentor
it is so rarely done in business but when done properly can be very effective. A mentor is a person that is preferably senior and with more experience than you. Normally they will not be in your direct organization so they are able to provide you with impartial advice.
If you feel having a mentor will help you, speak to your manager about it, or approach someone in your network that you respect ask them directly.
Get A Mentor Tip: Do not be afraid to approach someone and ask, simply by asking someone to be your mentor you will have paid them a huge compliment and you will go up in their estimations. Seeking a mentor is a sign of ambition not of weakness.
Section 4: Promotion to Team Leader or Manager Tips
If You Want To Lead Do It Before The Promotion
You do not need an official invitation to be a leader, you can take the lead on many activities without encroaching your manager’s authority or creating resentment with your teammates.
- Offer to stand-in for your boss during vacations
- Organize work events and get-togethers
- Volunteer to represent your team to other teams and organizations
- Offer to lead team meetings
- Be a thought leader by planning ahead and researching specific topics of interest to the team or group objectives.
Leading Before The Promotion Tip: Lead from the front but bring your team with you. Challenging tasks can be simplified by bringing others on the journey, involve them and give them kudos for helping and you will gather a following.
Demonstrate You Can Make Good Business Decisions
Being promoted to your first leadership position means you absolutely need to demonstrate good business decision making. Good business decision making means you need to be able to synthesize everything down to return on investment (ROI).
That does not always mean how many dollars you will make per dollar invested, it means a lot more than that.
Some examples of good decision making using ROI analysis:
- Investing in a training course for an employee. Returns a more skilled and committed team member
- Investing your time to help a struggling team member deliver a project. Returns a more loyal follower and a deeper professional relationship
- Investing in one more member of staff. Returns more output and more sales, or less over-time for the overworked team members
- Investing in productivity improvements or work elimination. Returns lower costs and more capacity for value-added work
Business Decision-Making Tips: When you need to justify anything to management you will need to have the ROI argument well thought out. If you have planned ahead you will get what you need.
Ask Your Boss What He Thinks You Need To Improve To Get A Promotion
If you plan this well in advance, you can gather input from your manager as to what they think it takes to get promoted to the job you want. A good opportunity is in your yearly performance review or any talent planning activities that occur.
Ultimately this is extremely valuable information as it will probably be your boss that awards you that promotion.
Tell Your Boss You Want A Promotion
Now, this is not the same as asking your boss for a promotion. Informing your boss that you are interested in future career progression is the key here. You are not asking for a specific promotion you are letting them know that you do want to progress and grow within this team or company.
Do this before any job openings occur and give yourself time to get in shape for the step up and for your boss to see you in action before a new job opens up.
Tell Your Boss Tip: No one knows better than the person awarding the promotion what the new job entails.
Lack Of Opportunities – Make Your Own
It can certainly happen that no matter how much you want a promotion there is simply a severe lack of opportunities. Working for a small company or if the company is stagnant or declining are good reasons for a lack of job openings and this does not reflect on you.
It may simply be that your direct management or senior staff have very little turnover therefor your opportunities are limited.
It may even be the case that you have a personality clash with your direct boss and they are holding your back. This happened to me when I first joined the Compaq Computer Corp head office in Munich Germany in 2000. My boss was so incompetent, and I was so competent that he deliberately tried to make my life hell through his own fear of being replaced. I actually did not want his job, but he irrationally feared me. After 6 months of this I applied for a job in another team and within 12 months I was promoted to team leader, then to manager. This was the start of my serious career progression.
The senior leaders in the company eventually saw through my ex-managers political games and bullying and made him redundant within 12 months. The great thing was that I had nothing to do with him leaving, I simply moved position and continued to do my best in another team.
Lack Of Opportunity Tip: If there are limited opportunities you may need to look outside your team or even find a company that is experiencing strong growth. Eventually, your time will come.
Finally – Print Out Our Getting Promoted Guide
The number one factor in getting a promotion is to deliver on your goals, deliver them on time and in the right way. A good manager will set clear objectives that are aligned with the goals of the business.
To be considered for promotion you need to demonstrate that you are a safe pair of hands that always meets targets and deliverables.
Secondly, deliver goals on time. When accepting a goal or target try to ensure you have the skills and resources to deliver it by the due date, nothing pleases a manager more than a job well done and on time.
Finally, it is not just what you achieve but how you achieve it. If you deliver the objective while treating other co-workers, customers, and your manager with respect and integrity this will demonstrate that you can be trusted.
Delivering on your goals consistently means you have mastery of your job, this is a strong indication that you are ready to take on more responsibility and to grow within the organization.
What to avoid:
- Many people who are looking for promotion feel they must work all the hours in the day and always look busy, this is not the case if you have a good employer.
- Too much overtime impacts your productivity and increases your chance of missing a target or deadline.
- Playing Politics
Getting promoted to a team leader has special requirements that managers look for:
- A qualified candidate for a team leader position will already be leading people in some aspect of their job. If you are collaborating well with team members, helping them be successful or providing informal coaching within the team, this shows you are already a leader of people and care about the success of others.
- As the employee, you should seek to demonstrate these attributes of your work and back them up with proof in your performance review.
- In terms of attitude, I look for people who remain positive, even in times of adversity. Balancing that I also respect people who are willing to challenge a decision as long as it is done the right way.
One of my most successful employees used to challenge me when he was unclear about a specific decision, but if I respectfully won him over to the direction I had set, he would be my number one advocate and supporter.
The combination of proving your job mastery and consistent achievement of goals, with your ability to collaborate with respect and integrity, is a winning combination for a bid for promotion.
How To Get Promoted Cheat Sheet Download
Promotion Checklist Contents
Section 1: Deliver On Goals With Integrity
|Deliver On Your Goals Consistently||Ensure you deliver the big things and the rest will fall into place – print out your major goals and refer to them weekly to check if you made any progress against them.|
|Be Crystal Clear On Goals|
|Deliver On Your Goals The Right Way – Integrity|
|Build Trust With Your Manager|
|Building Manager Trust Tip: Don’t just ask what to do, simply state the problem and what decision you think is the right one, if they agree or tweak it a little you build a bond of a trust.|
Section 2 – Team Dynamics & Relationships
|Build Trust With Your Team||Building Team Trust Tip: Make each interaction with others positive and they will not have a word to say against you. It only takes one bad interaction to start a cycle of mistrust within a team.|
|Help Others Succeed & Build A Following|
|Helping Others Tip: Take some time to look around the team to see who is struggling with their tasks. Approach them and offer your assistance in a respectful way.|
|Take On Mentoring Roles For New Team Members|
|Coaching Tip: Speak to your manager and let them know that you are willing to help onboard new team members to help settle them in and introduce them to the team.|
|Do Not Do Politics Or Play Favorites|
|Avoid Politics Tip: Train yourself to not engage in gossip or discussing others behinds their back. If you get dragged into a conversation like that, politely excuse yourself from the discussion, people will quickly get the message about your level of professionalism|
|Develop Job Mastery|
|Job Mastery Tip: Make continual learning a way of life. To be great at your job take the time to learn from the best at work, and also develop your own skills outside the team. Research professional training courses and take advantage of Podcasts, Audiobooks, and books to expand your horizons and knowledge.|
|Take The Tough Jobs|
|Taking the Tough Jobs Tip: If you think the job is highly likely to fail, specify this clearly to your manager. e.g. “This has a 20% chance of success, but I will take it anyway.” If you succeed then you are a hero against all odds, if you fail, well, they were warned.|
Section 3 – Personal Attributes For Success
|Be Super Prepared For One On One Meetings|
|One On One Meeting Tips: When the one to one meeting happens, it is 5 minutes of “Hi how are you, how are the family” and then 25 minutes of powering through 10 different topics. No time wasted and maximum results. Your boss will love you for that.|
|Punctuality: Be On Time|
|Punctuality Tip: Make it a point of pride and personal integrity to always be on time.|
|Be A Good Oral Communicator|
|Oral Communication Tip: If you seriously want to grow your confidence and engagement the single best way to do it is by joining the not for profit organization Toastmasters|
|Be A Good Visual Communicator|
|Visual Communication Tip: Keep your visuals to mostly images and diagrams, not pages of text.|
|Be Positive & Speak With A Smile On Your Face||Positivity Tip: A big smile and a firm, energetic and friendly voice do this with every one of your co-workers|
|Share A Little Humor|
|Humor Tip: Keep it clean and light-hearted|
|Attend Team Meetings & Speak Up|
|Team Meeting Tip: Be ready for the team meeting, have at least one topic to raise on the round-table and be a speaker regularly on the fixed agenda. This does not mean speaking just for the hell of it, make it meaningful and value adding, and you are on the right path.|
|Be Focused On The Job At Hand|
|Focused In Meetings Tip: If you need to get to a solution or outcome in a certain timeframe, be structured in the planning for the meeting. Plan the right time and include time for questions. Do not try to solve world peace in a one-hour meeting.|
|If You Raise A Problem – Suggest A Solution|
|Solution Tip: Take time to organize your approach and suggest solutions|
|Build Your Work Network|
|Build Your Network Tip: Attend work functions, team lunches and the occasional evening out. Rotate who you go to coffee with during working hours and be friendly and chatty at the water cooler.|
|Continually Develop Your Skills|
|Self-Development Tip: Plan where you want to go in your career and choose the best method for attaining the knowledge you need.|
|Get A Mentor|
|Get A Mentor Tip: Simply by asking someone to be your mentor you will have paid them a huge compliment and you will go up in their estimations. Seeking a mentor is a sign of ambition not of weakness.|
Section 4: Promotion to Team Leader or Manager Tips
|If You Want To Lead Do It Before The Promotion|
|Leading Before The Promotion Tip: Lead from the front but bring your team with you. Challenging tasks can be simplified by bringing others on the journey, involve them and give them kudos for helping and you will gather a following.|
|Demonstrate You Can Make Good Business Decisions|
|Business Decision-Making Tips: When you need to justify anything to management you will need to have the ROI argument well thought out. If you have planned ahead you will get what you need.|
|Ask Your Boss What He Thinks You Need To Improve To Get A Promotion|
|Tip: Ultimately this is extremely valuable information as it will probably be your boss that awards you that promotion.|
|Tell Your Boss You Want A Promotion|
|Tell Your Boss Tip: No one knows better than the person awarding the promotion what the entails.|
|Lack Of Opportunities – Make Your Own|
|Lack Of Opportunity Tip: If there are limited opportunities you may need to look outside your team or even find a company that is experiencing strong growth. Eventually, your time will come.|