Think you can just slog away as diligently as you can and then everything else will fall into place? Think again. Just putting your head down and working hard is not enough. Don’t just imagine some omniscient presence is watching your performance at every turn and taking note of how well you’re doing.
Here are a few concrete things to do to put yourself in a position to be promoted, beyond just showing up and working hard.
1. Do something significant.
So many rookies ask for a raise or a promotion without having done anything to earn it. Sure, they’ve worked hard. But they haven’t done the kind of specific work needed to grow as a leader or apply their talents and skills in a targeted way to help the company with what it needs most. Rise above. Then ask for a raise.
2. Keep track of your successes.
You should keep a running document of your accomplishments. Project start and end dates, significant milestones, quantifiable results, and thanks or congratulatory notes. This will be your arsenal when the time comes to prove your worthiness for promotion.
3. Log professional development.
Anytime you participate in a professional development activity—and you should be doing this!—log it. Keep track of courses, dates, names, contacts, etc. And file any new licenses or certificates you achieve, as well.
4. Build a support team of mentors.
You can’t get where you want to go without help. It takes a village—or, really, a team. Build bridges between you and your colleagues, supervisors, peers, managers, etc. Think about the ecosystem in which you’re operating. Learn its quirks and learn to thrive as a member of that climate. The best thing about scoring good mentors is that you might just land yourself a sponsor or ally who might be in the decision-making room when you aren’t and can make your case.
5. Think ahead.
Long before your review, sit down with your boss and make sure you know what tangible goals you should be working towards. Make sure you know the metrics you’ll be judged on when it comes time for promotion. Make a list of desired (or required) achievements. Then make sure your review is scheduled when it’s supposed to happen. If your first review comes and goes with no promotion, make sure you ask your boss what you’d need to do in the next six months to get there.
6. Don’t wait to lead.
Leadership opportunities won’t necessarily come to you. You have to seek them out. Lead a project, chair a committee, take charge of something. This will give you the exposure and visibility you need. Then just make sure you’re doing excellent work and maintaining your new role as leader.
7. Branch out.
It’s not just all about your company. Make sure to stay current. Network, interact, and yes, even interview at different companies in your field. Your employer isn’t the be all and end all. Anything could happen. Staying fresh and connected to the greater industry not only means you’ll land on your feet if any shake-ups or lay-offs come around, but also that you will be seen as more valuable when the promotions start coming around.