Getting promoted is (obviously) amazing for the validation, growth, and potentially more money it brings. It’s also one of the biggest challenges for employees: how do I actually get one? But unfortunately, there’s no slam-dunk answer to that question. Promotions happen for a variety of reasons: team realignments, success on a particular project, recognition of excellence over time, a good performance review, or a particular amount of time spent in a given role. There’s no magic formula, and it’s something that usually has dependencies all up and down your reporting chain.
What you can do, however, is make sure you’re exhibiting the kind of personal and professional qualities that make your manager take notice.
Sometimes a promotion might fall in your lap because of general circumstances at your job. More likely, it will not. Make sure you’re seeking out opportunities that will help you stretch in your role. That doesn’t mean taking on everything that comes along. Rather, you should be looking for projects that might otherwise fall outside of your comfort zone, or involve taking on more and different tasks.
It’s important to be an action-taker. Employees who see what needs to be done and take initiative themselves to do it (rather than being told or asked) are seen as potential leaders. For employers, employees who can handle work on their own are clutch.
Are you meeting exactly your objectives, on time? That’s great! What else can you do to make sure you’re going a little bit over that line and giving even more than the baseline expected? For example, are there ways to improve a process moving forward? Can you deliver even earlier than you thought you could? Is there more information that would be helpful to everyone involved? Those who go above and beyond are seen as valuable assets. It’s also something you can point to in reviews or negotiations: I did X ahead of deadline and under budget. My work on this project helped save the client Y amount of dollars.
Share your successes
You can’t expect that people will just notice when you’re performing above average. When it comes time for performance reviews, sit down and make a list of your top achievements for the year—kind of a highlight reel. It doesn’t need to be everything you’ve done, but rather the things that you feel were most successful, and contributed most to the company’s goals. If you jot these things down in a document for yourself throughout the year, it’s easier to come up with a full list when you want to share those achievements with your manager or give them talking points that they can take to those who would be able to approve a promotion.
Focus on execution, not just big plans
Anyone can talk a good game. If you’re not able to follow through with strong management skills and delivering a successful outcome on time, then you might not get as much credit for the accomplishment. Follow-up and follow-through are essential qualities in people who earn promotions and grow in their jobs.
Ask for feedback and act on it
Often, a big part of a promotion decision is determining whether you’re ready for more. One way to demonstrate that you are ready is by asking for feedback frequently, and then making sure you’re acting on that feedback. Being able to say, “I had this challenge, but I adjusted my routine and now I’m more successful at it,” is a clear demonstration of growth. It also shows your manager that you’re engaged and working to improve continuously.
Display humility and patience
Promotions aren’t about who’s the loudest about how great they are already. They’re about being rewarded for achievements and potential. If you’re already acting like you know everything, what potential growth is there? Or if you act like some work is “beneath” you, people may not be inclined to give you work that’s “above” you, either. There’s also an element of human nature here: people simply don’t like to be pushed around by abrasive, aggressive colleagues. Being humble and good-natured can help get you noticed in the right ways faster than being loud, peacock-ish, and aggressively in charge will.
Flexibility is a soft skill that used to be underrated but is increasingly mentioned by companies as a prized quality in employees. If you’re able to be adaptable for whatever comes up, that can get you a reputation as someone who is productive under any circumstances. Someone who says “yes” to challenges, or figures out solutions on the fly when problems come up, is going to be appreciated and noticed.
Be a team player
It may seem like that to earn a promotion, you need to be the star. That’s not always the case. Leadership isn’t just about grabbing control, or telling others what to do; it’s just as often about collaboration, and being someone who can help push others to achieve as well. Being supportive and cooperative in shared goals is a crucial quality when it comes to deciding who might be ready for more leadership opportunities.
If you feel like you’re ready for a promotion (or want to be!), boosting your promotability is something within your power and something you can work on as you go. Growth and development start with you, not your manager. Establishing some healthy developmental traits like these, it’ll help you advocate for yourself—or help others advocate for you when necessary. Good luck!