Few people want to just stay in their current role indefinitely. A common goal in working any job for many employees is to earn a promotion and move up the ranks in their company. But just because most people want to get promoted doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to achieve. The reality is that there’s no definitive playbook for winning a promotion, so figuring out the best way to make it happen can feel frustrating and overwhelming.
Consider these basic pointers on steps that can help you stand out and get noticed by your boss for promotion consideration—as well as a few actions to avoid.
Confirm What a Promotion Requires at Your Company
If moving up to the next level is on your radar, it’s smart to find out what it generally takes to be in contention for a promotion.
You may not want to broach the subject of a promotion during a job interview, since the employer might feel that you’re not interested in the current role.
A better time to bring up the subject with your boss is during your performance review. Your review offers a built-in opportunity to share with your supervisor your objective of earning a promotion; you can then request specifics about what it will take to reach your goal.
Here are some questions you can ask your boss:
- What steps should I take in the next review period to position myself competitively for a promotion?
- Are there any stretch assignments that I can take on to prove my readiness for the next level?
- Is there anything that you would like to see me change in order to better prepare myself for a leadership position?
Put What You Learn Into Action—and Document It
Once you know what your boss expects to see from you in order to be promotion-worthy, start putting wheels in motion to deliver.
If you found out during your review that you need to be comfortable presenting to teams, then line up some speaking opportunities, either formal or informal, to gain experience. If your supervisor pointed you toward a potential stretch opportunity, carve out some extra time to take it on. Develop and practice any leadership skills that your boss suggested, and if you need training in specific areas, consider taking an online course to boost your skills.
As you execute on the action items that your company recommended, be sure to document your progress, noting dates of completion and milestones reached along the way. Be prepared to share your write-up with your manager at your next review, pointing out that you’ve followed through on the suggested steps toward your next promotion.
Ask for a Timeline
Once you’ve checked all of the items off the list that your boss outlined for promotion readiness, don’t be afraid to investigate what a potential timeline for advancement might look like.
While you don’t want to be too pushy about this, since it can backfire with your manager, it’s fair to request a general sense of timing. Your boss will let you know if it’s too soon to identify ballpark dates, but asking may help you find out whether a move up could be in the cards within the next review period, year, or multiyear period.
If you’ve done your best putting the steps above into action but still haven’t been promoted, don’t give up. There’s no predictable timeline to identify when someone might be due for a promotion, and it rarely happens overnight.
If you’ve played your best hand toward earning a leg up and feel stymied in your efforts after a year of trying, talk to your boss, or perhaps human resources, about your goals. Point out the strides you’ve made and ask again for clarification of what’s required to earn a promotion in your department and company. And remember, if you feel that you’ve proven yourself promotion-worthy, yet your current employer has repeatedly failed to recognize it, you can always seek a career boost outside of the company.
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