I’m not in HR, but this is what I’ve learned having been a manager and applying these practices myself:
1. Know what you’re working towards.
What’s the position? What are the responsibilities and qualifications? What does it take to get there? What will the salary increase be? In your conversions with your manager, get as specific as you can.
Then you can ask yourself, is that what you want? Do you think you can get there?
Knowing what you’re working towards is the first step in working towards a promotion.
2. Ask for the promotion and develop a career plan with your manager.
If you want a promotion, ask for it! My previous HR manager told me: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”
I like to start the conversation this way:
I want to be [insert title of promotion here]. Can we talk about what’s needed for me to get there?
Then, get clear expectations from your manager on what’s required and develop a career plan together. Include the required milestones and as much as possible, put a timeline on each. Include how you’ll reach each milestone. Get your manager’s commitment and support on helping you reach each milestone.
Have this conversation on an ongoing basis with your manager. Be sure to get feedback on your progress and keep aligned on the milestones and timelines. Yes, sometimes these may feel like a moving target, and that’s why it’s important to keep both sides accountable.
3. Work on projects that solve important problems.
Prove that you can and want to do more. The message you’ll send is that you’re good at your job, but you’re outgrowing it and proactively seek new challenges. It’s best if these problems both 1) solve important problems your manager cares about and 2) align with your career plan.
4. Don’t forget to be a team player.
When I was a manager, I observed people who emphasized their career development at the expense of the team. I’ve also seen colleagues bristle when their manager asks them to take on responsibilities outside their role, or projects that don’t align with their career goals.
Of course, you don’t want to always “take one for the team,” and it’s okay to be honest that a responsibility or project falls outside your passion. But you’ve got to continue contributing to the team and cultivating goodwill. Managers like team players.
5. Promote yourself, at work and outside of work.
Through all this, don’t assume that your manager will notice all the great work you’re doing. Document your achievements – make sure to review them at least quarterly with your manager.
- Specialize: Become the go-to person for [insert speciality here].
- Speak up: Team meetings are a great place to promote yourself. Work on something exciting? Talk about it. Create something new? Showcase it. Have a question? Ask it. Manager asks a question? Share your point of view.
- Update your LinkedIn profile: In addition to documenting your achievements for your manager, add your work accomplishments on LinkedIn and get noticed by others too.
- Blog: This is a great way to get noticed by colleagues and managers. Do it on LinkedIn. If your company has an internal blog or customer-facing blog, do it there. This has the win-win of building your personal brand both at your current company, and beyond.
6. Stay positive and patient, but be ready to move on.
Nobody likes a complainer, and this is especially true when you’re a manager! Through regular check-ins, you should have a good sense of how you’re progressing, and how your manager perceives your progress. The best case scenario is that your manager has promised to promote you within a certain timeframe. In such case, remember later to thank your manager for the commitment, communication, and transparency.
However, that may not be the case, and it’s just as important to be ready to move on. In my opinion, it’s in your best interest to continually explore other options. A former manager of mine actually encouraged us to regularly apply for other jobs.
Knowing what else is out there can help validate you’re in the right job or learn about other opportunities which may be a better fit.
So, while you stay positive and patient, and continue working on items 1-6 above, also keep your options open:
- Talk to work peers: Learn about other roles and functions both at your company and outside.
- Go to industry events: Keep up to date on industry trends, meet new people/roles, and learn about new companies.
- Talk to recruiters: If recruiters reach out, always talk to them.
- Look at job postings, even apply: See what else is out there, apply to some, and interview. At the very least, it’s good practice, and you never know. You might find that moving on is a better way to move up.
What do you think of this list? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you, or the people you manage.