There’s no doubt about it–you need to work hard to get a promotion. But unfortunately, being a dedicated employee doesn’t always cut it. You have to do a lot of upfront work and even prepare months in advance. You need to build relationships with decision-makers, and if you’re planning to advocate for it, you need to make sure that you time your ask appropriately.
Getting a promotion also requires you to have the right mindset, and give up the damaging beliefs that are probably holding you back. Here are some of the most common ones I see:
Results speak for themselves
To get a promotion, you usually need to demonstrate that you’ve exceeded expectations. So if you produced a PowerPoint–a bar or a line graph, even an infographic–showing consistently above target performance, that should be enough to get you promoted, right?
Maybe. But in today’s business world your company is looking at your performance and your potential. So in addition to articulating what you’ve done, you need to think about how your performance benefits the company as a whole, and how it reflects on what you can deliver.
For example, if you show that you’ve achieved 20% above target, what does that mean? Did you have softball targets? Did you have a real hardball target? You need to tell the story of what these numbers mean, and how you’ll translate that in your new role. Even if you’re not going for a managerial position, every promotion is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership capabilities.
It’s up to your boss to give you the promotion
Your boss knows how good you are and is your loudest advocate. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always guarantee a title change.
When your boss brings up your name for promotion, he or she needs the support of other key stakeholders–your board, the CEO, your boss’s boss, and HR. Progress happens when others chime in with endorsements and supporting votes from others who know you a lot, a little, or even barely.
So, instead of putting all your energy into pleasing your boss, reach out and develop relationships with the decision-makers in your company. That means speaking up in meetings, even when you’re the junior person in the room. You don’t need to give an in-depth analysis, but you do need to show that you can make relevant connections–with ideas and with other people. No one will remember you if you don’t say anything. When you only listen, you fade away.
You’ll get noticed on your tech skills
When I asked the SVP of Technology for one of the biggest banks in the country what he looks for when he promotes people, he answered, “Not technical skills. In today’s AI age, I need creativity, curiosity, and above all, the ability to connect with people. Tech skills are easy to learn. Tech leadership skills are much harder to find. We’re looking for techies who can talk.”
Years ago, if you knew Cobalt, HTML, CSS, or Java better than anyone, you were promoted because you knew the language better than anyone. Today, that’s not going to get you far. You need to achieve breakthroughs with leaders who are comfortable being agile in every dimension.
Your appearance doesn’t matter
Recently, I was on a plane reading Perfect Me by Heather Widdows, an in-depth analysis of how the beauty ethic is dominant in our culture. The man next to me–tanned, rugged, and wearing a lacrosse T-shirt–was speaking loudly on the phone and criticizing a colleague’s presentation at a recent meeting.
You don’t need conform to a particular image of a buttoned-up corporate employee. But like it or not, your visual does count for a lot. You need to look respectable in a way that aligns with your company’s culture. Research shows that dressing up also has a positive impact on productivity. As Fast Company‘s Lydia Dishman previously reported, “clothing can systematically influence the wearer’s psychological process.”
Your mindset plays a huge part your success. If you have self-defeating beliefs, no amount of effort will get you to where you want to go. So learn to give up these misconceptions when you’re working toward a promotion at work. You might be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.