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16 simple things to do now to get a promotion this year

Talent is scarce, and that’s creating excellent opportunities to land a promotion. These steps can help get you there faster.

16 simple things to do now to get a promotion this year
[Photo: Yagi Studio/Getty Images]

As the Great Resignation moves millions of workers from one job to another, you have a different goal in mind: moving up within your current company. But how do you get that promotion—and get it fast? Here’s your pull-out-all-the-stops guide to help you advance in record time.

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Start with your goal

The first step to making your career goal happen is to clearly define what you want and why you want it, says Lise Stransky, founder of career-coaching firm Careers That Work for You. And then think about the underlying “why?” Are you looking for career growth or simply more money? What is the need or want that is driving you to pursue these goals? 

Breaking out your “why” helps you in two ways. First, it can help keep you motivated to pursue your goal. In addition, it can help you understand whether there is some other way this goal could be fulfilled, Stransky says. For example, if you’re looking for more recognition, but your company can’t offer you a promotion, you may be able to negotiate a new assignment that will give you more visibility, and better position you for the next opportunity. If a salary increase isn’t possible, you may be able to negotiate remote work opportunities or other rewards that have value.

Understand the obstacles

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s also important to go “straight to the negative,” says J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of Work It Daily, an online career-growth community. Examine your negative self-talk to understand the obstacles you face, both real and perceived. Once you examine the reasons you think you can’t accomplish your goal, you can begin to separate the real issues from those that are just imposter syndrome. You can also begin to break down that negative self-talk so it doesn’t hold you back, she says.

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Engage your mentors and sponsors

Finding someone who can give you advice and help you move your career forward can be invaluable—but those two roles are often misunderstood, says Kim Powell, a principal at Chicago-based leadership and change-management consulting firm ghSMART and coauthor of The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders. A mentor is someone who can give you advice and function as a sounding board with the added benefit of experience. A sponsor is someone who is in a position to act on your behalf, she says.

In research findings detailed in her book, Powell says she looked at “sprinters”—people who got to the C-suite faster than average. Roughly half had sponsors.

“They worked with these individuals thoughtfully. They shared aspirations, not problems. They linked to what was relevant to the sponsor. They made requests easy to fulfill, and most importantly, they followed through relentlessly. Meaning, they’re very reliable. So, the sponsor made an introduction or did something for them. They didn’t let that ball drop.”

Mentors, on the other hand, can give you guidance and add an objective, experienced voice to help you make decisions. When looking for a mentor, be sure to choose someone who can devote the time you need, says New York City-based career counselor and executive coach Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach. Even well-intentioned mentors who are too busy may not be effective.

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Look for resources you already have

Depending on your company’s culture and what you hope to achieve, consider sharing your goals with your manager, says Angelina Darrisaw, founder and CEO of career coaching firm C-Suite Coach. “For the most part, most managers do want to see their people succeed and do well and achieve what it is that makes them happy,” she says. So, make sure that they’re aware of your goals so they can help you find opportunities.

Build your plan

Create a plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Your plan will include the steps necessary to become the best candidate, including how you can obtain the credentials or training you need. Darrisaw advocates planning quarter by quarter, which allows you to identify new opportunities and pivot quickly if necessary. One tip: check your company’s internal training or tuition reimbursement programs to see if you can use them to fill gaps, she says.

Establish your social credit

While some of your strongest opportunities to advance will come from inside the organization, it’s also a good idea to burnish your external presence, as well, says LinkedIn expert Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day. This is an opportunity to show off your industry knowledge, creativity, writing ability, and thought leadership, she says. Create content that reflects your industry expertise and thoughts on its future. Perhaps you did a successful presentation that you can share publicly. Upload it here. Wrote an article or blog post? Share it. Spoke at an event? Post the video. You never know when someone—including people you already know—will see your profile and learn something new about your capabilities. 

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Act like an owner

Take ownership of your work as if you own the company, says Andy Chan, founder of Seattle-based career coaching center Prime Opt. Think about your role in terms of the company’s bigger picture and goals. When you take full responsibility and apply strategic thinking to your work, you’re immediately supporting your supervisor and team in new and more valuable ways. “Every time, when it comes to you learning new skills, it actually opens up a conversation for you to ask for a raise or a promotion,” he says. 

Do your homework

If you’re trying to think like a boss, you need to have a good understanding of the bigger forces at play in the company. Stay up-to-date on industry news, relevant analyst reports, and your own company’s news releases or internal reporting on business conditions. “It’s about research, research, research. The great people out there who move ahead are obsessed with research,” says Sander Flaum coauthor of Boost Your Career: How to Make an Impact, Get Recognized, and Build the Career You Want.

And part of that homework is also understanding your company and its cycles. While the tight labor market may help your case for a promotion, there may be factors that will affect your goals in your situation, says Lisa Quast, founder of Career Woman, Inc. and author of Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach: A Foolproof Guide to Getting the Job You Want. Every Time. For example, your company may be holding off giving raises or promotions until the start of its next fiscal year. Or there may be a hiring or raise freeze. Your industry may have cycles that affect when employers are most likely to hire new people. Being aware of such timing can help you plan your goal more effectively, she says.

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Take on stretch and skill-building projects

Career growth means constantly building your skills and improving your productivity and performance. If you’re part of a larger organization, look for committees, projects, or task forces you can get involved with to build experience, knowledge, and skills. If you’re part of a smaller organization, look for ways to take on new responsibilities and have influence. Powell shares one caveat, though: Be sure you’re working in areas that matter to the company and will move you toward your goals. It’s easy to find ways to be busy that either aren’t aligned with the leadership values or that won’t develop skills or visibility you need. So, choose these added efforts wisely.

Review yourself regularly

You may get regular feedback and a performance review from your supervisor, but it’s also important to do your own regular review to ensure you’re on track with your own goals and expectations, says Carolyn Birsky, a career coach for women in their twenties and thirties and founder of coaching firm Compass Maven. Keep track of your accomplishments, training, feedback, projects, and overall numbers related to your job. We often think we’ll remember all of these things, but it’s easy to forget pieces here and there, she says.

Then, periodically and honestly review your progress, set new goals, and look at what it’s going to take to get to your next milestone, she says. These self-checks can help you ensure you’re keeping on track with your own career development and shore up areas that may need improvement. This practice will also keep you ready for the next time you’re up for a promotion.

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“One of the mistakes employees often make is forgetting to hold those all together in some sort of file,” says Birsky. “That can be some of your best leverage to put your case forward and say, ‘This is why I think I should be promoted. This is what makes me really good at what I do.'” 

Track your success metrics

As you set new goals, also examine how you’ll measure success. Look at the metrics that matter to your company and include them as part of your plan, Birsky says. Whether it’s bumping up quarterly sales or improving efficiency, be sure to look for positive measures and how you can be most productive in contributing to them. Companies value employees who are focused on finding ways to raise the performance bar. Vanessa Wasche, founder of On Point Speaking, advises maintaining a journal with bullet points (x sales on this date, project completed on this date). “It will make it easier to recall your work when the time comes,” she says.

Toot your own horn without blowing it

Leaders must know your abilities and accomplishments to consider you for promotions, but being a braggadocio isn’t the way to win. Instead, find sponsors who will sing your praises to others, Powell says. Try to work on projects with people who are generous about sharing credit. And have the reputation to back up your positive buzz: The fast-track CEOs she and her team studied often had reputations for being dependable and following through on their promises.

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Be bold

Career expert Vicky Oliver, author of Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, says that you need to remember that you were hired for a reason and you’re there to add value. So, pipe up in meetings with good suggestions. Think about what you believe your boss would do—and do it. Sometimes, you just need to let your gut and good sense guide you. And, for better or worse, you’re going to get feedback, she says.

“When you add value, people are going to tell you how they feel. Even if it isn’t your boss, it could be somebody else who’s important there who will tell you how they feel about your ideas. Then the trick is to try to take the feedback, even negative feedback, and grow and learn,” she says.

Understand what your boss’s boss wants

Remember that your boss is also trying to appease and anticipate the needs of their own manager, says Andrew Alfano, chief operating officer at The Learning Experience, a childhood-development center franchise company. Of course, you don’t want to make your manager feel like you’re going over their head. However, good senior leaders typically want to get to know the people working for them to scope out potential talent in the ranks, he says. Look for opportunities to connect with organizational higher-ups and take advantage of those opportunities to increase your own visibility and ask questions about how you can better support the whole team.

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Maximize meeting times

Today’s remote and hybrid work environments offer their own challenges when it comes to advancement. If you’re working remotely, you may have to be a little more outgoing and engaging than if you’re in the office regularly, says Jonathan Jenkins, head of digital marketing at Lofty Rankings, who landed a promotion from SEO specialist to SEO manager at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency after working remotely for several years. His recommendations? Be personable when communicating via email, phone, or other methods. Provide updates so the team knows your work is getting done, and take advantage of team calls to share positive feedback from clients or other good news. “If you can package it in the form of a pointer or a tip, or a new strategy, then that’s a great way to make it look like you’re sharing information, and you can just let it slide that you have seen some really fantastic results as a result of doing that,” he says.

Think ahead

Anticipating needs, large and small, requires thinking ahead, says career coach Donna Schilder says. Are there busy seasons coming up? How can you help your manager get ahead of the rush? As you think about what’s ahead and how your company can be well-prepared, you may also increase your opportunities to take on more responsibility in preparation for a promotion or a new job.

Making yourself promotable requires knowing yourself and the role you’re after, and proving that you’re ready for the job, even if it’s a stretch. Bolster your abilities and skills and use all of your resources to land the next step on your career path. 

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About the author

Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites

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