How to Score a Promotion

Career Blog

Managers, especially during performance review time, segment their staff into three categories:

  1. A Players: Rock star performers that they can’t live without.
  2. B Players: Steady Eddie types that are essential to the business, but who aren’t lighting the world on fire.
  3. C Players: Low performers who they’d like to donate back to the industry.

If you’re not viewed as an A player by your boss and the higher ups, a promotion is a long shot. Assuming you are however, here are four tips to help you make the grade:

  1. Know the Promotion Cycle: While one-off promotions can happen at any time, companies have a limited budget and usually prefer to operate within a fixed performance management cycle. Therefore, the timing of your request is critical. Share your upward aspirations with your manager during early, preferably during goal setting make sure you understand the process and any hurdles that can get in the way of your goal. There’s no point in working hard all year if a budget or bureaucratic issue is going to impede your progress.
  2. Demonstrate Value to the Company: Doing a good job isn’t nearly enough. You have to prove (ideally with metrics) how you are consistently contributing more than other employees in similar roles. Give your boss quarterly, if not monthly proof points on your progress to goals and confirm plans are still aligned during formal reviews.
  3. Prepare Your Backfill: If you are as good as you think, some managers will be reluctant to let you go. Take that concern off the table by grooming your successor. Some may worry about the risk of purposefully spoiling the illusion of their irreplaceability, especially if the company financials are less than stellar, but that’s an illusion we create for ourselves. And while a crafty boss could see your career mapping efforts as a way to replace you with a cheaper resource, most hold on to their rock stars despite the economic outlook.

But what if your fears come true and they actually deny you the promotion or worse, let you go? So what? Why stay at a place with no future? Preparing a successor gives you another layer of strategy management skills you can showcase to the next employer if things go sideways.

  1. Ask for the Promotion:When the time comes, don’t be vague. Ask for what you want. If you get a “no” be sure to get the reason why. If it’s something you lack such as a skill or experience ask for an opportunity to fill the gap. If it’s an external reason, such as budget or timing, start looking outside the organization. Never let a company stifle your career. This is especially true for early career professionals who often make more by job-hopping than standard promotion-prompted raises.

So You Got The Promotion. Now What?

While a promotion is certainly cause for celebration, it’s also a great time to express gratitude.

The concepts of the self-made man and overnight success have begun to unravel as professionals start to recognize the contributions of others. After a big win, it’s tempting for hard chargers to simply set the next goal. Instead, allow yourself a moment of reflection. Consider what you learned from the victory and who helped you along the way. Then, thank them and commit to repaying the kindness. Mentors move mountains.

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