What are the secrets to ensuring your own promotion?
For those of you who have been following my posts, you know that when it comes to promotion opportunities, I’m not a big believer in fate. As I see things, promotion opportunities don’t just appear out of thin air. They are the result of careful, focused preparation so that when the right time comes, you can reap the benefits of your own preparation and determine your own corporate development career path. So my focus in this post is how to prepare today...regardless of whether you see a promotion opportunity in the horizon.
One reason that middle managers don’t get promoted is that they are too bound to the positions they know (or think they know) in the company. The marketing department has X number of employees whose functions are A, B, and C. The finance department has X national teams and Y international teams...and so on. What would happen if you could shape your own corporate development career path by creating your own position? What would it look like? What kinds of unique competencies could you bring to this position, benefiting both the department and the company? This is the time to think about such possibilities - when a promotion application deadline isn’t chasing your tail. This is also the time to check the feasibility of such a position by consulting with trusted co-workers, a mentor, and your boss.
Once you’ve decided on the ultimate position that would take advantage of your talents - and one that has received the nod of other key players, begin some market research. Find out how this position could: bring in new business; better serve your current markets; or develop products and services more efficiently. Collect the data necessary to back up these claims: market trends, sales figures, operational expenses, etc. Also, note any insightful reactions you get from co-workers as you discuss this new position. In general, your job is to build a case for this position - a case so strong that your company would be foolish not to create it for you.
While you’re creating your dream position, make both the time and effort to enhance relationships with current co-workers as well as to expand your network - ensuring that you reach beyond your comfort zone - whether it’s a team or whole department. While it might seem impossible to squeeze networking activities into an already jam-packed day, think of times in which you already might find yourself interacting with others: at a professional lecture, during a volunteer activity, at the water cooler, or at lunch.
If you do have time to spare, ask colleagues if they need an extra hand with their project. You might then find yourself invited to meetings which you wouldn’t have necessarily been invited to. The purpose of such networking is to make yourself known to various parts of your company so that when managers from different areas have to decide whom to promote, your name suddenly pops up from more than one - thereby greatly increasing your chances of promotion.
Your career - and especially your promotion path - should not be left to chance. Based on over 35 years of experience, I have seen few or no promotions based on “being there at the right time and at the right place”. There’s really no such thing. If you realize this, you’ll take the concrete steps I’ve outlined above to create your own promotion path - so that you’ll be ready to seize the opportunity when it arises.
Don’t worry about going full speed ahead with my suggestions. You can implement them as you feel comfortable. The important thing is to get started and to plan out how you’re going to proceed on your path to success. And before you know it, you’ll be looking out of the window of your own corner office.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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