Challenge: How To Get Noticed & Promoted At Work
One of the reasons I built this mentorship platform was because I felt that there was a lot of mixed advice on the internet.
Be bold. Stay humble.
Work hard. Let go.
Speak up. Listen.
Of course all of these quips are valid. The key is to know when to apply what when and to what degree depending on your unique experience, situation, and personality.
So this week we’re going to start a new series challenging traditional career advice from a fresh perspective.
“If you would like to be promoted to the level above, act like you are there already.”
This is commonplace all over the internet. My beef with this advice as-is is the word “act”. This is not drama class. Taking on additional responsibilities that are not in your job description take more time, effort, and may disrupt co-workers who could see you as infringing on their work.
Besides, why would a manager promote you when you’re already doing the same work for less pay? These are the fifty shades of gray when you try to apply this advice at face value.
Full disclosure, I am absolutely guilty of jumping into responsibility hoping to be recognized later. And it was rewarded. Eventually. I went from an intern to a senior vice president in eight years. But, as I’ve shared here before, I later found out I was being paid 25% less than my male colleagues with the same responsibilities.
Would those opportunities to climb the ladder have come if I hadn’t jumped in?
Maybe, maybe not. Reflecting on it today, I wish I would have been more intentional at every step. Yes, seize opportunities…but not without purpose.
At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet to getting promoted. Here are some alternative strategies to consider:
Get Another Offer (Fastest)
It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. In my experience, the fastest way to get promoted is to get a competing offer. There’s an adage that it’s easier to get a job when you have one – so use that to your advantage.
Reframe it as a version of networking. The bonus is that you can allow yourself to be naturally confident since you already have a job to fallback on.
When you get an offer, don’t immediately accept. It is broadly accepted that you should give your current employer the courtesy to match or offer something comparable. The exception being if you really really really want to leave – in which case I would say you should still take some time to think or negotiate.
Assuming your current firm matches the offer, you are in a wonderful position to consider staying or going. However, if they don’t match the offer, that’s a pretty good sign that you should go where you’re wanted. Either way, it’s highly recommended to talk to an outside mentor to talk through your options.
Discuss Open Positions
A strategy that gets less buzz is just better communication. Take note of open positions, specifically in your department. If it’s an area you’re interested in, talk about it with your boss or an outside mentor. Here are some ways to tee it up:
- I’m interested in learning more about this area. What are some ways I could learn more or work with that group?
- How would someone with my background learn more about XYZ?
- What do you think of XYZ department? How does it relate to our core business and the industry as a whole?
You’ll get subtle and not-so-subtle cues about the work. Their answers also inform what experience you need to make a successful case for transition or promotion. Plus the conversation also inherently signals that you are thinking about your career and looking to advance/expand/grow.
I don’t know if this is a symptom of the entertainment industry, but I observed a strange domino effect when it came to promotions. Most organizations have people above you, below you, and at your level. When one person at a level got promoted “above” the rest, everybody else at that level got promoted a few months later like clockwork.
When I asked around about this phenomenon, the most straight forward answer I got was, “How can that person be taken seriously when someone who used to be their peer is now more senior to them?”
Around the same time, my boss hired a man into a role junior to me, but reporting directly to him. Every few months after he asked our shared boss for a promotion. His persistent reason? Because he was the same age as me.
I’m not saying this works, but it clearly has some validity. Although I think it is effective only as long as you can walk the fine line between negotiating and whining.
The more you can make it about the work and less about you personally, the better. I think in a perfect world, most managers would promote everybody. In the real world, most managers promote based on the facts – as they see them.
So make sure they see you: your enthusiasm, your efforts, and your good work. And even if they don’t, we know some people who will.
“A strong and dedicated mentor can help a young woman get her foot in the door, get a promotion and get a raise.”
– Kirsten Gillibrand