6 Ways To Position Yourself For A Promotion
So you’ve busted your butt for two years and counting, but you’re still sitting in the same position where you started. Sure, you like your job (and you’re good at it, if you do say so yourself), but you’re hungry for growth and pining for a promotion.
Is jumping ship the only way to advance? The answer is NO.
I hear from women all the time who are overlooked, undervalued and sick of waiting to get the promotion they’re due. These frustrations are more than valid given that women are less likely than men to receive that critical first promotion to manager, and as a result, far fewer end up on the path to leadership. The numbers are even more stark for women of color, who face what some call a “concrete ceiling,” that’s even harder to break through than glass.
Early-career promotions are important for putting yourself in the leadership pipeline, but entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to spend five-plus years stalled in the same role, working hard, but feeling ripped off.
And therein lies the problem: we must remember that the meritocracy of academic life falls away after graduation. In today’s workplace, doing well and sticking around doesn’t entitle you to anything.
We need leaders across industries to advocate for more transparency and leveling the playing field in hiring and promotion. But in the meantime, here are six actionable steps you can take now to successfully turn your ambition into a promotion in 2017.
1. Know Your Power Map
To advocate for yourself — and for lasting change — you must first figure out where power actually resides in the organization.
- Who are the decision-makers and stakeholders?
- What are their fears, concerns, interests and motivations?
- What are the existing office norms for how advancement decisions are made?
- Is there a lot of transparency and structure to this process, or none whatsoever?
Seek out as much information as possible to know your power map, so you can chart your course to growing your own.
2. Explore Your Options (Inside and Out)
Once you know who really calls the shots within your organization, reach out and strengthen your relationships with them. Connect over coffee, ask them out to lunch or shoot them an industry article you think they’d appreciate.
But growing your network in-company alone isn’t sufficient. Expand your horizons by connecting with other stakeholders from outside the organization to learn more about industry practices and foster relationships that could plant the seed for outside hiring opportunities in the future.
Sure, you’re not looking to jump ship right now, but information is power. It doesn’t hurt to know what’s out there. Grow your relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers both inside and outside the company to get a sense of all your (prospective) options.
3. Ask To Ask
A common mistake promotion-seekers make is asking the right question at the wrong time. Your potential for promotion is not the kind of casual commentary for a half-in-the-bag happy hour conversation or an off-hand remark in a group meeting.
Ask to set aside time on your supervisor’s schedule for a formal review and make your desire to discuss your future at the organization explicit. Be mindful of their availability and be intentional about affording your supervisor time to prepare for the conversation as best they can, too. You want your boss to know you’re taking this seriously, and you expect her to do the same.
4. Bust Out The Business Case
Once you’re in a position to make your case, keep in mind that sticking around and doing your job isn’t enough to land a promotion. Bust out your brag sheet or bring along a full self-evaluation that helps bring attention to your career highlights, emphasizing how your performance has benefited the organization’s bottom line.
Research by Catalyst and McKinsey shows that women are judged on what they have actually done (whereas men somehow get brownie points for their potential alone), so it’s especially important to make your value to the team clear when you’re reminding your employer what it would cost to lose you.
5. Paint A Vivid Picture
Keeping your supervisor’s interests in mind, paint a clear picture of what the future could hold. Why would everyone’s lives be better if you got your promotion? Seriously, make the case for how you would be better equipped to do more for them.
This isn’t about you paying down your student loans, this is about you helping further the mission of the organization. Pitch them on what you’d want to do more, better, or differently in your new role. Emphasize the mutual benefits of your expanded role – not just a raise and title bump for you.
Keep in mind, losing you as an employee is costly. Turnover is tough in a competitive hiring market. But by keeping the focus on all the benefits you’d (continue to) bring to the role, you’re also painting a picture of what your employer could miss if they lose you to an outside offer.
6. Ask “Can I Count On You?”
Does your supervisor have concerns or feedback for you? Take them seriously. Acknowledge how you can continue to integrate their advice to make improvements and further develop your leadership.
But at this stage in the game, you’re looking for sponsorship, not mentorship. “High-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored,” says leadership expert Herminia Ibarra.
You’ll take advice and guidance, sure, but what you’re really asking for in this moment is your boss’s support in bringing you up the pipeline. You need to know whether or not you can count on them to advocate on your behalf.
End your conversation with a hard ask. Can you count on their support in doing all they can to make your promotion a reality? This step is even more critical if your supervisor is not the key decision-maker herself. Find out whether or not she’s comfortable advocating to her boss on your behalf.
And hey, if the answer is no, that’s when those relationships you’ve built with other stakeholders in the organization (or outside of it), can serve as your next call.
Women shouldn’t have to tap-dance on this tightrope just to navigate the gendered minefield that is the promotions pipeline in the modern workplace. But I’m all about helping women get better at playing the game so that we can change the game. Make it work at work today, and you’ll be in a stronger position to institute fairer hiring and promotion practices in your workplace tomorrow.
As always, I want to hear how these strategies work for you. Tweet at me with your questions, rants, praise, and push-back. Through open dialogue, we can all get more bossed up!
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