5 Secrets to Getting Promoted

The goal of any university’s career counseling centers is simple: ensure that students find a job after graduation.  But what happens after students get that first job?  What do they need to do to next?


Thank goodness the first company I worked for had a week-long orientation for new hires in order to help set us up for success once we started work.  Yet, despite the 40+ hours of training I sat through that week, the most valuable training I received came to me at the happy hour at the end of the week.  One of the managers gathered a handful of new hires around him to tell us exactly what we would need to do to move up in the company.

At the time, I thought what he told us was very specific to our company (especially because it really worked).  However, I’ve found that his tip have held true in many other industries I’ve worked in over the years, and are worth sharing with a boarder audience.  So here they are:

5 Secrets to Getting Promoted

1. Be your own strongest advocate.  This is the real world, baby.  No one is going to spoon feed you what you need or hand you what you want on a silver platter.  You will have to actively seek it out.  And ultimately, no one is going to fight for you harder than you choose to fight for yourself.  You will have to lead the way.  So ask.  Negotiate.  Advocate for what you want.  If you don’t, no one else will.

2. Cultivate sponsors.  In addition to being your own strongest advocate, you will need others’ help in getting what you want.  You will need someone to make connections that you don’t see.  To open doors to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  To advocate on your behalf when you are not at the table.  These people are more than mentors; they are willing to put themselves on the line for you.  How do you cultivate sponsors?  Read on to the next point…

3. Become invaluable.  This isn’t about hoarding information (please don’t do that).  This is about becoming so valuable that the people would be pained to lose you.  Be the one who can always be counted on.  Become the local expert in something, or the go-to person for x-y-z.  When leaders in an organization consider you indispensable, they will do what they can to keep you loyal and happy.

4. Proactively seek the work you want.  Once you get good at the work you’ve been given, it’s time to grow.  What kind of work will let you exhibit your strengths?  What kind of work will stretch the boundaries of what you know?  Be clear about what you can offer and what you hope to gain; it’s this exchange that provides you with opportunities to branch out into what you find interesting.

5. Be good at the job you want, not just the one you have.  There was a saying at my old consulting firm: “Promotion is not a reward for doing your current job well.  It is recognition that you are performing at the next level.”  Being extremely good at your current job isn’t enough.  You can be the best individual contributor your field has ever seen.  That does not mean you would make a good manager.  What got you here won’t necessarily get you there.

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