How can I get promoted?

Getting promoted is a combination of

  • Past performance: What skills and abilities have you demonstrated over the past 6 to 12 months? Do these skills align with the company's needs? Do they align with the values of your manager (i.e., some managers value people skills above technical skills when considering who to promote to team lead, whereas others would prioritize technical skills).

  • Demonstration of future performance: Have you shown interest in acquiring the skills you don't yet have? Do senior leaders consider you a good example of what the company looks for in leaders?

  • Company processes: When do promotions happen? Can anyone get promoted or is there a quota? Are there specific metrics you need to hit in order to get promoted?

  • Relationships: How you work with others is often a determinant of whether or not you will get promoted. Building authentic professional relationships (not necessarily friendships) can go a long way toward getting promoted. Often we refer to this as "internal networking".

  • Timing: Nothing beats good old fashioned timing. If your manager gets promoted or leaves the organization, are you well positioned to fill their shoes? If another role opens up on a different team, does that hiring manager know that you're interested? If the leaders were to start a new team, would they identify you as the right person to take the lead?

Do your homework. To get promoted, you need to know your company's process and understand the philosophy around promotions. From here, it's helpful to understand the criteria for promotions. Your performance review or weekly 1:1s may be a great opportunity to discuss how you can make a promotion happen.

Start actively managing up. People who are great at managing up typically focus on building strong relationships with their managers. It's about anticipating your manager's needs, understanding how best to work with them, and understanding how you can become a great resource for them. When you have a strong relationship with your manager, communication tends to flow more smoothly.

Put differently, managing up is about determining how you can become the most valuable asset to your manager and company. When you manage up, you're able to increase your impact and become more effective in your job.

When you have a strong relationship with your manager, you're more likely to understand how they work and how they think. You can make smarter decisions when you know what your manager values. For example, you'll know how they prefer to be included in decisions, how often they want to be updated, and what time of day they want you to interrupt them (versus the time of day you better not interrupt them!). Managing up will increase your chances of getting promoted.

Advocate on your own behalf. Keep a record of your accomplishments and to “toot your own horn”. You need to be able to speak for your wins, interests, and skills, otherwise, you might miss out on opportunities. List your most recent accomplishments and keep the list going moving forward.

Three steps to having a promotion conversation: 

Step 1: Begin the conversation: In 1:1s make sure you and your manager agree on your (1) responsibilities, (2) expectations around those responsibilities and (3) measures for success in your role.

Make sure you are aligned on what it will mean for you to excel and deserve a promotion. Finally, make sure you are getting useful feedback on your performance. How do they want to see you improve and why? Ask for this feedback. 

Step 2: Discuss your career goals: Let them know what you are looking for in your career and why you would want a promotion. Tie it back to their goals, priorities and company objectives. They have been investing in your development and soon you will be ready to add even more value!

Step 3: Learn how your company handles promotions: From a process standpoint, what will it take for you to get a promotion? What stakeholders are involved in this decision? What feedback have you received around your performance? What may be standing in your way? Maybe even talk to others who have been promoted and discover the process they experienced. 

Step 4: The ask: Tell your manager you want a promotion and why you think they deserve it. Be prepared to have a conversation. Don’t be defensive, listen to what they are telling you and learn what you need to do to get your promotion. 

Note: Don't expect to have an answer in your first conversation. Your manager will need to discuss this with other people on the team and it's likely that you might not get the promotion until the next performance review when you hit specific targets. This is the first step in a series of steps.