The personal finance community often focuses on paying debt, saving, and investing. These are essential topics, though they become more accessible with more income. Starting a side hustle or small business is an excellent way to make extra money, but most are slow to build. Getting a promotion at work can also be tough to achieve, but it could result in a significant increase in income if it works out. This post will cover several ways to position yourself for future promotion.
I have worked in the same organization for more than 15 years. That seems to be a rarity, especially for those wanting to increase their income. While it’s true that moving to different companies can be a great way to increase income, you can find those same opportunities within your organization as well. The great thing about getting a promotion in your company is that you retain benefits with longer tenure. For example, vacation time often increases the longer you work with the same company. There may also be some perks that kick in once you are vested in retirement accounts (company matching, pension, etc.).
My Experience Getting Promoted Fast
I started at my current organization right out of graduate school. It took me a few years to get my bearings and understand the corporate culture. For the first three years of my career, I sat back and learned as much about the organization. Even more important, I tried to do excellent work. I never intended to sit in a C-suite, but I certainly was interested in advancing through the organization.
After three years of being relatively patient, that finally started to happen. Then, almost in a blur, I was promoted several times during the next nine years. Often I was taking on completely different jobs within my organization. By my fourth promotion, I started managing people. Along the way, I liked some roles and one or two that I didn’t. While changing jobs was stressful, each change came with periods of significant professional growth. Once I knew what I was doing in a role, I was moved on to the next.
7 Ways to Get Promoted Fast at Work
Achieve Results and Build Relationships
What makes a person successful in a corporate environment? If someone were to ask me to summarize in five words or less, I’d say to “achieve results and build relationships.” Some people may find this common sense, but balancing the two is essential.
Getting results for your organization is critical if you want to be promoted. You often have to go above and beyond in your current role, being a top performer compared to others. At the same time, even if you get results, you must develop good relationships with your co-workers. You don’t want to be the person that achieves results but develops a reputation for being difficult to work with. If you are doing great work but nobody knows about you, advancing into different areas within your organization may be tough.
Take on Additional Responsibility
Some of the worst professional advice I see on social media is doing the bare minimum at work. Of course, there will be situations where someone is going through personal issues or being taken advantage of by a company. However, if you work for an organization that treats and pays you fairly, it’s best to seek opportunities to take on more responsibility.
This doesn’t mean taking on more responsibility and working an extra 20 hours per week. That’s a great way to get burned out. With many positions, the more experience we have at our jobs, the more efficient we become. That clears up space to take on additional responsibility.
In a perfect world, we would get paid for taking on additional responsibility. However, the reality is that we often have to prove that we can do that work for a while before getting the reward. You may have to draw the line if you feel you’re being taken advantage of. Be sure to build your case along the way to make your case for that promotion when the time is right.
I took on additional responsibilities in my career, such as sitting on a system workgroup or training a new staff member. Not only do these opportunities generally provide additional exposure, but they force you to question your current to-do list and reset priorities. For example, maybe that report you’ve created every month has run its course and is no longer relevant. Either way, there are far more positives from taking on additional responsibilities than negatives.
Be Seen (Even Virtually)
Exposure in the workplace is crucial if you want to move up in your company. I know this one is tough for us introverts. Going to happy hour after a long workday doesn’t always sound that appealing. Neither does meeting with co-workers for lunch instead of hunkering at our desks.
Even more challenging is finding ways to be seen in remote work environments. As many companies switch to hybrid or full-time remote work environments, employees must re-think how to get exposure. For example, in the absence of meeting your colleagues for lunch or drinks after work, we must find new ways to connect. Being seen can be as simple as turning your video on during virtual meetings. It can also mean being active in online work forums and other collaboration sites (e.g., Microsoft Teams).
We often ask if getting promoted when working remotely is more challenging than people in the office full-time. Of course, it is more difficult when fully remote, but it is also far from impossible. The remote staff has to be far more intentional about speaking up in meetings and being visible in other ways since they miss out on the visibility that comes naturally in the office.
Make Your Intentions Clear (But Don’t Be Pushy)
Being transparent with your supervisor about your intentions to pursue a promotion is essential. When your leadership knows your interests, they should help you find opportunities to develop. For example, maybe you are interested in becoming a manager, project manager, or technical specialist. Regardless of your interests, being very clear on your future career interests can help to unlock opportunities to get you there.
The balance on the other side of this is not to be too pushy when asking for promotions. It is essential to ask about promotional opportunities and state your case when you feel that you are deserving, though if you push too hard, that can be counter-productive. This can give the perception that you are more interested in the money than the responsibility of a promotion. It can also show a lack of self-awareness if you push too hard when you aren’t ready to be promoted.
Lead Without a Leadership Title
One question I often get from aspiring managers is how they can position themselves for leadership roles. Of course, promotion doesn’t always have to be a management position, but this section will focus on people leadership.
There are a few different ways that managers lead others. The most effective ways to lead are through strong relationships and by being knowledgeable. The least effective way to lead is through role power. Role power leadership is when your boss tells you to do something, and you do it because you are the boss. Of course, nobody wants to be “led” like that. Even though all managers have role power over their direct reports, the best ones use that role power very sparingly.
Therefore, promotion into a leadership position requires looking for opportunities to lead others without that giant role power sign on your forehead. Generally, this leadership type comes from building strong relationships and knowledge of your craft. For example, you could take on a project where you have to lead a team of peers or become part of a workgroup with a diverse group of people in your organization. If you can prove that you can lead others without the title, others will be confident that you can do the same when you have it.
Get a Mentor or Sponsor
Getting a mentor or sponsor may be one of the fastest ways to get promoted. Looking back on my career, I can attribute many of my moves to one leader who gave me opportunities and built my confidence to pursue additional responsibility.
The best way to establish a relationship with a mentor or sponsor is to work with them directly. I know you can’t always choose your boss, but you could get involved with a project that exposes you to senior leaders. Many large companies also have leadership development programs that will provide you with direct exposure to a mentor or sponsor. There are differences between a mentor and a sponsor, and for more information, you should check out this article from Keeping up with the Bulls.
Having a solid sponsor in senior leadership can springboard your career. Those senior leaders will be in the meetings where promotions and succession are discussed. That goes a long way if they think highly of you enough to speak up for you in those meetings.
Make Your Company More Money
This one doesn’t necessarily apply to me personally since I don’t work for a profit-driven organization. However, when I asked the Twitter personal finance community what’s the best way to get promoted fast, many people mentioned making your company more money. Even in some profit-driven organizations, this can be difficult to demonstrate. However, it would help if you always thought of how your company makes money and considered what you are doing to help it make more.
Once you understand how your company makes money and how you contribute to that, you’ll want to document the value you provide to the organization. You can show the number of closed deals if you are in sales. If in customer service, you could show the retention rate of your customers. None of these are usually black and white, but if you can show your superiors how you make the company more money, you’ll have a better chance at that next promotion.
How to Get Promoted Fast at Work
None of the items above will be a silver bullet to getting a promotion fast at work. Promotions are often highly competitive, and you must work hard to advance. Promotions usually come down to outstanding work (getting results) and having great relationships with colleagues.
If you want to be promoted, take some time to understand what getting results in your organization mean. Also, try to understand the political landscape and get a feel for the people you need to know to advance your career. Hopefully, this article provided a few tips that you can use to pursue a promotion. Best of luck to you!
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.