The personal finance community often focuses on paying down debt, saving, and investing. These are important topics, though they all become easier with more income. Starting a side hustle or small business is a good way to make extra money, but most are slow to build. Getting a promotion at work can also be tough to achieve but if it works out could result in a significant increase in income. In this post we’re going to cover several ways that you can position yourself for a future promotion.
I have worked in the same organization for more than 14 years. That seems to be a rarity these days, especially for those that want to increase 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 own organization as well. The great thing about getting a promotion in your own company is that you retain benefits that come 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 as I could about the organization. Even more important, I tried to do really good work. My intentions were never to be sitting in a C-suite, but I certainly had interest 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, there were some roles I really liked and one or two that I didn’t. While changing jobs was stressful, each change came with periods of significant professional growth. It seemed like once I kind of new what I was doing in a role I was moved onto the next.
I haven’t shared much about my professional experience on this blog, especially when it comes to advancing throughout my career. Honestly, the main reason is because it can sound like boasting. With that being said, for this article I thought it was important to show that I’ve done many of the things below to get promoted fast at work. After taking some time to reflect on my career progression recently, below are the things I’ve done to move up through my organization.
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”. Maybe this is common sense to some people, but the importance is in the balance between the two.
Getting results for your organization is critical if you’re looking to get promoted. You often have to be going above and beyond in your current role, being a top performer compared to others. At the same time, even if you get results you have to develop good relationships with your co-workers. You don’t want to be the person that achieves results, but develops a reputation of being difficult to work with. If you are doing great work but nobody knows about you then it may be tough to advance into different areas within your organization.
Take on Additional Responsibility
Some of the worst professional advice I see on social media is around doing the bare minimum at work. Of course there are going to be situations where someone is going through personal issues or they are being taken advantage of by a company. However, if you are working for an organization that treats you well and pays you fairly it’s in your best interest to seek opportunities to take on more responsibility.
Now 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. Though 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 right away for taking on additional responsibility. The reality though is 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 at some point if you feel that you’re being taken advantage of. Be sure to build your case along the way so when the time is right you can make your case for that promotion.
Many times in my career I took on additional responsibilities 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. Maybe that report you’ve been creating every month has run its course and is no longer relevant. Either way, in most cases there are far more positives to come out of taking additional responsibilities than negatives.
Be Seen (Even Virtually)
Exposure in the workplace is really important if you want to move up in your company. I know this one is tough for us introverts. Going to the happy hour after a long day of work doesn’t always sound that appealing. Neither does meeting with co-workers for lunch instead of hunkering down at our desks.
Even more difficult is finding ways to be seen in remote work environments. As many companies switch to hybrid or full-time remote work environments employees will need to re-think how to get exposure. In the absence of meeting your colleagues for lunch or drinks after work, we have to find new ways to connect. This 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 get the question if it’s more difficult to get promoted when working full-time remote compared to people who are in the office full-time. The reality is that it is more difficult when fully remote, but is also far from impossible. Remote staff have 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 clear 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 in those areas. Maybe you have an interest 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 to not be too pushy when it comes to asking for promotions. It is of course important 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 that comes with a promotion. It can also show a lack of self-awareness if you push too hard when you aren’t quite ready to be promoted.
Lead Without a Leadership Title
One question I often get from aspiring managers is how can they position themselves for a leadership role. A promotion doesn’t always have to be into 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 they are the boss. 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, if you want to be promoted into a leadership position look for opportunities to lead others without that giant role power sign on your forehead. Generally this type of leadership comes by building strong relationships and being knowledgeable in your craft. 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 have confidence that you can do the same when you do have it.
Get a Mentor or Sponsor
This may be one of the best ways to get promoted fast. Looking back on my career, I can attribute many of my moves to one particular 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 gives you exposure 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 sponsor and for more information you should check out this article from Keeping up with the Bulls.
Having a strong sponsor in senior leadership can springboard your career. Those senior leaders will be in the meetings where promotions and succession are being discussed. If they think highly of you enough to speak up for you in those meetings that goes a really long way.
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, you should always be thinking of how your company makes money and consider what you are doing to help the company make more.
Once you have a good understanding of how your company makes money and how you contribute to that, you’ll want to document the value that you provide to the organization. If you are in sales you can show the amount of deals you’ve closed. 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 are making 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 are going to be a silver bullet to getting a promotion fast at work. Promotions are often highly competitive and you’ll have to work hard to move up in the organization. Promotions usually come down to a mix of doing really good work (getting results) and having great relationships with your colleagues. If you are interested in being promoted, take some time to really understand what getting results in your organization means. 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 in your pursuit of a promotion. Best of luck to you!