Put Me in Coach: How to Prepare and Win the Promotion You Want
It’s not the will to win that matters —everyone has that.
It’s the will to prepare to win that matters. –Paul “Bear” Bryant
In this article, guest blogger Beverly Hinson of SuccessWorks shares ways to beat the “chicken and the egg” phenomenon and prove you’re ready for that next-level opportunity. There are steps you can take to prepare to win the promotion you want.
You’ve worked hard to demonstrate proficiency in your current role and are just waiting for a promotion opportunity. Finally, the day arrives when a seat above you on the organization chart opens. You apply for the job only to hear, “Sorry, you don’t quite have the experience to qualify for this promotion.” You think, “if only they would give me the promotion, I could show them I can do the job.” Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. But how do you develop the skills needed and ensure your leaders know you are ready?
Two Principles for Success
Let’s start with the two basic principles to understand how to succeed in securing a promotion. First, jobs ranked higher on the organization chart typically have more responsibility and require higher skill levels or entirely new skills (e.g., managing others, managing budgets, and making decisions where risks are higher). Second, leaders often need to fill roles with people who have demonstrated experience handling similar situations in previous jobs. After all, past behavior and performance is the best predictor of future success.
If you buy into these two principles, you may be thinking, “BUT how do I get the experience before I get the promotion that will allow me to gain the experience?” That’s a fair question and one many professionals ask. However, while it can seem impossible or seem like you need a magic wand to solve this puzzle, it is simple though it requires some effort. Below are seven tips to help you prepare to win (or, more accurately, earn) the promotion you want.
Build your personal brand (your good reputation).
Keep in mind that your reputation precedes you. To succeed in climbing the career ladder, you must safeguard your reputation. Others need to recognize you as someone who delivers excellent work, is a team player, is respectable, trustworthy, dependable, capable, and skilled at interactions and communications. Leaders want to promote people they can count on and those that will enhance the reputation and success of the team, not create extra work or more challenges for them to manage. Remember, even one significant misstep or a pattern of blunders in your behaviors and performance can bring your reputation into question.
That’s not to say, however, that you must be perfect and can never make mistakes in your work. There’s a stark difference between making a mistake and routinely being careless. Similarly, missing a deadline happens; not keeping others informed or asking for help when needed is what damages your reputation. Likewise, treating others poorly, reacting badly in stressful situations, or being unable to manage conflicts effectively could be a fatal blow to your career trajectory.
Once you’ve tarnished your reputation, you will have a tough time repairing it.
Thoroughly study the job you want.
Understand what the job entails, including the required responsibilities, tasks, skills, knowledge, and experience. Begin with the job description and read it carefully. Pay particular attention to the skills, knowledge, and experience required AND preferred. For example, notice if the job description lists behavioral attributes and technical competencies. Also, note the types of experience required or preferred.
You can also gain insight by job shadowing others in a similar role. From them, you can find out more about what aspects of the job description are most important and which ones are not listed. You will want to observe the daily routine and ask about the most demanding challenges they regularly face and the surprises. Pay attention to the tools and equipment used and any reports or data generated by the person in the role. Ask how they prepared for the position and what they wished they had done to be even more prepared. Finally, question them on what it takes to be successful in their role.
Invite leaders who manage people in your desired role to meet you for coffee and a chat. Tell them you aspire to grow into this or a similar position eventually. Ask them the best way you could demonstrate you can fulfill the duties and responsibilities and about the most significant risks and challenges encountered by people in the role. Find out how you could make the leaders’ job more manageable if you were promoted. Finally, seek their perspective on what it takes for someone to succeed in your desired role.
Be sure to keep good notes of everything you learn!
Take a personal inventory of your knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience.
After you have a clear picture of the role you seek, make a checklist of the requirements for entry and successful performance in the position. Then, complete an honest self-evaluation. Also, seek input from peers and your leader about your strengths and improvement opportunities. Self-awareness is your best friend when it comes to career development. Your checklist will become your roadmap. Finally, prioritize your development opportunities and set goals to help you place a check on each item. You will be better prepared for the next role and have an exceptional example of your resiliency and determination.
Continue to develop your skills and knowledge.
Learning never stops. People who are successful in growing their careers continue to learn new knowledge and skills, and they apply that information on the job. So review your inventory, identify the top three areas you need to improve and begin working on them.
Don’t worry too much about getting additional degrees or certifications unless your desired role requires them. Instead, concentrate on learning the information and skills you need. For example, if the next position requires you to produce complex Excel reports and you currently do not work with Excel, take classes to learn the advanced functionality needed.
Feel like you don’t have time for formal classes, or they are not suited to your learning style? No problem. The internet, library, and bookstore are full of resources to help you learn about anything. Additionally, your friends and family are great resources. Find people who love to share their expertise and ask them to help you.
Gain experience by volunteering for projects inside and outside the organization.
To gain experience and keep skills current, you must put your knowledge and skills into practice. Many people expect to get this experience in a new role. However, only entry-level positions tend to expect employees to learn and gain experience on the job. Higher-level jobs require prospects to have the skills, knowledge, and experience before applying.
Looking for a creative way to gain experience? Try volunteering. Volunteering for projects inside your organization is a great way to gain experience and get noticed for your abilities. For example, if the next role in your career path is a leadership position, and you currently do not manage people, ask to lead a project group. While you will not have formal authority over the team members and their work, you will have a chance to demonstrate your leadership skills and capabilities.
You can also build experience outside your organization. For example, join a club, charity, or professional association, and become a committee leader or an officer. Then, make sure you reflect your experience and accomplishments in these organizations in your resume. It counts!
Network with people and leaders in other departments and functions.
According to TopResume in their article, “The Importance of Networking (and How to Do it Well) Here’s Why Networking Is Important to Your Success | TopResume, “Your chances of landing the job increase tenfold with the right employee referral. And, if you’re looking to make a career change, your professional network can support you by helping you find connections in the industry you are trying to break into or helping you find leads for jobs at specific companies.”
Networking is a fantastic way to learn more about the organization and future opportunities. Additionally, peers and leaders can get to know you and all you have to offer through networking. Such was the case with Melissa, a young professional in a large corporation. Her role required limited interaction with others in the organization, yet she attained promotions far faster than many in her department with similar skills and experience. Why? Simply because she networked with others formally and informally and gained a reputation for being professional, managing difficult conversations effectively, and being a great team player. Leaders wanted Melissa on the team and went to bat for her when they had an opening on their teams. Instead of seeking an opportunity, she was invited to apply and secured the promotion.
Secure a mentor in the organization.
A mentor is a valuable member to add to your network of advocates.
The best mentors are often senior leaders with many years of experience and have already reached the pinnacle of their career journey. Learn from their mistakes, take their advice, and appreciate their wisdom. They can help you propel your development far faster than going it alone, and they can become one of your greatest advocates!
Apply these seven tips to your career preparation, and actively prepare yourself to get the promotion. Don’t wait until you come across a hiring manager willing to take a chance on you – it may never happen. Instead, take charge of your career and take action that will help you land the role you want!
About Beverly Hinson
Beverly Hinson is a certified coach and trainer specializing in leadership, presentation skills, facilitation skills, interviewing prep, and interviewer training. She has over 20 years of experience, specifically as a learning and development leader for billion-dollar organizations. She has served both large and small entities in various industries for more than 30 years, supporting leaders and individuals alike on their paths to success.
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