10 Tips for Getting that Big Promotion

When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, there's no quick fix

April 7, 2010

Despite the wild assertions of business authors and self-help gurus, there’s no shortcut to success. Chances are when that big promotion you’ve been waiting on finally comes through, it will be due to persistence and consistency, demonstrable expertise and a proven track record of success. But while a solid body of work is far and away the key determinant, the decision to promote isn’t solely based on output and merit. There are many contributing factors that come into play, including luck and being in the right place at the right time. Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances:

  1. Get involved in key initiatives or take advantage of a shift in strategy to make sure that you’re where the action is. Enterprise initiatives and strategic shifts have far-reaching consequences. They are highly visible and involve high levels of executive participation. In addition, core project team members on these types of initiatives are often rewarded following a successful launch.

  2. Take advantage of face time with senior management. Anything involving senior leaders can have a big impact—for better or for worse. When opportunities to interact with top executives present themselves, don’t miss out. Take the opportunity to communicate who you are, your accomplishments and your insight into the organization’s operations and competitive landscape. You may even consider scripting a canned exchange that you can keep in your back pocket for a chance encounter.

  3. Think big or go home. If you think small, you stay small. Think beyond the bubble of your current position. Study up to better understand the competitive landscape and familiarize yourself with your organization’s strategic plan. Draw linkages between your work and key organizational strategies to help you keep your eye on the ball.

  4. Pitch a bold idea. Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Take advantage of meetings to make meaningful contributions and share critical insights. If you have some ideas that have the potential to result in big wins for the organization, develop a PowerPoint and pitch them to leadership. Even if your ideas don’t take root, you are still providing yourself with valuable face time and communicating a positive image.

  5. Get closer to the customer and the organization’s revenue stream. There’s a reason marketing and sales executives are well compensated. Their efforts are easily quantifiable and tie directly to revenue. Always consider how your efforts contribute to the organization’s bottom-line, and do what you can to improve client relationships and bring in additional revenue.

  6. Put yourself in a “network-friendly” position. Often times your big break will come from the outside—from another team, a client or a partner organization that recognizes your unique value-add. Foster positive interactions with clients or customers, and volunteer for cross-functional projects to increase your exposure to other teams. Impressing customers as well as managers and colleagues from other teams will put you top-of-mind when they have an opening or are looking to staff up.

  7. Make your accomplishments known to others. It’s not enough that your immediate supervisor knows what a great job you do. Find opportunities to promote your abilities and accomplishments horizontally to other business units and up to higher-level managers. Often times, higher-level managers are in a better position to offer a promotion or plum assignment. And a manager who shares your position today may have greater decision-making power tomorrow.

  8. Forget the “Aw Shucks” routine. While nobody likes a braggart, don’t waste a compliment by deflecting credit elsewhere. Acknowledge the recognition you receive and add something that subtly underscores your contribution or the significance of the undertaking.

  9. Do no evil. Be courteous, responsive, sincere and accommodating in your interactions with others. Recognize the achievements of teammates and don’t steal credit that doesn’t belong to you. Ultimately many of the opportunities that find you will come your way because people like and respect you.

  10. Be positive. Don’t be a complainer. There is a growing body of research demonstrating the impact of positivity on team effectiveness and productivity. One sour apple truly does spoil the bunch. Avoid being negative and playing petty office politics, or no one will want you around.