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The Art of Getting Promoted: Subtle, Systematic, Sophisticated and Strategic

Many employees, regardless if they hold an executive, middle management or assistant job assume that all they have to do to get promoted is work hard, be loyal and have the appropriate qualifications; in short, they behave as if promotions were automatic.
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Many employees, regardless if they hold an executive, middle management or assistant job assume that all they have to do to get promoted is work hard, be loyal and have the appropriate qualifications; in short, they behave as if promotions were automatic. They further assume that their boss will recognize their commitment and dedication and justly reward them. But your career is far too important to leave in the hands of superiors who have dozens of other priorities on their to-do list. The challenge for employees who want to move up is to propel themselves to the top of that to-do list and secure a half-hour meeting with their busy boss to gain what they desire: a promotion, hopefully along with a pay raise.

But getting that promotion takes time, energy, intelligence, self-awareness and patience. It is a fine Art which is subtle, systematic, sophisticated and strategic.


Rather than barging into the boss' office, banging your fist on the table and shouting, "I deserve a promotion!" use gently persistent means to highlight your value to your boss and the company. Advertise your commitment to the team by taking on new challenges and working overtime. In meetings where the boss is present, demonstrate your command of corporate strategy. Write articles for the company newsletter or blog. Quietly distance yourself from weak colleagues or under-performing teams, and join more dynamic teams and projects.

When you do secure that precious half-hour meeting with your manager, arrange for a time when the boss is not under pressure from her/his superiors, such as budget talks, holiday seasons or year-end reporting. Try to schedule the meeting after lunch, when bellies are content, bodies are digesting and managers' satiated minds are more open to granting rewards. Show how your promotion will benefit the boss' and the company's targets.

Be aware that each boss reacts differently to an employee seeking a promotion, especially if they are moving up and out of the team: some may take it as a betrayal, some as a threat, yet others as criticism of their leadership style; some may warmly embrace it, still others might see it as a loss of power. Learn how to read your boss' moods and mindset, and what pleases or displeases her/him before making your career move.


Decide and plan out the new position you desire and calculate if it accurately fits your experience and core skills. Take courses or seminars which offer you the chance to both develop your skills and show others how engaged you are in professional growth. Accept challenges where you can utilize and showcase your talents in a natural way. Widen and deepen your network to gather quality in-house information while filtering out harmful coffee-corner rumors. Acquire allies or "influencers" -- people of power and budget -- who can vouch for your quality and also open doors. Always respect corporate rules and procedures as transgressing or breaking them will usually confuse, upset or anger those whom you need to promote you.


Know yourself, your value and your personal goals. Learn how to effectively brand yourself by being neither shy nor arrogant when talking to others about your own skills, experience and talents. Become consciously aware of your influence and impact on others. If you feel you possess weak persuasive skills, for instance, take a workshop or get a career coach to improve this. But at all times be authentic and never promise anything you cannot deliver.

Create a pdf. document "victory list" of your innovations, initiatives and successes which the boss can easily and quickly scan and, more importantly, forward to HR or other managers who may be in the promotion process. Be sure to forward any praise received from customers or colleagues to your manager. Be appreciative of and generous to those who were part of your success but never undersell your achievements out of a sense of self-denying modesty. If you love yourself, you will be able to speak comfortably about your accomplishments without appearing boastful.


Analyze and understand the company's vision and mission and its recent moves in the marketplace. See how your promotion compliments and enhances these. Executives notice, appreciate and promote employees who are on board with the company's business strategy. In times of revenue pressure or re-structuring, have patience and wait for good times to return before starting a discussion about your career advancement. In this vein, learn from that brilliant strategist, US President Abraham Lincoln, and wait until you have won a victory for the company -- exceeding sales targets, acquiring a large customer, completing a project in budget and on time, etc. -- before broaching the subject of your promotion; a victory in hand is powerful and impressive. Few bosses can resist rewarding a job well done.

Additionally, talk to hiring managers or key HR officers to gather vital details about the tasks and responsibilities of the job you have in your sights. You may even want to set up a performance review meeting with your boss to get a feeling of how much s/he appreciates you and your contributions. Be well-prepared to discuss your achievements in convincing detail.

Moreover, be open to lateral promotions -- those which don't move you upward but sideways. Such moves can often produce new responsibilities, fresh performance targets and bight chances to learn, grow and shine in alternative ways, thus setting you up nicely for an upward promotion at a later date.

Remember that you must drive your own promotion. Never expect third parties to fight for your own best interests -- you have to do this yourself. If you don't get the promotion you think you deserve, try to find out why and what you can do to secure career advancement next time. Don't take rejection personally -- unless you are absolutely sure that it was indeed personal -- but accept it with grace and as a part of the learning process. Never passively await a promotion; with a firm belief in your self-worth and a sincere desire to promote the fortunes of your boss, team, department,t company, and yourself, move boldly ahead. The future, your future, is there for the taking. Take it -- don't wait for it to be given to you.

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