Get That Promotion This Year

By Samantha Chang

Whether you’re starting a new job or have been at the same place for a while, most people want to move up in their careers. In addition to more responsibility, a fatter paycheck accompanies most promotions, so professional success definitely moves in tandem with financial growth.

Many people don’t realize being the hardest worker or having the best qualifications doesn’t guarantee a promotion and, in fact, they mean a lot less than projecting the right image and being politically savvy.

“Most people are very poor at projecting whether they’re doing well or badly,” according to Peter Veruki, placement director at Vanderbilt University’s business school. “They’re often completely taken by surprise when they get promoted—or fired.” These tips can help take some of the guesswork out of your job.

Be Good at Your Job

Keep in mind that before you can advance, you have to first master your current job and responsibilities. If you have any gaps in your knowledge or skill set, make sure you iron those out first before you even think about the next step. In addition, always embrace any opportunities to learn something. For example, if your company offers a training course on a new skill, attend it if you’re able to. Never turn down an opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Not only is it good to be a well-rounded employee, but you never know when you might need to use that skill.

Always Act and Look Professional

Don’t forget that at work, your boss and colleagues notice everything, even if no one comments on it. For instance, if you consistently come in to the office late or repeatedly miss deadlines, you can be sure people will notice. Building a reputation for professionalism and competence isn’t a sprint; it really is a marathon that’s acquired through consistent performance over an extended period of time. Earn a reputation for being dependable and cooperative, suggests Dr. Randall Hansen, a marketing professor at Stetson University and founder of Quintessential Careers. “Don’t be a clock-watcher, and don’t whine or complain—or blame others—when things don’t go your way.” Make sure you project the appropriate image by looking professional even on casual days. Casual Friday isn’t an excuse to wear sweatpants or a torn T-shirt to the office.

Get Along with Your Boss

It’s always important to stay on good terms with your supervisor—whether you like him/her or not. They’re the gatekeeper between you and your next promotion, and what they say about you carries a great deal of weight to higher-ups in the company who eventually have to approve your promotion. “It might help to think of your boss as one of those border guards between countries,” according to Hansen. “She can either raise the gate and wave you upward to your next position, or she can keep the gate down and block you from any movement within the company.” This doesn’t mean you should become a cloying sycophant, but more so be professional and cordial.

Build Your Network

Along the same vein, always maintain courteous, positive relationships with everyone in your office. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with everyone, but being upbeat and gracious goes a long way. People do notice positive vibes, and they’re infectious. Keep in mind that a peer-level colleague in another department could one day become your boss, so make sure you maintain solid work relationships with everyone you come in contact with. If you have the opportunity to volunteer for group projects or attend an occasional happy hour, do so, since a lot of worthwhile information is discussed in group settings such as these.

Be Prepared to Articulate Your Strengths

Generally speaking, your promotion is decided by someone two rungs above your boss, according to John Cascone, a senior vice president at consulting group Flex HR. “Make sure you have glowing performance reviews, preferably in writing,” says Cascone. “You’re giving your immediate boss the necessary ammunition to convince their boss, so be prepared to articulate your assets and address your liabilities.” However, don’t ever put down another colleague or proclaim your superiority over them. “That’s an instant turnoff,” according to Cascone, who’s conducted over 1,000 interviews. It’s also important to build your case on your future value, not just on what you’ve already done.

Be Patient

Since most jobs don’t come with a written guideline for how to move from Point A to Point B, it’s critical to not suddenly decide to leave. Wait for opportunity, and be ready to meet it when it arrives.

More SMW Career Advice

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