7 ways to get a promotion

How do you get a promotion? It is an essential question but one I haven’t been often asked.

I progressed rapidly in my career up to Chief Financial Officer of a 15.000 people listed company, and yet how I moved so quickly to the top role in Finance, boils down to just 7 reasons.

1. Behave like you’re already in your next role

I have always put this at the top of my list.

When I took my first role as head of consolidation, after getting my bearings, I immediately started looking to see how Vice Presidents in the company behaved. I had already set my sights on becoming a Senior Vice President in 5 years and I knew I had to get everything right to make it up there in such a short time. So to move quickly I knew I needed to behave like a VP even though I wasn’t yet one.

So I observed how they generally behaved.

All groups seem to have similar ways of behaving, similar ways of speaking, of holding themselves, even dressing. It is like an unwritten code. Check it out next time you’re at work.

So I did the logical thing. I tried to behave just like them, dress just like them, lunch just like them. And it worked. I had people mistake me for a VP on numerous occasions.

When a VP role came open 3 years after I arrived in the company, it was almost as if I already had the role and the company didn’t hesitate to promote me.

However, this rule doesn’t work on its own. Even if it is very powerful. You need to also follow the rules below.

2. Do your job well

This one is obvious isn’t it, but it is also key.

You can’t do a poor job and hope to be promoted. You have to set yourself reasonable objectives with your boss at the start of the year and you have to do your utmost to achieve them all, or make sure you change them or remove them before the year end.

Doing your job well is the minimum to getting a promotion.

3. Communicate what you do

This is one most people don’t get right.

Ever heard: “if I do my job well then I am sure the company will promote me”? Guess what? Doesn’t happen.

You need to tell people what you are doing and how well you are doing it. You can not over communicate on this one. Every time you meet your boss, tell them about all the things you are doing well.

When that next role comes up, they will have you in mind and all the great work you are doing.

You also need to communicate all your good work to other senior leaders who may have a say in the decision as to who gets promoted next.

4. Network with top leaders

To spread the word about how good you are at your job, you need to build relationships with senior leaders. Informal lunches, coffees or just a chat always work.

And you want to know a secret? Senior leaders like spending time with more junior staff talking about the company vision and how they can help you get better at your job.

Senior leadership can be lonely. Yes we do have lots to do, but more often that not, others believe we have so much to do that we have no time to spare. Not true. We love talking to others more junior in the corporation. It helps us keep in touch with what’s going on through more informal channels. We often learn things our direct reports don’t share with us.

So go on and set up those informal discussions. It will only help.

5. Take care of your team

People talk. In any organisation, word spreads faster than the speed of light. If you don’t take care of your teams, the organisation will know about it. And that means senior leaders will know as well. Don’t ever believe your team won’t talk about it. So take care of them, listen to their problems and try your best to help them.

Organisations want leaders that care of their teams.

6. Fix the problems

Don’t ignore the hard stuff. If something is broken – fix it. Don’t tell yourself that it isn’t your role. Don’t tell yourself that your boss should know about it and they should fix it. If you find a problem, talk about it, and then set out to fix it. Tell your boss what you are planning to do and what you do.

Then on those informal talks with senior leaders, make it known.

Every company likes people who fix problems.

7. Don’t make enemies

Sounds obvious right? That’s because it is.

However I do acknowledge that this is sometimes difficult as corporations are made of scores of different personalities and not everyone gets along. But do your best not to make enemies.

Be nice on emails. You can be firm but don’t misbehave or be rude.

Be cordial in discussions whether formal or informal.

The more people that like you in the organisation the more likely it is that you’ll be on the list of the next people to be promoted.

There is one more way – but I didn’t include it as something separate as I assumed if you’re reading this then you know what role you are after. If you don’t and you just like the idea of going higher in your organisation then add number 8 : Know what role you are after.

No leader likes someone working for him complaining about not getting a promotion and then having that same person not being able to identify the exact role they want.

Senior leaders don’t always have nice tools that line people up to possible roles.

They need to know what role you want. If you have a destination – then they can help you get there. If you don’t – then they’ll turn around in circles the same way you are.

Follow these rules closely and you’ll be on track for that next promotion. Happy promotions!



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