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In a survey of millennial employees, 32 percent stated they were actively seeking a promotion. Are you among those ambitious workers already laying the groundwork for advancing your career? If so, it’s never too soon to put an effective step-by-step strategy to work. Here are seven ways to fast-forward your career.
1. Refer to a recent accomplishment
While conscientiousness and competence are baseline requirements for moving up in the corporate world, they aren’t sufficient in themselves. The days when simply putting in your time would guarantee a promotion are long gone, and you need to be able to articulate your value to the company. Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, advises keeping a record of what you’ve accomplished and turning those accomplishments into specific numbers. Have you sped up an operation by a certain percentage or increased sales by a measurable dollar amount? Statements like these are the kind of persuasion that managers naturally respect.
2. Stay on the sunny side
You’d never expect to be considered seriously for promotion if you chronically showed up late to work, left early or used vulgar language in the office. These behaviors, however, are seen as less problematic by supervisors than having a negative attitude. Fully 62 percent of managers say they’d be reluctant to promote a worker who makes a habit of complaining or spreading negativity. If you have to point out flaws in the system in order to highlight a better approach, it’s crucial to frame your statements in a positive tone. Spreading optimism and good spirits is an important element of expressing your alignment with company culture. Look at the situation through your manager’s eyes: He or she wants to improve productivity, and if you’re in the habit of pointing out all the ways in which things aren’t working, you’ll be identified with that negative stance.
3. Weave your social web
There’s an old saying: “It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.” This is a key maxim to keep in mind as you aspire to be noticed as a good candidate for promotion. John Corcoran, creator of “Smart Business Revolution” and former White House staff writer, identifies four specific targets for your networking efforts: your boss, your future boss (after the hoped-for promotion), your future peers and an influential peer of your future boss. Building your social network also gives you the foundation for career security because you’ll be positioned to hear about good opportunities wherever they happen to arise.
4. Look the part
If this tip sounds like it belongs in the Mad Men era, that’s probably an indication that you should rethink your appearance. While office dress standards have relaxed, especially in the software world, where bringing dogs to work and kicking back over ping pong are the new normal, they have definitely not been abandoned. In a CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of employers state that “shabby” or wrinkled clothing would make them less likely to promote someone, and 27 percent would find it harder to promote someone who dresses “too casually.” Other style disasters noted by managers include “unprofessional or ostentatious facial hair” (24 percent), heavy perfume or cologne (21 percent), and tattoos (27 percent). Your appearance is a visible metric that shows how aware you are of social signals, and that sensitivity is a key quality for leadership positions.
5. Always be learning
Whether you enroll in webinars, sign up for outside coursework or seek out mentors within your organization, you should constantly find ways to expand your knowledge. Your career won’t move forward unless you’re actively driving it, and increasing your skill set is how you fuel that advancement. Take action and find ways to engage in the workplace. Provide honest employee feedback to leadership, embrace new conversations with coworkers and share top accomplishments and goals. Furthermore, establishing a mentor relationship within your own company can put you in the sights of people who may have a say in promoting you.
6. Be Active in Recognition
Employees who got promoted received 83 percent more recognition from colleagues and supervisors than employees who continued in their current positions. Furthermore, an Achievers study found that the people chosen for promotion were those with the strongest track records of supporting and appreciating their coworkers. These successfully promoted workers turned out to have offered 3.8 times more recognition to colleagues than had their peers who were passed over for promotions. The ability to make people around you look good is an important leadership quality. This may seem counterintuitive since you want to stand out in your boss’s awareness, but you won’t win any points by running down your teammates. The hallmark of true excellence is the ability to lift up everyone on your team and promote the well-being of the organization as a whole.
7. Promote your boss’s interests
In addition to helping your co-workers shine, it’s also important to figure out what matters most to your boss. Is she anxious about expanding the market? Does he have a big investment in developing a new product line? Listen to what your boss has to say about goals, and then put those goals at the top of your own priority list. Business strategist Larry Myler recommends, “Find out how your boss is judged and how he gets a bonus,” and then help him meet those goals.
Following these promotion tips is a win-win proposition. Even if you don’t get the promotion you first envisioned, you’ll become a prize catch for any manager. In the long run, your career is in your own hands, and you’re the one who moves yourself forward.
To learn more about how to be active in recognition, check out our e-book on how to make recognition an everyday event.