Career How to Get Promoted Like a Boss

by Rebecca Lake | November 16, 2018

Getting a promotion is a little like scaling Mount Everest. The climb may be steep, but there's nothing sweeter than the heady rush of reaching the top.

Cue the uncorking of the celebratory champagne.

Whether you’re holding steady on the corporate ladder, pushing the envelope in the startup world, or helping to shape a small business, a promotion can be a game-changer, professionally and personally.

And with so much at stake — a more prestigious title, better pay, greater influence on your day-to-day job — you shouldn't sit around waiting for your hard work, dedication and loyalty to be recognized. “It’s all about attitude and initiative — two things hiring managers want to see more of,” says career coach Liz Uram. “An employee who can master those two things can write their own ticket.”

Uram and other experts share their insider tips on how to move toward that well-earned promotion.

Know your worth — and prove it

More often than not, putting yourself on your employer’s promotion radar comes down to three words: Demonstrate your value. “Employees looking for a promotion should focus on how they’re adding to the bottom line through quality, quantity and time,” Uram advises.

Mani Goulding, founder of Career Passion Limited, says it's important to showcase not just what you've done for your company, “but the impact of what you did on company results.”

In relating your contributions, skip the generalizations and be specific. “There’s no better way to strengthen your accomplishments than by adding numbers,” explains Mollie Moric, a career advisor and hiring manager at Resume Genius. “Focus on changes in dollar amounts, percentages and time that have occurred as a direct result of your actions.”

Rise to the challenge

How can you be sure you stand out from the crowd of other promotion seekers? “Let your boss know that you’re looking for more challenges in your work assignments,” Goulding suggests.

Just be sure that when you take on additional tasks, you have a strategy to execute in smart, efficient ways: “The key is to make sure you take care of your core duties exceptionally well first, then look for additional work after,” says Casey Hill, a senior sales executive.

One other piece of essential career advice: Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do it all. That, says Moric, could lead you to produce lower quality work — putting the very promotion you’re chasing after at unnecessary risk.

Focus on changes in dollar amounts, percentages and time that have occurred as a direct result of your actions.
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Be a problem-solver

Beyond simply fulfilling your job description, taking initiative to help solve larger business issues within your organization can make you stand out at work. This will help your colleagues — including upper management — see that you are adding value to the organization as a whole and are able to help execute on a larger vision.

“If you’re not clear on what the company’s pressing business challenges are, find out,” says Goulding. Then you can map out a plan to help the company not only solve those problems, but also achieve other goals and objectives. For instance, helping to come up with improved processes for tasks, being part of internal training initiatives to help spread knowledge, or even organizing meetings between disparate teams to help foster collaboration.

This approach helped Hill move from an entry-level sales position to a senior account executive role in just two years at his current company, a business automation and marketing platform. “I had a passion for the product and I put in the time to really master the content and industry,” he says.

He used his time off the clock to delve into the nuances of the company's mission and objectives to better understand how he could fulfill them in his current role. That focused study gave him leverage to put in an over-the-top effort during working hours.

Take performance reviews to heart

Performance reviews are one of the best resources you have for getting promoted. It’s a chance to hear first-hand from your boss where you’re killing it — and where you could use some improvement.

If you fail to get the glowing review you expected, don’t lose heart. Instead, be accountable and proactive. Ask point blank what you can do to better serve the company in your role. “The worst thing you can do is complain, point fingers or get defensive,” Hill says. Instead, internalize what your manager says and create an action plan to shore up your strengths and address any real or perceived weaknesses.

Taking initiative to help solve larger business issues within your organization can make you stand out at work.
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Don’t sit on the sidelines

How well you navigate the company culture can also have an outsized impact on career advancement. “Company culture is very important because it shows how well you fit into the values of the workplace,” Goulding says.

Increased engagement on the job can also boost your productivity levels — which can work in your favor when seeking a promotion. The level of participation required depends largely on the company vibe. “If the culture is very team-oriented,” Uram says, “it’s very important to show up and be part of the crowd.”

So whether it's an official company event or just casual drinks after work with the team, it can pay to put in some face time.

Asian businesswoman shaking hands with a coworker

Plant the promotion seed

If your employer hasn’t broached the subject of a promotion, it’s up to you to steer the conversation.

Business author and speaker Jennifer K. Crittenden advises sticking to the three Ps: Be polite, patient and persistent. “Good negotiating tactics apply here,” she says. “Put your arguments on paper and refer back to them, and if they shoot down one, come up with another.”

Stress the upside for the company. “Draw a connection between your requested promotion and the positive outcomes you’ll produce in your new position,” Moric says.

Finally, set your expectations for salary and quantify that with your boss. “Talk to your manager and say, ‘I want to be at $75,000. What can I do in my role to get there?’” Hill says. This puts your value on your employer’s radar and it gives you an opening point for negotiations.

If you’re not sure what salary range you should be pushing for, sites such as PayScale and Glassdoor can help you narrow it down. The key is to be reasonable — without selling yourself short. Don’t be afraid to ask for a bump a little higher than your desired number. If you get it, wonderful. And if your boss feels obligated to counter, you’re still in your desired salary range.

Remember, a promotion doesn’t spring out of thin air — it’s a culmination of smart office strategy, solid performance and the constant pursuit of opportunities to contribute and shine outside the narrow confines of your job description.

An employee should always be on the lookout for ways to do the job they want before they even get it.
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“An employee should always be on the lookout for ways to do the job they want before they even get it,” Uram says. If you’ve laid that foundation, you should feel confident enough to make your case for why now is the time to take your career to the next level.

Rebecca Lake

uses the "onward and upward" approach which has been instrumental to success in growing her freelance writing business. Her work has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Fox Business.