27 September 2023

Speak up: How to promote yourself to get a promotion

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Travis Bradberry* says working hard at your current job is no guarantee of getting a promotion — sometimes it can even be a drawback.

It’s never too late to show your boss that you’re worthy of a promotion.

Maybe you’ve been holding down the same position for a few years and are ready to move up.

Maybe your organisation is going through some internal shuffling and you’re expecting your dream job to open up.

Or, maybe you’ve been disappointed by other people getting promoted ahead of you.

Whatever the reason, you want to make certain now that you’re ready to move up.

Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington has studied bias more than just about anyone.

His recent research showed that unconscious workplace biases tend to stay constant, and bosses follow these biases, whether they are aware of them or not.

“People are claiming that they can train away biases. They’re making those claims without evidence,” Dr Greenwald says.

When it comes to getting promoted, you want to present yourself in a way that feeds into the biases that bosses’ have about what makes someone promotable.

While this probably sounds a bit manipulative, there are several straightforward things that you can do to make certain that you’re promotable.

Here are five actions that will appeal to your boss’s inherent biases without you being disingenuous.

Stretch your boundaries: Almost anybody can do what they’re told. To get promoted, you have to go above and beyond.

Taking on additional responsibilities without being asked is not only a great way to demonstrate your work ethic, it lets your boss know that you’re ready to expand your scope.

When you take on more than the norm, your boss can’t help but think that you’re capable of a bigger role.

This includes showing that you’re willing to take risks by making innovative suggestions.

Don’t be too irreplaceable: Of course, performing at your highest level regardless of the position you’re in is always the best idea.

The key is not to be seen as the only person capable of performing the duties in the position that you want to move on from.

If you do, your boss will conclude that promoting you isn’t worth the trouble of finding someone to replace you.

The best way to find a balance between doing your best and showing that you’re ready for more is by developing other people.

As tempting as it is to hoard knowledge, don’t.

Instead, make certain that there are others who know how to do important aspects of your job.

Plus, teaching is a critical leadership skill. So you’ll also demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility that comes with a more advanced position.

Demonstrate emotional intelligence: You might be able to get away with being a temperamental genius in entry-level positions, but you’ll never move past that without emotional intelligence.

If you’re the type who’s prone to temper tantrums when things don’t go your way or losing your cool when people cross you you’re signalling to your boss that you don’t want a promotion.

No boss wants to be known as the guy or gal who promoted a short-fused person.

Once you’re promoted, your behaviour is a reflection of the judgment of the person who promoted you.

Show your boss that you have enough self-awareness to acknowledge your weaknesses and to work to improve them.

This will prove you’re capable as emotional self-control is the result of hard work, not an inherent skill.

Make certain you speak the organisation’s language: As you move up in any organisation, your choice of language becomes increasingly important.

It’s no longer enough to simply be an expert at what you do; you have to demonstrate that you understand how the work you do serves the organisation.

That means learning the vocabulary of the executive team and your boss — which often means having a good grasp of the acronyms and phrases they use.

Speaking the right language will not only show that you’re interested in more than your current role, but it will also demonstrate your intelligence and fit.

Don’t be afraid to ask for it: Not everybody wants to be promoted; some people are perfectly happy doing the same job for years on end.

If you don’t tell your boss otherwise, he or she may assume that you’re one of them.

When the time comes to say: “I’m interested in a promotion”, it’s important that you have something specific in mind.

If not a specific job title, then at least a clear idea of what the responsibilities might include and how this ties in to your career goals.

If the job requires skills you don’t have yet, outline your plan for acquiring them.

You may not get the promotion you’re aiming for.

If that happens, ask for feedback, but stay away from sour-grapes questions like “why did you pick him and not me?”

In fact, don’t speak about the person who got the promotion at all.

Instead, ask which of the critical skills you lack and what you need to do to be ready for the next opportunity.

Don’t argue; just listen, and ask thoughtful follow-up questions.

Just make certain you follow through on the suggestions you’re given.

Promotions don’t just happen, and they’re not a guaranteed result of high performance.

That’s because you don’t get promoted as a reward for what you’ve already done.

You get promoted because your boss thinks you have the potential to add more value in a larger role.

*Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, training, and certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website.

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