12 Tips to Promoting Yourself (and Not Waiting for Your Supervisor to Do It)

One thing I have learned in my career is that no one else really can promote you – you have to “promote yourself.”  Sure the physical promotion may come through your supervisor recommending you and filling out the paperwork to approve it, but you have the power to ignite that process.  By thinking about where you want to be in 5…10…or 15 years, you can start working towards your goals NOW.  There are many different paths to success but here are some tips to help you along the way.

1.  DO YOUR CURRENT JOB WELL

I think this goes without saying so I won’t go into too much detail.  Of course, you must be performing satisfactorily in your current role if you would like to be promoted within your company.  Having a positive attitude might be a great add-on as well!!

2.  GET A MENTOR

80% of people who get promoted have someone higher up on the “food chain” who speaks favorably of them.  That being said, identify someone who you feel you can learn from and has been where you are trying to go.  This may be your immediate supervisor or someone 2 or 3 levels up from you.  You can actually have several mentors and it can be as formal or informal as you make it.  Maybe you have a set time to meet each month and you have questions written down or maybe you just chat whenever you can over lunch or on the phone.  Whomever you choose should be someone who you can trust to keep your conversations confidential.

3.  COME TO WORK EARLY / STAY LATE

In general you should be a few minutes early when you arrive to work.  I would say if you are supposed to be at work at 8:00, you should arrive at least by 7:45.  And as soon as the day ends at 5:00, you shouldn’t always be the first one out the door. Most managers work longer hours than their employees and if you want to be promoted, you should go ahead and adopt this practice. Coming early and staying late also shows flexibility and dependability, which is viewed very favorably in the workplace.

4.  DRESS “UP”

If you would like to be promoted, you must look the part and this means dressing a little bit more professional than what is required.  Take note of how management in your office dresses and follow suit (no pun intended).  If you notice that male managers wear a shirt and tie and the female managers wear heels, then you want to do the same.  Your supervisor has to already “see” you in the role you desire and this is somewhat determined by how you dress and carry yourself.

5. TAKE ON ADDITIONAL TASKS

You will be viewed as a team player if you occasionally take on more tasks than you are assigned.  Take the initiative to see if any of your team members need help.  Your manager will notice this.  Now, make sure when you take on these additional tasks your own workload doesn’t fall by the wayside. (See tip #1)

6.  ASSIST YOUR SUPERVISOR

Assisting your supervisor is key.  He will more than likely be the person doing the promoting and/or be your main cheerleader, so he must see your value and potential.  Do whatever you can to make his workload lighter….WITHOUT being the “teacher’s pet.”  You just simply make yourself available to assist when needed.

7.  IMPLEMENT NEW IDEAS / PROGRAMS

Regardless of what industry you are in, the ultimate goal of every company is to save money while making more money.  If you can initiate an idea that does either one of these, I would say you are well on your way to being promoted.  Companies normally identify some annual goals and perhaps a slogan for that year, center your idea/program around this.

8.  EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST TO BE PROMOTED

A lot of times people are never considered for promotions because no one knew they wanted to be promoted.  Also, your manager can’t groom or prepare you if he doesn’t know what area you are interested in.  Now, of course you shouldn’t walk into your manager’s office on day 1 and say you want to be promoted, but after a reasonable amount of time you do want to express your desire to move up.   Be sure to have an idea of what role you would like, so you can find out how to get promoted for that particular job.  Make sure you keep the lines of communication open and have frequent meetings with your supervisor.  Most employee reviews happen once a year, however, you should ask to meet once a month to discuss your strengths and opportunities for improvement.  This eliminates surprises during your annual review.   Ultimately, you must be patient and persistent because most promotions do not happen overnight.

9.  BE A DEPARTMENTAL LIAISON

When other teams/departments have an issue, you want them to think of you as the ‘go to guy.’   Learning a skill that no one else in your office knows how to do or being the best at something almost ensures this.  This way other people outside of your immediate department also recognize your value, which could give you more options as far as what areas you could be promoted to.

10.  GET MORE EDUCATION / TRAINING / SKILLS

Look into the job you want and see what education and skills are required, then do what is necessary to fill in any gaps you may have.  Get a certification, take an online training course, get better at public speaking, start a blog, join professional organizations and attend professional development workshops related to your industry, etc.  Oh yeah….as you’re doing all this, update your resume!

11.  GET LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

Getting letters of recommendation from those who you’ve done business with could prove extremely beneficial for you….especially if they are your clients.  After you have successfully completed a project or closed a deal, don’t be bashful about asking for a letter of recommendation.  Remember, you have a goal you are trying to reach – promotion. Three letters of recommendation should suffice.  And it doesn’t always have to be a formal letter.  If a  client emailed you praising your work, keep that email and use it as a recommendation.

12. KEEP A PORTFOLIO WITH YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

This is actually something you could do for your entire career.  You should include things in your portfolio such as recommendation letters, certificates, awards, special projects, education, training, etc.  When it is time for your annual review, you are ready to show your value to the team. Use as much hard data as possible – numbers, dollars, and percentages.  Some companies may have a shared drive where they track all projects, but I highly recommend that you keep track of all your projects yourself.

BONUS TIP:  Not all promotions are vertical.  You may make a lateral move and it still be a promotion for you and get you well on your way to your ultimate goal.  Also, don’t get caught up in job titles.  Regardless of what the job title is, it is about the work you performed and what you accomplished.

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