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.

Test Your Resume IQ

See how much you know about resumes by answering TRUE or FALSE to these statements.

  1. Your references should be included at the bottom of your resume.
  2. You should list a home and cell phone number.
  3. You should only put experience on your resume that you were paid for.
  4. An employer will look at your resume for 10 seconds or less initially to determine if he wants to call you for an interview.
  5. You have to put every job you have had on your resume.
  6. When listing your jobs you should put the entire address (street, city, state and zip) of the company that you worked for.
  7. When putting the dates you worked at a job it is acceptable to just list the year.
  8. It is very important to have extra-curricular activities on your resume such as professional memberships, volunteer work, etc.
  9. It is okay to use a font less than size 10 on your resume.
  10. When mailing your resume to an employer, it is okay to fold it to put it in a standard envelope.
  11. To make your resume easier to read, it is okay to capitalize, bold or underline things.
  12. Having just one mistake on your resume could disqualify you from getting an interview.
  13. When describing your job duties, you should use complete sentences.
  14. A resume is more likely to be considered if it has keywords and uses industry terminology.
  15. Your education should always be listed before your professional experience.
  16. It is acceptable to decrease the margins to fit more information on the page.
  17. You must have an objective to let employers know what job/industry you are interested in.
  18. You should list your supervisor’s name and phone number for each job.
  19. A lot of employers use resume scanning software to “weed out” resumes.
  20. You should use ‘Duties include’ or ‘Responsible for’ to describe your job duties.

Below are the answers to the statements above.  If you did not get all the answers correct, you should consider having a professional Resume Writer restructure your resume for you.  

1.  F                 2.  F                 3.  F                 4.  T                 5.    F

6.  F                7.  T                 8.  T                 9.  F                 10.  F

11.  T               12.  T                13.  F               14.   T             15.  F

16.  T               17.  F                18.  F               19.  T             20.  F

 

FAQ – Recommendation Letters

1)  Are recommendation letters really necessary?

Absolutely!  They are very important as job seekers look for ways to stand out to potential employers.  Having letters of recommendation that speak favorably of your skills and qualifications can be the difference in whether you are hired or not.

2)  What should be in recommendation letters?

They should include how the person writing the letter knows you and for how long.  They should also mention your skills, qualifications, character, work ethic, personality, etc. – things that would make you a desirable employee.  If you want to make sure your recommendation letter states specifics things about you, submit a rough draft to the person you are asking to write the letter and ask them to use that as a guideline.  Sometimes they may just tell you to write the letter and they will read over it and sign it.

3)  Who should I get to write recommendation letters for me?

Recommendation letters can be written by supervisors, instructors, co-workers, advisors, pastors, mentors and clients.  Also, if you are a member of a professional organization or volunteer for one, the leaders of that organization can write a letter for you as well.

4)  How long should I know someone before I ask them to write a letter of recommendation?

At least a year (or close to it).  However, there is an exception for an internship/co-op which you may have participated in over the summer or for 6 months.  Another exception is volunteer work.  Perhaps you just helped plan a luncheon or community service event and the planning process was less than a year.  The person writing the recommendation letter in this instance could just focus on your planning skills for that particular event.

5)  How many recommendation letters do I need?

Three – preferably a letter from people in 3 different capacities.  For instance – supervisor, instructor and an organizational leader.  This would show how you are at work, in the classroom and in the community….3 different aspects.

6)  How long should recommendation letters be? 

3/4 page to 1 page

7)  When should I give employers (or others) my recommendation letters?

You can give them your letters of recommendation up front when you are submitting your resume or after the interview when you are following up with a thank you letter.  If you are trying to gain the business of a client or form a partnership with someone, recommendation letters will come in handy to speak of your previous work and business relationships.

8)  Should I print my recommendation letters on resume paper?

Yes.  Print the cover letter, resume and recommendation letters all on the same resume paper for a polished, professional look.

9)  Is it better to give names and phone numbers as references or have the actual recommendation letters?

I think they serve the same purpose and are equal.  Some employers say if they have the actual letter that saves them the extra step of having to pick up the phone and call.  While other employers say they like to be able to call a person’s references in case they have specific questions they want answered.  However, do not submit both….one or the other.

10) When and how should I ask for recommendation letters?

You should ask for recommendations NOW!!  You want to ask for them and have them before you really need them.  You don’t want to wait until you are ready to apply for a job and have to pressure the writer to give it to you in a short amount of time.  You want to give them at least a week to write the letter and have time to make any changes that might be needed.  Remember, they are busy and your request is probably not the only thing on their ‘to do’ list.

You should simply call or speak with them in person and ask for a letter of recommendation because you would like to apply for a job, apply to graduate school or have it to add to your portfolio.  Also, send them a copy of your resume so they will be familiar with all of your experience and skills.  Keep them abreast of your progress and be sure to inform them if an employer will be contacting them.  Don’t forget to send them a thank you letter.

11)  Are endorsements on LinkedIn the same as letters of recommendation?

In today’s job market, your LinkedIn profile is the new job application.  Having endorsements from those in your network, can give you the “boost” you need to be seen as a professional or expert in your field.  Since your profile will mostly likely be seen before the interview; thus the endorsements will be seen before the interview, that can suffice as letters of recommendation.  (Tip:  Include the hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile on your resume to make sure employers will see your endorsements.)   However, when you follow up after the interview with a thank you letter, you can still include your actual letters of recommendation as a “reminder.”