Grab Your Next Big Promotion—Because No One Will Just Hand It To You (Pt 1)
You’re itching to take on more responsibility…
You’ve paid your dues, and feel ready to climb to the next rung on the corporate ladder…
There’s just one more step you need to take before you get that big promotion…
You have to make sure the decision-makers in your organization agree with you!
Not to overstate the obvious, but no one in your organization is going to hand you the promotion you want unless they feel certain—beyond all doubt—that you’re the best candidate for the position. And they’ll need a lot of convincing before they will put their name on the line to single you out as their prime candidate.
Because—make no mistake—no matter how excellent you may be at your job, promoting you will always be a risk.
Only a few promotions open up each year within your company. And the higher the ladder you climb, the longer it will take before the next position above you vacates. When this desired position finally becomes available, your manager needs to believe you are the absolute best candidate to fill it.
But convincing your manager of your merit is only just the start—she isn’t the only person who needs to believe in you.
After deciding you are the best candidate to fill this open position, your manager will have to then go out and convince every other relevant decision-maker why you should get the promotion instead of someone else. And if you want those negotiations to go your way, these other decision-makers need to already know who you are and what level you perform at.
Every step of the way towards the new position you desire, you have to ask another decision-maker to get behind you.
And every time one of these decision-makers vouches for you, they put their name on the line and take a big risk. If you want that promotion you’ve been eying, you first need to convince each of these decision-makers that you’re worth betting on.
That is the challenge you face every time you want a promotion.
Are you up for it?
If you are, keep reading and we’ll show you how the most ambitious IT pros grab the positions they desire.
How to Get Your Promotion: Your 30,000 Foot View
The above breakdown should make one point clear—it doesn’t matter if you feel you’ve done enough to earn your desired position. It only matters that you meet the requirements for the position set down by the relevant decision-makers in your organization.
These requirements come in two categories—objective requirements, and subjective requirements.
To meet their objective requirements, you have to hit the performance targets you and your manager set for your current position, and you also have to hit the performance targets of your desired position. (More on this below.)
To meet their subjective requirements, you have to make sure each relevant decision-maker in your organization feels—in their gut—that you are a good fit for the your desired position. Like it or not, forming the right relationships within your organization is a crucial element of getting the promotions you desire.
Now, if these two sets of requirements sound simple, you’re right. There’s nothing particularly complicated about getting promoted. There’s no real secret to it. Show you can do the work, and develop the right relationships, and you will get ahead. At a broad-strokes level, career progression is very, very simple.
But just because it’s simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We’ve all known plenty IT pros who find themselves passed up for promotion after promotion because they just aren’t meeting the requirements in one—or both—of these categories, often because they see it as “common sense”. They get sloppy, they ignore the details, and they don’t take on the discipline of making sure they’re delivering what’s really needed to pull themselves up each rung of the ladder. They get so close, but they don’t slow down and perform the due diligence to make sure they’ve really, truly done what it takes to prove their the right man or woman for the job.
We don’t want you to fall into this trap.
We don’t want you to just desire that position you have your eye on, we want you to acquire it.
So—whether it seems simple or not—we’re going to walk you through each of these requirements to make sure there isn’t a single hole in your armor the next time the position you desire opens up. And the very first place to look for these shortcomings is within your objective requirements.
To Advance, You Have to Look Beyond the Tasks at Hand
IT pros are known for being very good at meeting whatever objective requirements are set in front of them. They’re known for their ability to set their head down, grind through their work, and deliver the results asked of them.
Achieving targets is not a problem for IT pros.
But, when it comes to meeting their objective requirements, IT pros sometimes drop the ball in one key area—they focus exclusively on meeting the objective requirements of their existing position, and they forget if they want to advance in their career they also need to demonstrate their ability to meet the objective requirements of the next position they desire.
They forget, in essence, that old saying:
“You Have to Do the Job Before You Get the Job”
The decision-makers in your organization do not want to promote you to an advanced position, only to suffer a 3-month learning curve as you figure out how to deliver what’s expected of you. They want the transition from your predecessor to you to be seamless. And the only way you can give them that assurance is to develop a proven track-record of delivering exactly what your desired position demands.
To do this, you just have to take on additional responsibilities relevant to the position you desire.
Finding these additional responsibilities is easier than you think. You can:
1. Ask for an extra assignment outside your normal role. If there’s a project being divvied up, and one or more of the assignments fits a skill needed for your desired position, raise your hand to tackle that assignment.
2. Volunteer for a position that lets you demonstrate leadership. Projects need leaders to keep progress on track and organized. Teams need representatives at meetings. Within most positions in IT, there is some leadership function that you can volunteer for.
3. Take over an interim position. Maybe someone in the position you desire resigns right before a project begins. You can take their position and fulfill their duties until a replacement is found. Maybe someone in a related position takes a leave of absence for the summer. You can step up to fill that position until they return. These opportunities for a “trial run” of the work you want to take on are more common than you think.
4. Participate in a large, cross-functional initiative. Not only will you demonstrate your ability to perform at a broader level than your current position allows, but it also gives you direct exposure to other managers within the organization—some of whom may be decision-makers for the position you desire.
Any of these options provide an excellent opportunity to develop and demonstrate your ability to perform above your current pay grade.
However, keep an eye out for opportunities that put you in direct contact with decision-makers (like options #2 and #4, above). The more you can put yourself in direct contact with as many decision-makers as possible, the more you will fold your relationship-building efforts into your day-to-day professional life.
Knowing how to build relationships with decision-makers from scratch is an important skill to develop, and next month we’ll outline a process for doing just that. But until you prove you can seamlessly take on the objective requirements of the position you desire, your relationship-building efforts will fall flat.
So for February, first focus on making sure you have demonstrated your ability to meet your desired position’s objective requirements.