While it’s possible to build a career by leveling up each time you take a brand-new job, getting promoted internally has a lot of advantages. For one thing, it allows you to grow into a role while still supported by a familiar corporate structure and culture.
Getting promoted also solves the problem of how to grow your career while staying with an employer you really like. We hear a lot about how hiring managers feel about job hoppers (not good), but not as much how they feel about folks who stay in one place for a long time without growing (same).
And, of course, a promotion usually means making more money, which everyone likes. The real question is, how do you set yourself up to get promoted, ideally as quickly as possible?
1. Think about why you really want the job.
It’s OK if your first answer is, “I want more money,” but to be happy and successful in the role, you’ll need more than that. (You’ll also need another answer for your boss, for obvious reasons).
How does this next step fit into your plan for your career path? Where do you hope to go from there? It’s OK if your plans change — in fact, you should expect it. But thinking about how this role works with your larger goals is essential, so that you don’t wind up taking a job you don’t like.
You may find, upon reflection, that this job combines all the things you don’t like about your current position with a whole new raft of responsibilities you’re not interested in having. If that’s the case, go back to the drawing board and think about what you do like about your job right now. There’s a path out there that lets you do what you enjoy while still making progress in your career. You can only find it if you’re honest in your assessment of yourself and the role.
2. Get a salary range for the position.
Internal promotions don’t always provide the same salary bump as getting a new job at a different employer, but they should still pay appropriately for the market. Find out what “appropriately” means by taking PayScale’s Salary Survey and generating a free report with a salary range for the role, your qualifications, and your location. That way, you’ll go into the conversation prepared and confident that your numbers are right.
3. Go beyond expectations.
If you want to get promoted, you need to do more than just an excellent job at the job you currently have. You need to achieve at the level you’re hoping to attain. That means taking a good look at the job description for the role and matching it against your current qualification, and filling in any gaps. Then, think about what would differentiate you from the competition, either internally or outside the company. What qualities would you look for in an exceptional candidate, if you were hiring for this role?
4. Keep track of your achievements.
If you’re not doing so already, now’s the time to start tracking your accomplishments. If you meet or exceed a formal goal, write it down. If you develop a new skill or acquire a certification, write it down. Bonus points if you can quantify your achievements in cold, hard numbers. (Which are easier to translate into cold, hard cash.)
Quantify your achievements in cold, hard numbers. (Easier to translate into cold, hard cash.)
5. Don’t keep your goals a secret.
Even if you’re not going to ask for a promotion today — and unless you already set up a meeting with your boss in advance, you shouldn’t — you can start laying the groundwork for a future discussion. Let your boss know what you’re hoping to grow into new roles in the company, and ask for input on how to best achieve that. Assuming that you have a halfway decent working relationship, your manager should know your skills and abilities better than any other teammate. He or she will also have insight into what it takes to get promoted at the organization. Don’t leave them out of the loop. Good bosses know that part of management is helping good employees develop, so they stay at the company and help it grow.
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What’s your best advice for someone who’s angling for promotion? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.