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But a lack of advancement opportunities is not always the employer's fault. In more cases than you might think, people fail to advance their careers because they lack clear visions, effective strategies, and mentorship. People also fail to advance because they never step back to honestly assess their own strengths and how they can best contribute to an organization.
So, what do the people who succeed in landing promotions do? Here are three key actions they take to advance even when the company seems, on the surface, to lack such opportunities:
1. They Are Very Clear About the Position or Role They Are Working Toward and Have a Great Track Record With the Company
Of course, it won't always be the case that someone knows exactly what role they want. However, in most successful cases, people are able to pinpoint the type of position they want in the company. More importantly, they know why they want to be in this role and feel confident they would succeed in it.
While it's great to have a clear vision and direction, it's equally as important to make sure you are giving your current role your best effort, even if your ultimate goal is to advance to another position. I've seen a lot of people get too focused on their future role, losing focus on their current role as a result. Wise leaders look at your character and your performance over a long period of time before making a decision about a promotion. If you're not performing at your peak in your current role, you won't be promoted to your goal role.
For example, I recently spoke with a CEO who said he was unlikely to hire or promote someone who said a lack of motivation was the cause for their poor performance in a prior role. The CEO said that, in his experience, it was often obvious that the person lacked integrity if they took on a position to which they couldn't contribute. He also said that, many times, people who use the motivation excuse don't have a good work ethic. They are too emotionally driven. Instead of always working hard, they only work hard when things are going well.
2. They Are Appropriately Transparent With the Right People and Find the Mentorship and Support They Need
I met with a woman last year who had recently been promoted to project manager at a very reputable organization. She informed me that she was promoted to her management position earlier in her career than the "company policy agreement" stated was permissible. Nobody could believe she was able to pull this off. In fact, as she was trying, most people told her she was foolish to even attempt it.
How was she able to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat?
For starters, she was bold. She didn't hold back. During her first months at the company, she sought out someone at a nearby location who worked as a project manager and asked if she could take her out to lunch and learn more about the role. She decided that it was definitely the role she wanted to be in, and the project manager agreed to mentor her and help her create a strategy to work toward landing this role. The woman and her mentor connected in person or by phone every week for many months.
The mentor happened to be very well respected at the organization and close with upper management. When a project manager position became available, the mentor gave this woman a stellar recommendation to upper management. After management pulled some strings, this woman was promoted even though she hadn't been at the company "long enough."
Find a specialist who understands the dynamics and skills it takes to accomplish your career goals. Invest in yourself and take a proactive approach. You'll be ten steps ahead of your competition if you do.
3. They Understand How They Would Contribute to the Organization If Promoted to Their Goal Role
Be honest with yourself about what you do best. Get feedback from others you respect. Look at the tangible results you've achieved in your career to understand how you can concretely contribute.
I cannot stress this enough. Many people simply want to be promoted because it sounds good and pays more. They wait around passively for things to change, or they have an idea of why they could be promoted but don't put in the work to make it a reality.
Here's an exception to that norm: A woman I've been coaching currently works for a hotel company in sales and reservations; she wants to be a revenue manager. In our conversations, I am helping her clearly articulate exactly the tasks she currently does and the skills she possess that would make her a dynamic revenue manager in the future.
In addition to excelling in her current role, she is tracking quantifiable data regarding how much money she saves the company by analyzing quarterly and annual sales spreadsheets and doing financial forecasting to cut on extraneous costs. In order to promote customer satisfaction and client retention, she is also ensuring the company's top clients who will book large events in 2018 are informed in advance of rising costs for service congruent with inflation. By taking these actions, she has already surpassed her predecessor in terms of money saved and earned for the company — and she's only been at it a few months.
This woman has the key ingredients she needs to land a promotion: She understands how she could be of most help to her company; she works hard at and excels in her current role; she is transparent about her intentions with her current boss, her regional manager, and the revenue manager at a different hotel location. As a result, she has found that not only are her managers supportive, but they are also giving her tips on what she can do to become a great revenue manager one day!
To top it off, she has only been at her company six months, and she just received her first promotion last week.