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A Promotion is not given; it is earned. There is nothing more important to remember than this statement when you are looking to grow within your organization. If you are being passed up for promotions, there is a reason why. Rather than blame your “playing favorites” boss or your “brown-nosing” coworkers, take responsibility for what you can control which includes your attitude, performance, and teamwork. Then follow these steps to work your way into a new role.

Develop a Good Relationship with Your Boss
Your boss should be your biggest supporter and he or she can’t be this unless the two of you have a strong relationship. How do you build a strong relationship with your boss? Remember the universal truth…all managers want people on their teams who make their jobs easier. Do your best to make your boss look good; it usually pays dividends. Produce quality and timely work. Look for ways to help her achieve more. Ask for feedback and take action on it. Be forthcoming about ways she can successfully manage you. Build rapport by learning more about him. Put effort into understanding his personality traits and triggers. There are many ways to build a relationship with your manager; it may take some trial and error as you learn what works and what doesn’t, but it’s worth the effort….there is a good chance that he or she will be the one promoting you.

Be an Expert at Your Job
The fastest way to get a promotion is to be a rock star in your current role. Sure, there may be things you don’t like about the job you have now, but so what? Do all parts of your job well; become an expert at it by learning as much as you can, read books and other publications on the subject, ask for more training, acquire new skills and knowledge, and always produce high-quality work. Remember, you will never get a promotion if you aren’t doing a great job in your current role.

Add Value and Help the Company Execute its Strategy
Make sure you are working on the right things…things that help the company meet its goals and execute its strategy. If you’re not sure how your job ties to the strategy, ask. Always prioritize your work and do what’s most important first. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that don’t matter.

Be Seen as Helpful
Being a team player builds your credibility throughout the organization and will make you the go-to person when a tough problem needs to be solved. Put the team first, help out a struggling coworker, give credit to others, volunteer to help at company events…there are a million ways to exhibit helpfulness and be a true team player. Remember, though, that perception is reality; it doesn’t matter if you think you are a helpful teammate, what matters more is that others think you are.

Be a Problem Solver
People who expect “management” to fix all the problems in the workplace aren’t typically seen as helpful nor are they often promoted. It takes everyone within the organization to create an effective work environment so if you see a place where the organization can improve, develop some solutions to address the issue and discuss them with your boss. Volunteer to be part of a team tackling tough interdepartmental problems. Proactively address a communication issue with a coworker rather than triangulate through your boss; challenge yourself to achieve a positive outcome. Suggest a better process to ease frustration on a project. In short, be a problem solver, not a problem creator.

Exhibit Positivity
People with a positive attitude are generally easier to work with, hence more promotable. Keep your head up in the face of adversity, meet tough challenges head-on with a smile on your face, and view problems as opportunities to make things better. Be friendly, help others, smile more, and complain less. Commit to having a positive effect on everyone you interact with.

Look and Act Professionally – Always
If you want a promotion, look and act the part. Dress professionally, be well-groomed, communicate clearly and articulately, use proper grammar, refrain from swearing, don’t gossip, don’t complain, ask questions, smile, and work hard (i.e. while at work stay off of Facebook, don’t text your friends, and refrain from chit-chatting endlessly with coworkers). Choose a professional role model and emulate what he or she does.

Sell Yourself
If those giving the promotion don’t know about the good things you are doing, you won’t be on the radar for promotion. Self-promotion is an art…it has to be done in a way that balances talking about yourself with humility. You don’t want to be perceived as bragging; that’s just obnoxious. First, make sure your boss knows your career aspirations and engages him or her in creating a career development plan with you (having a career plan is crucial to growing within your organization). Ping your boss regularly, giving updates on the progress you’ve made. Keep your boss and peers informed on major projects and broadly share the team’s accomplishments. Bring attention to a big win by asking your boss if you can celebrate by taking the team to lunch. Approach your boss with a solution to a tough problem and ask him or her for support as you take the lead to fix it. Develop a relationship with a mentor higher within the organization who can sing your praises. Well executed self-promotion is subtle, tactful, and highly useful.

These are my tips for getting a promotion. While doing these things won’t guarantee a promotion, you increase your chances by doing them well. On the flip side, here are some surefire ways to NOT get a promotion:

  • Avoid your boss as much as possible, communicating infrequently. Build relationships with everyone but him or her.
  • Don’t do what your boss asks of you.
  • Forget that making your boss look good makes you look good. Or worse, purposefully try to make your boss look bad.
  • Complain about your boss, coworkers, and the work environment; always show up with a negative attitude.
  • Have the mindset that fixing workplace problems is someone else’s responsibility.
  • Blow off feedback.
  • Take sole credit for the success of projects.
  • Be a clock-watcher. Leave right at 5 pm and never stay late to help your peers and/or boss.
  • Do the bare minimum to get by. Produce mediocre work.
  • Say things like, “that’s not my job” or “they don’t pay me enough to do that.”
  • Have a sense of entitlement.
  • Lie, manipulate, or otherwise do shady things.

Hopefully, this article sends you in the right direction…one that places you in the “indispensable” category and helps you achieve the next step in your career. There is almost nothing more rewarding than being recognized for a job well done with an opportunity to grow via a promotion. Remember…

“Do your best, and be a little better than you are.” – Gordon B Hinckley

Good luck and thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate likes, shares, retweets, and comments. Please do so if you are so inclined.

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References: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield. Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler