In many companies there are clear job descriptions and career paths to make sure everyone is clear on the promotion process. Then again….. there are many companies where the process is very unclear and has a tendency to look like a mixture of politics, psychology and story telling.
There are different kind of promotions. You can get promoted to a next higher level job or you can get promoted to a next higher position that will provide you with more salary and benefits but not change dramatically the content of the job, other than that the company will expect you to display a higher level of expertise and independence in executing the job. Barring the situation where promotions are granted automatically unless you are dismissed from the company before the promotion time is there, most promotions require someone to nominate you, and at least it will require someone higher in status to accept that you will do well in this position and take a decision to grant the promotion.
Promotions mostly have to do with being the best obvious choice at the time people need someone for that job. You don’t have to be the best at your current job, you need to show you are ready for that next job. Having said that, if you fail your current job, chances of being considered for a promotion are slim to non existent. So for someone to nominate you, you need to be visible.
Being the best obvious choice means being visible. Being visible means having a good network. Having a good network means being able to be a team player. Being a team player means understanding the needs of others, and specifically your boss, and anticipating those needs. Be active in meetings and show that you understand the problems and challenges of the people you report to and offer options and solutions.
Being the best obvious choice also requires you to be available. If you don’t plan for your own succession, you will not be able to get promoted and be relieved of your current work. People with High Potential will ensure that they work with a process that can be replicated such that others can easily follow in their footsteps and thus they are available to get promoted to the next job.
The most important points to get promoted are that you need to be a problem solver and you need to be confident and proud about your work. You need to be able to bring something to the table that is of value to the company and the people deciding over your promotion. You need to have demonstrated that you can do that next higher level management job, you need to have shown that you can lead that sales force and understand the issues, you need to have shown that you can lead that project etc. You need to do a great job and make sure people know you are doing a great job by making it visible without going overboard and beating your own drum all the time.
Finally, make sure people know you are eager to get ahead and they like working with you. If no one knows you have the ambition, they may go to the next obvious choice, if they don’t like working with you, they will certainly avoid extending the time they will have to be with you and go for someone else to promote. If you don’t continue to learn and work on your skills and knowledge level you will soon fall behind and be seen as yesterday’s potential instead of tomorrow’s future.
All this may sound very obvious when you read through it but ensure you review your progress with all of the above points and, if you find out you do not score high on one of more of these topics, create an action plan to boost your level on that particular issue. The requirements, although generic, are clear, the action planning is your next assignment.