Being promoted is one of the most satisfying career experiences there is.
It’s great for your CV and also boosts your self confidence. It also makes you feel valued by your employer. So if you’ve decided to stay put for a while, what are the secrets of climbing the greasy pole?
Understand the process
The exact details may vary widely, but almost every employer will have some kind of system for career advancement. Find out what yours is and what you have to do to be promoted. Research the hierarchy and the structure. Is there a grading system, for example, and if so how does it work?
“Your annual appraisal is the obvious place to ask questions if you’re unsure”, says Helen Higgs, HR and Marketing Manager of AREVA Risk Management Consulting. In an organisation with grades, “the organisation should explain the skills and responsibilities around those grades. They should map out with staff how they could get to those grades and how long it would take.”
Take the initiative
Don’t wait for your line manager to bring up the issue of career development. If you think of yourself as a go-getter, go out and get. AREVA, for example, welcomes proactive approach from staff. “We deal with some fairly high-capability jobs,” says Higgs. “You need to see drive and initiative.”
It’s no good expecting to be promoted simply on the basis of doing the same job for a couple of years and fancying something different. You’ll need to show concrete evidence that you have the skills to cope with advancement. “We require all our people to have clearly demonstrated that they have the ability to perform at the higher level of responsibility and to have proven that fact through demonstrable evidence,” says Tim Janes, Head of EMEA Resourcing at Qinetiq.
As you start amassing that evidence, be prepared to sell yourself to your employer. What are you doing which demonstrates the skills they want? What are you achieving in your everyday work? Look at the bigger picture and the value you are adding to the firm.
Develop your soft skills
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of social skills such as leadership, teamwork and co-operation. “Interpersonal and communication skills are greatly valued when considering folk for promotion,” says Janes. “As an individual progresses through Qinietiq it is imperative that they have the ability to effectively interact with staff, colleagues, customers, partners, shareholders and suppliers alike.”
Helen Higgs agrees that soft skills are every bit as important as technical ones: “It’s a bit like being in the Air Force. If you can only fly planes, there’ll always be a job for you, but you’ll probably have more options and faster access to those options if you have people skills as well. From a career point of view, you should focus on developing your personal, communication and empathy skills.” See our key skills section for more tips.
Boost your profile
There’s little point developing skills if no-one knows what you’re capable of, so show them what you can do. Volunteer to take the lead on new projects and initiatives. If this means working with another department and interacting with a new set of people, all the better. It’ll get you talked about in positive tones across the organisation.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at the job, having a reputation for being rude and abrasive will not do you many favours on your way up. The truth is most people like to work with people they like. So make sure people enjoy your company as well as respecting your abilities. Even if you’re a natural wallflower, making an effort to take part in office parties and after-work drinks will pay long-term dividends.
last edited: October 17, 2012