It’s the time of the year when everyone’s in a good mood because of the holidays, vacations, office parties, and yes, promotion announcements. For some, the yearend review will go extremely well because they will find out that they have been promoted. Finally, the long hours and hard work have paid off. For others, things might not go so smoothly. Maybe you were blindsided by a boss’s review or maybe you got a fair review but there is still no action plan to get to the next level. You begin to realize that the path to the next level is harder than climbing Everest. I’ve experienced both scenarios above, and you’ve probably guessed that the first is far more exciting and rewarding.
So how do you get to finally pop open the champagne and move up the corporate ladder?
Promotion takes time and preparation
The first thing to realize is that promotion takes time and preparation. In the majority of cases, time and title do coincide. You must be realistic about setting achievable promotion goals. Of course, there will be superstars who climb the corporate ladder faster than most, but those are your exceptions. I would advise looking at the “average” or “typical” promotion path when setting your goals. Find out what the average timeline is for most people to get promoted at each level within your industry then adjust and personalize your goals accordingly. For example, in Finance, the typical years of experience for a Vice President title is 10 years and above. Knowing this, my base case was achieving this title at my 10-year mark, and my stretch/reach goal was achieving this title under 10 years, which I accomplished in 8 years.
Understand the criteria
The second step to getting promoted is to understand the criteria, exceptions, and responsibilities of the title you are looking to achieve. Most corporations have HR guidelines that outlines the criteria for each level. Ensure you talk to your manager and HR contact to understand these guidelines as this will be the basis for evaluating your skillset, current roles and responsibilities, and any gaps that you currently need to resolve as you make your case to get promoted. If you do identify gaps in your current skill set and responsibilities, discuss with your manager a game plan to strengthen these respective areas, so that you can be fully equipped when you submit your promotion candidacy. You should only submit your candidacy when these gaps are resolved.
Building your network and finding a mentor
The third step is building your network and finding a mentor. Oftentimes, promotions are reviewed by a committee or a group of people within the firm. Strengthen your network by reaching out to various individuals who are at the level you aspire to be. Most people enjoy talking about themselves so they will not mind a quick 30-minute chat or a coffee catch up. Come prepared to the meeting by having specific questions for the individuals; some questions can include: their career trajectory, challenges, necessary skills needed, and advice for progressing to the next level.
Participating in other activities besides your day job
Finally, the last step for getting promoted is by participating in other activities besides your day job. At the end of the day, most people are expected to be good at their jobs. Doing a “good job” just doesn’t cut it anymore in the corporate world; that is the bare minimum an employee is expected to do. Most committees when evaluating candidates will look for other factors and areas that the candidate excelled in beside their job responsibilities. Did you participate in volunteer activities, chair a committee, organize a networking event, pursue a graduate degree or certificate, or give back to others in a meaningful way? The more senior the role, the higher the expectations are for an individual to be more well-rounded and impactful.
After following these 4 steps you should be well on your way to leveling up.