Improve Your Chances of Receiving a Promotion

In a time where many organisations are letting go of staff and are hesitant about committing the business to additional resources (there has been an external recruitment freeze at my organisation for the past two years), it makes sense to consider internal opportunities.

A couple of years ago I would have said that you will get what you deserve if you work hard and produce quality results. Although I still like to think that this is a given, as I’ve grown more interested in the way organisations operate, I have seen time and time again that there is a lot more at play.

paparazzi-2Increase your exposure 
You may have a wonderful Manager who is more than happy to sing your praises, or you may not.

I know of Managers who prefer to be the face of the team, attending all meetings whilst their employees who actually carry out the work are hidden away. I consider my Manager a generally kind, good person. However, there was an occasion where the General Manager of our area asked my Manager to run a meeting on an initiative that I was solely responsible for driving. I overheard him ask the General Manager if I could also attend, ‘…so she can take Minutes‘.

Managers have their own targets, and a lot of them are actually just overarching versions of yours. The results you achieve go in to your Manager’s bucket of marketable material for themselves and their team and it’s up to them how they divvy up the credit. I’ll play devil’s advocate here and also add that if you’re doing a great job, the less your Manager markets you to others, the less likely you are to be poached.

So that leaves it up to you to make those connections and clearly articulate your value to the organisation.

  • Practice your elevator pitch and within the confines of confidentiality, let other people know what you’re working on and be interested in their work. Not only could this reveal potential opportunities for you in their area, it will give you a bigger picture education into the workings of your organisation. If you converse in a manner that exhibits dedication to what you do, determination and sound knowledge, you’ll make a great impression.
  • Next time you’re tempted to just shoot an email back to somebody, assess whether it would be appropriate to pick up the phone and introduce yourself.  In a time of rapid, transaction based emailing, you are more likely to be remembered if you exercise those people skills.
  • Volunteer to partake in additional projects or workplace programs such as social/fundraising committees or mentor programs.

Manage how you are perceived 
I hate to say it, however perception and appearance matter. This includes your body language, clothing, grooming, punctuality, general demeanor and the way you interact with others. I recently caught up with someone in my organisation who had just finished recruiting new candidates for her team. She described a candidate who was already working in her team and had the most relevant experience, however was passed over for the promotion to somebody more junior. It didn’t come down to the quality of his work, but rather the way he went about it.  According to her, he interacted in the business as if he were doing everybody else a favour, with (perceived) great disdain and a lack of excitement or commitment to deadlines. She had noticed, and so had her Manager.

Another example where perception matters is during my work’s annual key performance ‘calibration sessions‘ held by Senior Management, who come equipped with selling points for the members of their team, in order to negotiate how the finite pool of bonus money is to be allocated. Employees who have left a good impression with the other Managers will get vouched for, whereas if a Manager participating in this session has had just one bad experience with a certain employee, their opinion to the wider group would then taint the reputation of that employee to the rest of senior leadership.

article-2061053-0EC733DA00000578-21_634x478Find out about opportunities before they are advertised
This comes down to the networks you have developed. Personally, I have experienced that there are two levels of networking within my organisation. Firstly, there are the networks grown from friendships with colleagues that are around my designation and/or age group. We share common ground, news on the latest position openings, happenings within our teams and often a few drinks and laughs. Secondly, there is the professional network that comes from developing relationships with mentors and colleagues who you look up to, which I have written about previously. Both networks may inform you of a position, however your second network’s support and/or sponsorship when you are applying for the position is invaluable.

When you do find out about a position before it’s advertised, give the hiring Manager a call, express your interest and invite them out for a coffee to learn more about the role. When you do this before the position is advertised, it’s seen as proactive and enthusiastic. The Manager is also likely to accommodate you because you have been referred by someone else within the business. You then have the advantage of already understanding more about the role and being familiar with the hiring Manager. In contrast, if you try and approach the hiring Manager when the position is already advertised, it’s seen as inappropriate and unfair to other potential applicants.

557.-Tatum-Reid-Photography-14-09-2012Utilise your inside knowledge 
You have an advantage over external candidates in that you have a deeper understanding of the organisation’s people, culture and business strategy. Further, whilst external candidates can only rely on publicly available information to prepare for the interview, you can:

  • Search on the organisation’s intranet for relevant resources such as presentations, internal communications and reports in relation to the area in which you are applying to work. I also found that there was a wealth of HR information on the intranet regarding hiring policies,interview guides and selection panel requirements.
  • Meet with colleagues you know who are already exposed to the area you are applying for or better still, are working in that team. Through this, you can ascertain information such as how the team is perceived in the business, the team’s stakeholders, their practical functions, their challenges, etc. Equipped with this information, you could then prepare to answer one of the interview questions by describing how you overcame a challenge, that was very similar to a challenge that the hiring manager faces.  Or you could describe your strong working relationship with a team, that happens to also work quite closely with the hiring manager’s team.
  • Ask others who have recently been through the hiring process for pointers, as an organisation usually has a consistent approach to the way they carry out recruitment.

Don’t become complacent
Despite your advantage, you never know who you are competing with in terms of skills and experience, so don’t give your interviewers a reason to give the role to someone else. Furthermore, despite any networking you have undertaken leading up to the interview, there may be people on your selection panel who don’t know you from a bar of soap. So it’s important to prepare for your interview thoroughly, don’t drop the ball!

If you have any other tips for internal job seeking or would like to share your experience, I’d love to hear from you.

That Career Girl

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9 comments

  1. Great post, That Career Girl. As a soon to be graduate from the University of Oregon, I find myself seeking advise similar to this. One idea that is reiterated throughout this whole post is the idea of networking. The idea of networking is daunting to students like me, but it’s something that just needs to be done. At the end of the day, it’s the relationships with other people that matter the most! Whether it’s keeping in contact with your former boss or colleagues, it’ll pay off in the end. However, I am wondering what it’s like to have a mentor. Do you have one or are you a mentor to anyone?

    Here’s the article that led me to that question: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ilyapozin/2013/09/25/want-a-more-satisfying-career-become-a-mentor/

    Thoughts?

    1. Hi there, thanks for the link to the article. I have four mentors, and I find these relationships invaluable and I actually received my latest promotion through one of my mentors. I’ve written about it in this blog post: http://thatcareergirl.com/2014/02/04/how-i-found-my-mentors-and-a-guide-to-meeting-your-own/

      I’m not a mentor myself, as I thought I was too young and wouldn’t have enough to offer, but I would love to be a mentor one day to give someone the opportunities that my mentors have given me.

      Networking and finding mentors sound daunting, but you should consider it more like making friends with people you look up to. This takes away the angst of how transactional, shallow or forced networking can seem. I definitely found it much easier ‘to make friends’ with people who I had nothing in common with the more that I was immersed in the working world. A good quality to have is to be able to get along with all types of people.

      Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comment, Kimberly :)

  2. Great article! It’s promotion season at the office and I’m hearing a lot of murmurings from people wondering why someone else got a promotion and they did not. I will now direct them to these tips!

  3. Great article, very true. I especially like your comments about using your knowledge and access to information as an internal applicant. I think many of us underestimate the resources we have at our disposal. Enjoying your blog a lot.

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