If you’ve been slogging away at the office, working long hours in the hope your good efforts will mark you out for promotion, you could be doing it all wrong. Unless you are an Olympic athlete, feats of strength and stamina are unlikely to be what your boss is looking for.
Many of today’s business leaders are looking for something more than a workforce to carry out certain tasks. They want somebody that is on-message, loyal and adaptable. Your priority needs to be about ensuring your boss knows what it is that makes you special, rather than just putting in hours of additional grunt work that may not even be noticed!
If you’ve set your eye on a new position, you need a strategy. And there is a mantra you need to hold in mind throughout your campaign: work smarter, not harder. If you can establish yourself as a unique but highly suitable candidate for promotion, you will place yourself heads and shoulders above workhorses who are destined to remain where they are most needed – doing the simple, repetitive work that you want to leave behind.
Your strategy, then, should begin with identifying just what ‘smarter’ working means to your organization. What are the firm’s core values, and what measures do they have in place to honour them? What are their achievements right now – and their goals for the future? What ideas can you bring to the table to help the company move in this direction?
If you’re short of inspiration or you’re not sure how to apply new insights, think about who else has been promoted before you. Of course, you need to be promoted on your own strengths, and you will soon get found out if you thoughtlessly emulate the behaviour of the last guy or girl who rose from your position. But if you notice that there are certain skills that are frequently found among those who’ve been recently promoted, these could be areas to work on.
Once you’ve started this period of self-development – learning the way your company works and the skills you must develop to proceed – be sure to be open about it. This is not a stealth game. Without showing off or sucking up, make sure your boss and the people around you know that you are improving the way you work and that you are focused on the company goals. If you don’t tell them, they might never know.
Ask for feedback
A great way to go about it is to seek feedback from those above. Ask for advice on how to get training in the areas you’ve identified for improvement, and run your regular work past them from time to time to see if there are any areas you need to tweak. Companies promote not just employees who seem to fit a new role, but those who show a desire to grow into that role – and into subsequent positions as they gain experience. Your loyalty and ambition will not go unnoticed, if your employers are aware of your daily efforts.
Think of the bigger picture
If you’ve noticed that most of these strategies seem a little focused on yourself, your instincts are right: while these are smart techniques for improving your shot at promotion, they are useless by themselves.
Working in a company is about co-operation and collaboration. Share your ideas with others, and develop together where possible. If you miss out on the promotion this time around, the person who gets it may be in a position to help you in future – if they know you are a team player.
Honour the strengths of the company as a whole, because if you’re identified as a self-interested careerist your peers will be wary of lending you the trust you need.