Want to progress your career?
Making the transition from an operational role into a strategic role can be one of the most rewarding steps you can make.
However, positioning yourself so that you’re the one who gets hired becomes trickier the higher up the corporate ladder you climb.
Dress for success
For some time the advice to ambitious professionals has been to ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got’. Dress codes vary widely from one company to another and turning up for work in a suit when everyone else wears jeans and a t-shirt is sometimes viewed with suspicion.
When it comes to getting promoted, it’s more than just making sure you wear a suit and polish your shoes. Look around your company for examples of senior personnel who are well respected and well regarded. How do they dress? Which colours do they wear? How do they convey their status through the way they look and act?
Speak the language of the boardroom
You know those words and clichés you used to cringe at when you heard senior management in meetings? Well it’s time to start using them.
At a senior level, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with MBAs and business school graduates who have their own lingo and expect you to use it too. Get yourself a copy of any good business or ‘mini MBA’ text book and start learning how to calculate ROI, ‘be strategic’ and work within the vision and mission of the company.
Demonstrate your people management skills
You’ll almost certainly have a team reporting in to you when you land that promotion, so start demonstrating your people management skills now.
This isn’t just with your direct reports. If you manage projects, you’re managing people. If you delegate work to a PA or office manager, you’re managing people. If you’re persuading colleagues to make time for, and prepare for, important meetings, you’re managing people.
Think about your own management style and what it’s saying about you – are you promotion material?
Build your network
If you were looking to move roles externally, you might be thinking about getting to know other people in the industry who could connect you with the Talent Acquisition team in your most-wanted companies. It’s no different when you’re hoping to move up internally.
Hopefully, you're already on good professional terms with your colleagues within HR, but what about outside of HR? Get to know the people in other departments who would be your peers. Work on projects with them. Attend social events where you can get to know them and don’t ever think that someone’s not worth your time. They might just have the ear of the person you want to impress.
Increase your visibility
Being good at your job isn’t enough to get you noticed. The people making decisions on promotions need to know you’re good at your job and know who you are. Ever seen people mysteriously get promoted over someone who was better at the job than they were? It’s because the other person was probably hiding their light under a bushel waiting for someone to notice them.
No-one else can be expected to do your PR for you, so contribute in meetings, offer to write something for the company newsletter or intranet and chat to people in the kitchen – all of these things help people to get to know who you are and what value you bring.
Broaden your skills
To be promoted into a more senior position requires a different skill-set. Yes, we’re talking management skills. It also means being comfortable with areas such as finance and accounting because you may be managing a sizeable budget when you get that promotion.
You can quickly get up to speed by reading books, taking e-learning courses or attending live training. Don’t always expect your company to pay for this or give you time out to learn – it can be a very good investment to do this in your own time and from your own funds. A course costing you £399 might secure you a promotion and pay rise worth at least 10 times as much, so you could see a very good return on investment.
Express an interest
This might sound obvious, but have you told anyone you’d like to be promoted? We’re not just talking about your annual appraisal, because we all know that managers often forget what their direct reports said within days of going through the process.
Have you expressed an interest in taking on more responsibility or helping your senior colleagues on projects? If you haven’t, you're most certainly missing a trick.