3 Unconventional Strategies That Get You Promoted

Do you feel ready for the next step in your career but can’t seem to land that promotion? Here are three strategies to help you get there.

1. Stop asking for permission

People get so caught up in pleasing others and playing by the rules that they often leave their individuality at the door. The result? They’re pigeon holed into a role. Break out of that mold. Bring your whole creative self to the job and see how far you can go.

Here’s how:

  • Address the problems you see in front of you. Is there a process that needs improvement? It could be as simple as configuring all copiers to print double-sided to save on paper.
  • Disagree with your boss (respectfully, of course). You don’t always have to follow the party line. If you see a better way to do something, speak up. Your boss will appreciate the effort because you are looking out for the team. Good bosses are not looking for a bunch of Yes gals and guys. They value critical thinking, especially if you’re helping them avoid risk.
  • Educate yourself. Maybe your boss’ presentations seem dull and uninspiring lately. Take a PowerPoint course and figure out how to make the story sing. Or take the free courses available to you for CRM reporting so that you can bring greater insight into the numbers. Or learn to code. You get the point. Gaining a new skill will make you more valuable.
  • Think strategically. Get smart about your sector and adjacent industries. Make connections and bring these big ideas to the team. Is there a product you produce today that could be re-purposed for an adjacent industry? Is there a new partnership, joint venture or acquisition that your company should take a look at? Good ideas are good ideas, no matter what your role. Strategic thinking is like a muscle. You have to practice to get good at it.
  • Help the company grow. One of the biggest challenges facing companies is organic growth. Every manager knows how to cut costs. That’s their go-to solution because it’s the only thing they can really control. Demonstrate your leadership by offering true growth strategies. Your official title at the company doesn’t matter. Anyone with a growth mindset can help. Check out this book for good ideas: Double Digit Growth.

2. Act the part before you get the part

Companies are constantly looking for ways to reduce risk.  If you were the boss, who would you promote: the person already taking on next level responsibilities or the person waiting to up-level until they’re promoted? Demonstrate that you can handle the new role now.

Here’s how:

  • Look around corners. Ask yourself what your boss would do with the information you’re about to present. Then do that before she asks you.
  • Put in more hours. This may not be possible for everyone but it’s usually needed, especially if you’re looking to get promoted. The extra time doesn’t have to happen at the office. Technology is a wonderful thing. But make your extra hours count. Empty hours and “up managing” for optics is a waste of everyone’s time. People see through it.
  • Check the drama (and your ego) at the door. No one has time for complainers or office gossip. Do what’s needed to help your tribe thrive. Be known as a doer.
  • Make your boss’ job easy. Show and tell her why you should be promoted. That means coming up with a strategic plan, including milestones. It also means doing those things on the plan. When the time comes, the promotion will feel like a natural extension of what you are already doing.

3. Cultivate your tribe

No person is an island. Think about the stakeholders around you. That includes your immediate colleagues, bosses and employees. It also includes your suppliers, strategic partners, the planet and the community. All of these stakeholders are part of your network. Figure out how to help them prosper. If they win, you win.

Here’s how:

  1. Organize your company’s service days. Many companies now offer paid time off to volunteer at various community organizations. Organize an outing at a food bank, animal rescue center, or University. Choose organizations that resonate with you and your company. It’s amazing what can happen when you work together towards a common goal outside of your regular day-to-day routine. Try it out.
  2. Become a corporate steward. How can you help transform the company’s DNA to improve people and planet? Taking initiative demonstrates true leadership. Here are three ideas:
    • Lead your company’s initiative to offer sustainable 401K investment options. Not many people know that they can ask for different investments. You don’t have to be stuck with what’s offered by your plan sponsor. Here is a toolkit that can help you negotiate green and sustainable funds for your 401K plan.
    • Help your company strengthen their supply chains…by making them cleaner. Here are the top 10 reasons to have your company clean up their supply chain. Done right, it’s long-term profitable for the company and the planet.
    • Propose a corporate wellness program.
  3. Help someone at your office every single day. Go out to lunch with colleagues in other departments. Put the notice out on Slack or your email bulletin board. Break your daily routine by learning something about someone new, every day.
  4. Share information. Gone are the days of zero sum corporate culture. Create the environment you want to see at work. That means communicate and share your valuable data with colleagues. Don’t be a data hoarder. And don’t worry about communication overlap or people stealing your ideas. True leadership will come out on top. Sharing is a shortcut to building trust.

Beyond the promotion, these strategies can help you in other areas as well. If you adopt these behaviors, you will start thinking differently. You will begin thinking like a leader. Leadership mindset takes time to cultivate. Invest in it.


Photo by Brooke Lark

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