Many steep steps ahead?

The idea of a promotion can be an exciting one, laden with all the benefits you'd expect such as higher pay, better benefits, more status and responsibility. But it's not all plain sailing; the promotion process can be a very daunting and challenging process, and can test the mettle of even the most highly talented people.

There are many factors that affect the arduousness of your organisation's promotion process; many promotions require some element of out performing others, or include assessments that stretch and challenge your readiness for the next level. 

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A long promotion process can seem like many steep steps ahead of you, and you know you're going to need all your energy to get to the top. You may start on the 'long list' of candidates, which is then cut down to make a 'short list'. You might have endless assessments, documents and papers to complete, panels and interviews to attend, all which take up your precious time and mental energy. No wonder that it can be an exhausting process, especially when promotion candidates tend to fit all the extra work in during their spare hours as part of their commitment to the promotion process. And that doesn't include the after-work dinners or social events where you can't really let your hair down for fear of saying the wrong thing or being seen in a bad light.

If you're in a competitive organisation with limited spaces for promotion (as is often the case in Professional Services firms), you may well find that you have to jump through two main hoops to get promoted: being required to show that there's a genuine business need for an extra person at the grade above, along with being able to show that you are personally ready for the step up in responsibility. Having both of these in place at the same time is no mean feat, and the process can be made even more frustrating if there's any sniff of a lack of transparency at any stage.

Top 10 Tips for getting promoted

Assuming your business case is in the bag, then it all hangs on your personal readiness, and importantly, how you demonstrate that you're ready now.

Remember that perception is equal to reality here, so you may need to go above and beyond to show your competency and capability, so here are my top tips for showing you're ready for the next grade:

1. Give the promotion process itself due time and attention, making sure you know how many interview panels and presentations there are and how much paperwork there is. Make sure you've grasped the finer details, and that you know exactly what's required of you and when. This is often an area that trips people up, causing last minute panic!

2. Make sure there are no surprises in the process by creating an action plan for submitting documentation ahead of deadlines. If you want trusted people to help you review your paperwork as a fresh pair of eyes, factor time for that in and try not to submit papers with just one minute to the deadline! Perception is key...

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3. Make sure you understand what's required of the next level up. What are the changes in responsibility? Is it a significant change from what you're doing now or a small change? How much of a step up is it for you? Are you doing the job already... and how do you know? Challenge yourself to consider what assumptions you might be making about your skills and capabilities. Get feedback to make sure your perception matches other people's.

4. Ask yourself how getting this promotion will benefit you and your life. What impact could it have on your working hours, on your social life, your family? Are you ready for these changes?

5. Raise your profile within the organisation (outside your immediate team or office if possible), identifying all your possible stakeholders and make sure you have strong relationships with as many as you can. Whilst the decision makers for the promotion may be just a handful, there could be a lot more stakeholders who are asked informally for their perceptions of you. So be mindful of your profile and find out what you're known for, whether it's your technical capability, how you lead teams, being a great role model, etc. Make sure you're visible around the office and on internal virtual networks, and that you contribute in meetings. This will ensure you have a good profile and people will know what you're about and what you stand for.

6. Consider your profile outside the organisation, especially if this is an expectation of you at the next level. Will you be expected to bring in new business, to network and raise the company profile externally? If so, make sure you have a good external profile and credibility (and not just with clients). How often do you post on social media, write articles or blogs? How often do you show up for networking events and work your way around the room?

7. Get ready to talk about yourself and your achievements in a genuine and confident (but not arrogant) way, and be able to articulate what value you bring to your team or organisation. Spend time prepping as you would for a job interview, finding great examples and anecdotes of your achievements, what you've done and (importantly), how you've done it. Practice talking these through out loud so you can remember them easily, and use some trusted friends or colleagues to help you. Be able to discuss your skills, strengths and any areas for development and learning (assuming the process will require that depth of awareness).

8. Prepare well for presentations or interview panels. If presentations aren't your strong point, then practice, practice, practice, making sure you remember all the necessary facts and figures you need and that you can discuss them effortlessly. If you are able to, it's a good idea to find out who will be interviewing you, what level of seniority they are, and what the format is going to be, such as whether it will be like 'Dragon's Den' scenario or something a bit more informal!

9. Be prepared to answer difficult questions and be open to  being challenged in any interview panels or presentations. Address in advance any defensive reactions you might have to areas that challenge you, as these stand out a mile to interviewers (a good coach can help you strike a balance and be authentic in this area).

10. Remind yourself regularly why you want to be promoted. This is for two reasons - firstly, you may well be asked in an interview panel, and secondly - it's important you know this for yourself, to make sure you are actually ready for promotion. Also, knowing your 'why' will help keep your motivation and energy levels high, and keep your eyes on the prize.

Importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help, especially from people who have been through a promotion process themselves. They know what it's like and how testing it can be, and are often well-placed to be mentors or sounding boards for other people following the process after them. If you need any further support, have a look at our '3 Steps to Promotion' Programme, which walks you through and supports you during the entire promotion process, making sure you're ready for the next level, prepared for the ups and downs of the process, and that you stay focused and energised throughout.

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