Time to land that promotion or that coveted new position? Ace the office game!
I was casually browsing the net when a title called my attention. Paraphrasing: “happy extroverts get promoted as they help make organizations a better place by their teamwork and positive attitude”.
The writer goes on to explain that not all is lost for my fellow introverts; smiling more and well, acting more extroverted and explain why you are the way you are…can be a strategy to get you back in the lineup…interesting right?
If you ask me, I would say that it all depends on your line of work. In-person customer services can be challenging for introverts; extroverts in places with more analytics? feasible…but how about enjoyable?
Bottom line, introverts or not, everyone can get the prize of moving up the corporate ladder or getting a new position they have been eyeing for a while.
What it takes is knowing what you are dealing with and how you can adapt your strategy to be part of the winning game.
Ready to play for pay?
Before you start: Why do you want that new position?
You want a new position/promotion because (hopefully) it comes with a nice title, a better paycheck.
Because it’s about time to have your upper management officially recognize your work.
But this is not enough if you are not convinced that you are ready to handle the baggage that comes alongside it.
Namely, the new responsibilities. Possibly becoming your peers’ supervisor and the change of attitude that will ensue for both sides.
Perhaps more hours at the office, a steep learning curve, more facetime?
Are you ready for all of this? Examine your underlying motivation beyond the recognition and the money.
The initial high of the excitement will eventually taper down and become the new normal over time, but what will help you to continue showing up is what excited you in this position in the first place.
Perhaps it is an increased sense of freedom to do the job, more challenges, more travel?
Take as much time as you need to dig into your “why”. There isn’t much of a point if you are not convinced it’s the right move for you.
Are you all set now? Let’s begin!
When you have spent some time in the corporate world, you know that it’s never as simple as what meets the eye.
Sure, every single corporate will be blasting their meritocracy manifesto high and low. But how much of that is actually a reality?
Let me start by telling you that meritocracy is in most cases a reality, even when you don’t see any of it. It might seem that your office is plagued with all sorts of politics, but your hard work and drive will not go unnoticed if you voice them (more on that later).
Many years in investment banking showed me that while politics certainly play a role, there is more to it for getting a position you want.
And if you’re willing and motivated but don’t feel up to indulge in office politics, I invite you to see the whole process as a game,
Your first move: know the rules!
And the first place to start is by understanding the rules. Remember the first board game you played, what did you do?
For most of us, it goes as follows
- Understanding the game
- Gauging the players
- Counting your assets
- Developing a winning strategy
Your first step is to understand your Company’s culture.
Start by its history; why? Because a lot can be said from the founding story of a company.
Remember the myth behind how Starbuck’s was created? The epiphany of Gordon Bowker after experiencing a cappuccino in Italy. How about Apple’s?.
The way a Company is born is translated into its core values. Knowing them will help you better understand the culture; and it’s always a nice story to tell; after all, this place provides you with a paycheck, it’s not a bad idea to understand its origins.
Hopefully, that first step was fun and not too time-consuming.
Next step, look at your upper management and board of directors.
What do they tell you about the Company’s culture? What is its mission statement?
What is your Company’s current strategy? what are the products and services they are targeting? which are its financial goals or priority customers?
Where do you align with all of the above?
From this bird’s view position, do a further top/down analysis: where does your team sit in the greater scheme of things? How about the new team you are eyeing? how strategic or key are they? where are you in all of this?
And now you know your exact position on the gameboard. Time to start gauging the players.
Next: find your role models, your mentors, and your allies
Now is also the critical time to spend in identifying the key persons in getting you promoted.
Your line manager being the obvious one when it comes to being promoted.
However, you need to tread carefully if it is a jump to another team.
In an ideal scenario, your manager could be supportive and will facilitate the transition. But sometimes losing a key member of a team and having to start over with someone new can be a new problem that they don’t necessarily want to deal with.
Use your judgment, your knowledge, and your intuition to understand how they would react to an announcement of that sort.
Things can be more straightforward if we are talking promotion.
Throughout the year, getting your manager on board with the idea of you jumping a step up should be your priority.
It starts with you asking to be promoted. And yes, let me repeat, as for many things in the corporate world, it rarely comes to you spontaneously.
You need to ask for it, you need to repeat the request at every review so that it stays on top of their list and in your review. This way, you will get a list of do’s and don’ts for promotion, and you will know what you need to do.
Keep that list in a word document or a spreadsheet. Track your achievements vs the goals. This tracker will come in handy at each discussion on the subject.
Your next important move will be to do some internal soul searching. Who has the job that you aspire to get? Is it your immediate supervisor or are there steps in between?
How did this person get that job? What was their history in the Company?
Observe their qualities, skills, and attitudes. What has worked for them that you can model while staying genuine to yourself.
In an ideal scenario, you could ask this person to be your mentor and to help guide you in the process. Now, this is not always possible. They might not want to engage for various reasons. Or perhaps you don’t.
In all cases, it’s important to find mentors and allies within your Company. Now again, ideally someone who knows the process and/or has done it before. But also people you work with and who can vouch for your work and your professionalism.
Think also about your juniors as allies. They, too, will be part of your 360 feedback and they, too, will have a lot to say about your behavior during projects!
In many companies, the process of promotion is a collegial one, whereby your “file” will get defended by your manager in front of other managers, who, themselves, want to defend their own protégés. The more positive goodwill you will score with everyone, the better for you.
Same for changing position internally. The better people in the new team know about you, the higher the chances to get your case across.
Keep this in mind throughout the year. See the projects you deliver or meetings you participate in as an opportunity to increase your internal visibility. Promotion or not, this can be helpful to you down the road, you never know!
Time for la“SWOT”
For the non-consultants and non-bankers among us, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Although its creation in the 60s /70s was credited to Stanford University researcher Albert Humphrey, whose goal was to identify why corporate planning failed, the SWOT matrix has since become an instrument of choice for marketing managers; and you can use it for about anything, in particular when it comes to recapping where you are in your current role.
Start with your Strengths, and list projects and achievements to document each of those. What are your skills that would be useful in the new position?
See your Weaknesses as your room for improvement, and more importantly, what you can do to get up to speed. Start by the low hanging fruits and the easier to deal with, and implement an action plan for the longer-term goals, using the SMART process (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound).
Now list all the opportunities for you to shine. Is there a project that you can get involved in that can get you to learn new skills and showcase your capabilities (teamwork, strategic thinking, planning etc)? It can also be getting involved in organizing internal events, participating in recruiting, promoting the company to colleges, networking and so much more. Think about what can raise your profile internally.
Now the Threats, a big word, that can be replaced by Risks. What can get in the way of that promotion? A failed deal? Other contenders? A difficult year for your market?
List all. What is within your control to act on, do; the rest, you shall see.
Now a recap
In bullet points!
- Start by why you want this new position
- Manage up (your line manager, your prospective new line manager), manage down and sideways (Mentors, allies, juniors, anyone who can contribute to building your positive image and reputation)
- Know where you stand. What you can put forward (your skills and achievements); what humble pie you can own and learn from (your mistakes and weaknesses); be on the lookout for networking and new opportunities, and prepare a plan B for worst-case scenarios.
And most importantly, see every one of those steps as an opportunity to connect with others and to learn something new. Even if the promotion or the job move don’t materialize, you would have built the most precious asset of all, your professionalism and your reputation.
Use these strategies in the longer run, and you will gain better clarity and much more control over your overall career.
How to Your Personal SWOT Analysis
If you think only you don’t have what it takes because, say, you’re an introvert, read this! 23 of the Most Amazingly Successful Introverts in History
Going down memory lane: How Starbucks Was Born Half A Century Ago