I want my boss’s job!
Getting promoted is both simple and complicated: simple, because (ideally) your managers would have given you a roadmap; and complicated, because, what a surprise!, the roadmap keeps changing as you go.
And while there may be many moving parts to actually getting there, you can still stack the odds in your favor and make the process of it part of your career and leadership growth strategy.
2 key questions before you start:
- Why do I want that new position?
- What would frustrate/annoy/scare me if I actually got it?
Sure, we all want to be promoted for a better title and paycheck, and as a public acknowledgment of our work so far.
But these highly desirable objects tend to become old and uninspiring very quickly once the drive behind them cannot be sustained.
This is why it’s also important to understand your motivation beyond the surface.
- How will this promotion make me feel?
- How will it enhance my life/career?
- What new opportunities will it open for me?
And as there is often that other side of the coin…
- What frustrates me or what am I afraid of if I were in this new position?
Some pointers here:
- Steep learning curve ➡️ what can I do to get up to speed?
- New responsibilities ➡️ am I comfortable stepping up as a decision-maker? / am I ok if I found myself in uncomfortable positions/conflict/office politics?
- Managing a team ➡️ am I ok supervising my ex-peers (and for some, my friends)?
Ok! So now that you are on the same page as any inner conflict, let’s get to the more practical and down-to-earth.
Your starting point: Understanding the name of the game
- What are the requirements to be promoted?
- Why am I the right person for you, my dear manager?
It may seem obvious but it’s worth repeating: promotions do not come automatically: you need to ask for it.
And asking is not enough though, the key is to understand first how promotions are granted and second how you can position yourself to be in the race.
- First order: put together a list of why you have earned this promotion.
- Second (and most importantly!): show your manager that your leadership has the potential to be highly beneficial for the team and the Company.
From there: enquire about the ‘election’ process. It may involve a committee or only your manager’s and their line manager’s approval. Either way, it’s important information to have for your next moves.
Your next move: Be the best advocate for your job
- Who is already on my team?
- Who should be in it too?
To these 2 questions, the answers will converge to one point: your network.
We tend to think of a network as something ‘useful’ to help in the next career move; in reality, a network is first and foremost the people you interact with every day. And this network has 3 different directions: upward (management), downward (your reports and juniors) and sideways (your peers, cross-functionally).
- Meaning: networking is not spending time in the boss’s office while others are doing the work for you.
This can work for some, but mostly it will backfire at some point as it quickly labels you 1/ as ‘the person who is all about politics and no work ethics’ and 2/ because despite the eagerness to get to the next level, our personal watchdog, i.e. our integrity, will remind us that we will feel better about our victories when they have been rightfully earned.
- Who’s in ‘team you’ then? who do you want to be on and who needs to know about you, your past work and your future potential as they have an influence on the final say?
- Next step for a changed perspective you: see this new adventure as an opportunity to go beyond the only outcome of the ‘promotion’.
It’s no longer only about lobbying for a title. It’s time to build longer lasting relationships and showing your potential on an ongoing basis.
Opportunities and new doors can open at any time, and they will go to those whose who have been visible and have delivered in the past.
Now to recap: getting promoted means going through the usual motions of
- Managing up (your line manager, their manager)
- Managing down, making your juniors and reports part of the winning team
- Managing sideways (peers and other mentors, allies, juniors, anyone who can contribute to building your positive image and reputation)
Then the ‘extra cherries’ that make the process worth it:
- Connecting with others and learning from them
- Leveling up your Leadership skills by understanding your own style and by learning from others who have already demonstrated theirs and that you admire
And while nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to actually getting the promotion, there are still ways to make the process productive and beneficial for you in the longer run.
Start thinking of your career as your own enterprise: you are in for the long haul; have a long-term strategy with a plan, and adapt your tactics for the shorter term.