Dear Dave: I have been with my organization for 8 years, and I have worked hard so I can earn a management position. I see my coworkers getting promoted and earning raises, and I know I have worked just as hard as they have. My performance reviews have been good, and my manager tells me that I am a valuable part of the department. What am I missing? What do I need to do to become promoted? Maybe I need another job at a different organization. – C
Dear C: I know it is difficult to see your colleagues being awarded promotions when you have done just as much as they have to be given better jobs or leadership roles. And it is especially difficult when you have a burning desire to be noticed and stand out as a management candidate. There must be more going on, and you need to find out what those things are.
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I believe that just doing good work is not enough to get a promotion. Any manager would agree with me that it usually takes more than that. Good work and a strong craving for advancement certainly increase the odds that you could be promoted. However, the third part of an advancement strategy is to make a solid, convincing case that highlights what you have done and how your good, hard work makes you worthy of a leadership role.
To make the case that you are worthy of being promoted does not mean that you must walk around wearing sandwich boards that say, “Hey, look at me. Look at what I have done. Pick me.” Your challenge is to convince those making the promotion decisions – especially your manager – that you are worthy of the promotion and stand out in a possibly long line of candidates who think they deserve the promotion just as much as you do.
And do not fall into the belief that you can build yourself up by degrading others who may want the same job you do. If your manager is a true leader, she or he will see that those tearing down the credibility of others are not management material. It is far better for you to acknowledge how others have used their talent to gain victories than to name names and tell the position decision makers that so and so is a blithering idiot and “could mess up a one-car funeral.”
In addition, realize that the people who work with you now, and others from the past, know you better than you might think. They see you and your actions and attitude in assignments, problems, urgent arising needs and – most of all – in team-based projects that require superior collective thinking and communications. If you feel up to it, you can ask some of these people to be brutally honest and share their impressions of you and your work style. You will learn a lot.
First off, you must believe that doing an honest inventory of yourself is your best source of getting to know the “real you.” If you are defensive in your thinking, just envision how you will come across to a panel of interviewers. No person is perfect, and everyone has underdeveloped skill areas. So, if you get an interview, intelligently relate what you can do, and what you have accomplished, and also discuss what you have done – or are currently doing – to strengthen any skill voids.
Something you can do right away is to put together “a portfolio of you” – your training and education, your achievements, your ability to work in a challenging environment, and how you have managed to hit or surpass work goals. I think portfolios are “accomplishment pitch books” and they help tell the story of you and what you have done. Also, I would add some thoughts on your leadership vision and mission and the values you have that will guide you in being a leader in tense or even routine expectations and problems.
What you are doing is compiling a persuasive case that explains how you have faced your responsibilities and how you have been an effective team player. Hiring managers have many questions on their minds when interviewing budding managers and the main one – in my estimation – is they are trying to figure out if they would enjoy working with you. They don’t want brassy, cocky know-it-alls. They want emotionally intelligent people who will do good work and that it will be good to work with them. Be that person.
As much as you want to tell your boss or an interview team that you just really deserve a promotion, use facts when you present your case. Let the interviewers get to know you and appreciate what you have done to help the company hit important goals.
Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at email@example.com. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.