The last two companies I worked at did not do a great job of ensuring career conversations were happening. I usually had to seek out those opportunities in my own way. I also had to get creative on how I approached management in regards to getting promoted.
Salesforce, where I currently work, does an amazing job of ensuring career conversations are being had between managers and employees and also supplying employees with the necessary tools to achieve success. I’ve grown more professionally in the last three years than I ever thought possible. (Case in point – today, I sat in a client meeting and presented to a room of 25+ people, all the while sitting next to the VP of Marketing.) I’ve really had an opportunity to get in the driver’s seat when it comes to navigating my career. I received a promotion last August and found it had a lot to do with the below six things I did. So, if you want to get promoted (who doesn’t!?), buckle up and read on!
Find a Mentor
Find someone you can turn to for career advice. It should be someone you admire and respect, ideally in a position you’d love to be in one day. It should also be someone you can be completely open with about your career path. I have mentors that probably don’t even know they’re my mentors because we never made it actually official. But these women in my life are people I turn to when I have questions or am interested in a topic I don’t know much about that they have expertise in. I also have a dedicated mentor at Salesforce who I meet with about once a month to discuss my accomplishments and areas where I should up-skill. She was someone I admired in the company and wanted to learn more from, so all it took was me sending her an email and asking if she’d be open to being my mentor and meeting once a month. In most cases, that someone you ask is going to be flattered and will completely be willing to help you.
Create and Document Goals
One thing I’ve learned especially over the last year is the idea of goal-setting. Everyone has life goals, so why shouldn’t we all have career goals too? First, think about your long-term goals and what you want to accomplish in say, the next three years. Jot those down. Then, make a list of your short-term goals of what you’d like to accomplish in the next year. Now that you have these on paper (or a Google doc), it’s important to have action items for each of those goals. This is the HOW you’re going to accomplish those goals. As the year goes on and you gear up to have that promotion conversation with your manager, you can bring solid goals to the table. You can then explain how you were able to meet and exceed those to showcase your career growth.
Have a Conversation
If you don’t already meet with your manager to talk about your career at least once every month at minimum, make it happen. Ask him/her if you can put a bi-weekly or monthly meeting on both of your calendars. This way, the two of you can sit down and review progress of how to get you to that next step. You can use this time to explain the work you have been doing not only in terms of successes, but areas of opportunity where you know you’re maybe not meeting expectations. I’m not going to lie, it can get awkward having candid conversations with your manager. However, do your best to speak up when and where you see fit. After all, this is your career we’re talking about.
Over-Deliver on Quality Work
Don’t fall into the trap of laziness. Put your best foot forward each and every time you deliver on something. Don’t just meet expectations – exceed them. You need to stand out to get promoted. Delivering mediocre or average work is not going to get you promoted. Be vocal when you over-deliver too so your manager is not only aware of how hard you worked, but also that you absolutely kicked ass.
Act the Role You Are Seeking
Think ahead to the role you are wanting to get promoted to. Start to think of ways that position is different from your current one. Why wait to start taking on some of those responsibilities? If you truly think you are deserving of a promotion, there is no reason you can’t begin taking on some of those tasks that would come with the role change. It can be as simple as asking to job shadow someone in the position you are seeking. Showing initiative is going to show your manager you are ready for the next step. It’s going to prove to your manager that you’re not just sitting around waiting for that extra responsibility in the promotion. You are actively taking it on to show that you can handle it now.
Keep A Record of Feedback
This is something I didn’t really do before coming to Salesforce, but it’s something I have become passionate about. In my organization within Salesforce, we have what we call a “Managing Up” document. It’s where we record the project we are working on, the feedback we received from a client or peer, and the date we received that feedback. I update this document any time I receive positive feedback so I can keep a rolling tally of all that goodness to show my manager each month. You can grab a free copy of this document right here!
It’s beneficial because in a lot of cases, your manager isn’t going to be on every single piece of email communication you send or in every single meeting you lead. If you’re not openly sharing that feedback with your manager, how would they ever know? This is a critical step in most promotions; managers are going to want to see what your clients or your peers are saying about you. Document this. When it comes time to have “the conversation,” you can confidently hand the document over with pride and have more ammo to prove why you deserve the promotion.
Is there anything else you’d add? What have you done in the past to push for a promotion with your manager? I’d love to hear your stories!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.
Great career advice Kelly!
How would you approach a situation when you confront your manager about applying for a promotion within the company and his response is that he thinks you’re definitely qualified enough and ready for a promotion, but since you’ve only been in the role for a little less than a year, it would be too difficult to work through with HR since they want you to stay in a role for a minimum of two years? If it was closer to 20 months or so, he would be more willing to fight the battle for me. Frustrating when it’s a job that I would be a perfect fit in too and he acknowledged that. This is how they’re going to lose talented employees.
Can I be honest? I think that’s total BS. I get that companies have rules to how long a person may have to stay in a role, but I’m sorry, if that person is exceeding expectations, they deserve the opportunity to get promoted. The fact that your manager even admitted you’re ready for the promotion and are qualified should be reason enough. It sounds like he’s being a little lazy, in my opinion. If he truly believes that, as a manager, he should be doing everything he can to see you succeed and help you get that promotion. Is there a way you can have another conversation with him about it? Ask him what it will take for you to get the promotion and what you need to do. If he still can’t guarantee it, is it worth it going to HR to bring it to their attention?
I had the same situation at my first job out of college. My managers told me they wanted to promote me but they ‘couldn’t’ because of company rules (i.e. there was a person above me that would have to be promoted or leave the team/company for me to get promoted). I was not having that especially since I was treated like crap, so I went directly to HR. They then even told me they couldn’t do anything either, so I decided it wasn’t worth it for me and left the company. It may come to that with your situation too. But, if you really love the company and see yourself progressing there eventually, stick it out. See if there’s ways you can continue learning in your current role. If you’re not truly happy though, it may be time to look elsewhere and move on.