Both you and your coworker, Cathy, excel at assignments, share similar responsibilities, and are seemingly on parallel fast tracks. Except that she just got promoted while you were bypassed. When you ask your boss about it, you’re politely encouraged to “keep on doing what you’re doing.” But really you want to do what she’s doing. What is she doing?
Many times bosses are reluctant to really say what’s holding you back. Why? Because there’s nothing “wrong” with your performance, per se. But just because there’s nothing wrong doesn’t mean that you’re doing everything right. It’s time to take a close look at how you show up in the workplace — meaning the persona you project and how others view you as a coworker or employee. You may unknowingly be holding yourself back.
Consider what characteristics could be giving the wrong impression about your worthiness for career advancement, using these tips to insure a promotion in the next round.
1. Earn relationship currency with coworkers. Keeping your head down and staying on top of assignments isn’t enough to get ahead. Conversely, playing the office clown or coming off as too laid back may mark you as unworthy for moving up. Play well with others by being personable and respectful to coworkers, superiors, and subordinates. Maintain a positive demeanor in the midst of stressful situations, striving to keep things light. Stifle negative remarks and office gossip. A positive, upbeat attitude makes you more likely to be promoted. Superiors and co-workers notice your positivity and want to work with you.
2. Break away from an outdated version of yourself. Has your manager pigeon-holed you as a less accomplished version of yourself? Maybe she still sees you as a junior before you were promoted from your assistant position. Or maybe she doesn’t recognize that you’ve earned your new degree. Perhaps your coworkers still equate you with a mistake you made in the past. It’s time to put the new you front and center. Don’t hesitate to speak to those who haven’t recognized your progress. Give them concrete examples of what you’ve accomplished or how you’ve improved. Be nice about it (and patient). Help them reshape how they view you.
3. Become your boss’s go-to person. While no one can fault your work, you may not have exerted yourself as someone eager to go above and beyond what’s required. Strive to earn a reputation as a can-do worker. Consistently strive for excellence instead of mediocrity. If you get out from under your assignments, don’t take a coffee break or answer personal emails. Instead, ask to take on more assignments or be given extra responsibility. Volunteer for a new project. If you can develop a reputation for dependability and quality, your superiors will see you as ready to move up to the next level.
4. Analyze your outward appearance. Always dress for success, patterning your work attire on the office management’s dress style, not the relaxed wardrobe of the junior employees. If your job involves taking out clients, be sure to match your dress code to theirs. If the client wears a suit each day, you need to wear a suit when you’re in her presence. Pay attention to hygiene and decorum. Showing up unpressed and untucked sends a subliminal message that you’re equally apathetic in your work habits.
5. Put in the extra time. If you’re efficient, you should be able to finish all your work by closing time — right? It may sound counterintuitive in this 24/7 world, but bosses notice when employees watch the clock and charge out the door at 5:00. Whenever possible, arrive early and stay as long as it takes to meet deadlines or put the final polish on projects. Make your workday unvaryingly productive. If you have children to pick up or a college night course to attend, let the boss know in advance. Offer to turn in any of the day’s uncompleted assignments later in the evening or before start-of-work the next morning.
6. Ask in order to receive. If you believe you’re deserving of advancement, let your boss know that you’re ready for the next challenge. Showing humility is a good thing, but know when to point out your accomplishments. Never assume that your work will speak for itself. Help it — by making the case for your advancement. Describe your contributions to the department and overall bottom line. Share how your experience and achievements have positioned you for the next round of promotions. Don’t leave out the salary bump you’re looking for, but do your homework on the industry average of your desired position so you don’t overreach.
7. Target a new supervisor. If it becomes apparent that your boss doesn’t respect you or isn’t willing to champion your advancement, it may be time to look elsewhere. Perhaps it’s possible to make a move to another department within the company. If you decide to pursue a new promotion outside your current company, you’ll need to find a superior who can provide a positive recommendation if your boss isn’t inclined to do so. It may mean targeting Cathy, your former colleague, as your advocate.
Written by: Vicky Oliver.
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