With stubborn high unemployment and a stock market that is still riding a rollercoaster, this seems like an inopportune time to even think about a promotion, right? Wrong! Start building a foundation for your promotion while others around you are simply happy to clock in and out and collect a paycheck.

If you didn’t lose your job during the recession, you probably took a pay cut and/or forwent a salary increase. And more work was plied on your plate – as a bonus. Now, as the economy slowly wakes from its slumber, many of us aim to return to where we where before. Instead of aspiring to return to your old salary and old job expectations, take action now – before budgets open back up – to position yourself for a promotion later this year.

#1:  Step up to the plate to do more visible work.

You’ve hear this saying many times before: it’s not the quantity that matters; it’s the quality. This rings true to how we apply our expertise in the workplace. How much you do means very little compared to how you approach it and what you produce. Therefore, to position yourself for a promotion, be selective about your projects. If you must take on additional work, lobby for assignments that put you and your results in front of your manager’s supervisor and your manager’s peers. Exert more effort towards ventures that put you in front of customers. The more visible you and your efforts are the more likely you’ll come to mind when promotions become possible.

#2:  Network internally.

Going to conferences, workshops, and business events helps you build your LinkedIn network outside of your company. Time to look inward. Select individuals within your company who are influential; think of people who admire–for how they act, what they say, and what they produce. Reach out and offer to buy coffee or lunch and approach the conversation as a two-way street. Depth of interaction is important internally as it is externally: quality, not quantity. If your manager, perhaps your biggest supporter, leaves, his/her peers may move up. Therefore, network with your manager’s peers now. Approach networking with your peers with the same thought in mind; as you progress within the organization, they may do so as well. Gain knowledge and create partnerships before you need to use them.

#3:  Think laterally.

Most of us associate promotions with going up, getting a bigger or better title, and more money and influence. A promotion of a different type is a lateral one. For example, if no advancement is possible within your Sales department, consider a path in different yet related functional area, such as Marketing. When you take a step like this, you position yourself as someone who is eager to develop new skills, someone who sees cross-functional expertise as crucial to the success of the business.

One thing I feel scores of us forget to do when preparing for a promotion is to actually ask for one! We assume, in good times or bad, that if we aren’t offered advancement, well, then it must not be possible.
Share with your manager your enthusiasm for remaining an active–not passive–participant in your company’s success. Share what you want and how you plan to get there. Say something like, “I’d like to prepare myself for Director-level position when the company is ready to promote me. I have some ideas on what to do, and I’d love your opinion and help.” Ask your manager to be your partner and sponsor.

© Leila Bulling Towne  2010

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