You have always wondered how some of your classmates went up the career ladder ‘so fast’ that you feel inadequate. You could also have been trying to catch the boss’ eye and clinch that promotion (you think is long overdue), but nothing seems to work in your favour.
Well, maybe you could be the problem and/or you non-starter approach is your undoing. But worry no more as American Donald Asher, a career coach who has spent his career helping people get ahead shares tips that can help you ‘bag’ that promotion next time there is an opening in your organisation.
The author of 14 books, including Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, And Why, Asher, travels the globe talking to colleges, universities and MBA programmes about career development. He also works mostly as a career coach for top executives. Asher’s specialty is employees who want to put themselves on the fast track, which means a promotion every 18 months (if possible).
He says that after 30 years counselling clients on how to get promoted, he has developed a few crucial ideas and tips that when applied rightly help one get ahead fast.
“Most people think that a promotion is a reward,” he observes. Not so, he maintains.
“People get promoted because their bosses believe they will succeed in the next assignment.” The tricks to moving up fast, says Asher include: skill set and timing.
It also helps to nurture skilled lieutenants who can take over your job when you move up the ladder.
Companies have an institutional bias toward hiring from the outside, because promoting from within produces two staffing changes, he points out. If you have trained the perfect candidate to step into your position, then your bosses will be more likely to pick you for a promotion.
This may seem counterintuitive, but Asher counsels workers not to make themselves indispensable in their current jobs. If your bosses can’t do without you, how will they move you into another job?
Good timing is also essential. For instance, if you know that your company is getting ready to open an office in other town, you might wrap up the project you are working on in time to put yourself forward as the prime candidate to head that new outpost.
The career coach tells the story of a woman who worked in the human resources department of a major company. She thought her career was looking up when she received a critical assignment to help the company move its headquarters. But in the middle of the headquarters relocation, she learned that her employer was opening its first-ever office abroad.
That would have been the ideal chance for her to shift into a high-profile overseas assignment. But she was too burdened by the headquarters move to throw her hat into the ring for the job.
Company intelligence is worth its weight in gold, says Asher. If the HR professional had known about the new overseas office plans, she might have been able to delegate or even pass the headquarters assignment off to a colleague. Asher advises going even further. He suggests the HR manager could have scheduled a vacation to the region and started a skills development course, say in languages, in preparation for the job.
Asher counsels clients they should never go over their direct supervisors’ heads, unless they do it by paying their boss a compliment. “Praise is a Trojan horse for information,” he says.
As an underling, you can send a message about yourself to senior bosses, in the form of kudos for your supervisor. For example, you and your boss return from a tradeshow in a major regional city and you write a quick, enthusiastic note to the top brass, saying how much you learned at the show, mentioning that your boss did great and you accomplished your goals and more.
If you are offered a promotion within your company, always take it, advises Asher. If you don’t, you will run afoul of the unwritten rule that if you turn down a promotion offer, you will not get another.
Be willing to relocate. “You have to move to get promoted,” Asher insists. People working in nice places, especially in major towns, don’t want to leave, he notes. “But if someone says, ‘we want you to go to little-known outpost,’ and you say, ‘I’ll pass,’ you’re really passing up on everything forever.” However, you can be picky about location later in your career.
“There’s a difference between age 28 and 38,” says Asher. “If you don’t move in the early years, you’re losing the opportunity to break out of the pack.”
Another tip from Asher: Attach yourself to a superstar, who can give you plum assignments and help you surge ahead. The quintessential example of this is a president in his first term.
It also pays to learn new skills, says Asher, particularly at a time when the economy is in transition. Asher describes an HR professional who saw the recession coming and trained herself in downsizing. As her company laid off workers, she was promoted to help run its downsizing effort.