One of the endearing traits of Millennials in the workforce is their desire for constant feedback and positive reinforcement. What supervisors may consider “simply your job,” Millennials consider grounds for a raise and a swift promotion.
The good news is that raises and promotions are available. The bad news is that they usually don’t come automatically.
Here are nine proactive strategies you can take to accelerate your next promotion.
1. Ask to Do More
Several years ago when I joined a big consulting company, I constantly received the career advice, “Always ask your boss what more you can be doing.” Later, in a corporate role, my colleagues told me, “Around here, you have to do the job at the next level for a while before you get promoted into that level.” The bottom line is that promotions aren’t free. You have to work for them. That means going above and beyond. Maintaining the status quo will keep you right where you are.
2. Make Your Boss Successful
In his book The Effective Executive, management consultant Peter Drucker observed that the employee of a weak leader is rarely the first choice for future leadership opportunities. Instead, they tend to go to employees of other effective leaders. Though not impossible, it is much tougher to be promoted without the support of your current boss.
Even from a purely self-centered standpoint, the success of your boss should be a very high priority. The more successful your boss is, the more likely you are to be given additional opportunities. Always look for ways to make your boss successful and to do the things your boss dislikes, overlooks or doesn’t possess exceptional skill in.
3. Be a Team Player
A senior executive at the FBI once told me the mark of a great leader is someone who is good at making other people look good. In other words, leaders don’t focus only on themselves, they focus on making the people around them successful as well.
When was the last time you observed a colleague go out of her way to make another colleague look good? To share the credit? To pass a question to someone else in a meeting to deliver the good news? Team players are the kind of people leaders want around them. Not only that, teamwork is truly the next great competitive advantage.
4. Look for Additional Education and Growth Opportunities
If you aren’t continuing to grow and develop new skills, you’ll never be able to make a good case for promotion. It many organizations, you’ll be expected to perform at the next level before you’re given the opportunity, not after. Instead of waiting for the organization to develop you, look for opportunities to develop yourself. Identify the skills and technical expertise you’ll need at the next level and get to work. Read development material, research new trends in your industry and ask advice from colleagues in the job you want. Go above and beyond by sharing what you’re learning with your team so they can benefit as well.
5. Observe the Success and Failures of Others
The most free leadership education you will receive is the one you get by observation. Every day in your organization alone, leaders make hundreds of decisions and communicate in countless ways. In many respects, you have a front row seat to the action if you’ll just pay attention. If you can identify the cause and effect of the actions of the leaders around you, and then employ the best practices, your own leadership potential will soon outpace that of your oblivious or distracted peers.
6. Develop Someone Else’s Employee
Many go-getter individual contributors look forward to the day they can lead a team and invest in their team members. There’s just one misnomer with that sentiment: you don’t need to be the boss to develop someone else. Simply take what you’ve learned and share it with someone else who could stand to benefit. If you don’t manage any employees, take the opportunity to develop someone else’s.
7. Solve an Organizational Problem
Underneath the top layer of critical organizational priorities are a wide host of other items senior leaders would love to address but don’t have the time to get to. If you take the initiative to discover what some of these items are and make a meaningful contribution toward one of them, your efforts will be very much appreciated, perhaps even by senior management – especially for a project no one else wants to tackle! Be careful to manage your expectations though – many of these types of priorities require the help and resources of someone higher up the chain of command. It may take a couple tries before your efforts gain the momentum they need.
8. Make Someone’s Job Easier
One of the ways I see young professionals stand out in positive ways is when they take the time to improve a process that others have put up with for some time but don’t have either the time or knowledge to address. Many of these improvements are a product of focus more so than time or effort. I frequently hear young professionals deflect praise for these improvements, saying “that was no big deal.” Anytime you make someone’s job easier, it’s noteworthy.
9. Make the Customer Happy
Ultimately, your organization exists to serve someone, but it’s a travesty how often the customer experience gets overlooked in the busy day-to-day. The more you give customers a voice, the more you’ll stand out. Simply asking the question, “What would the customer care about most?” in a business meeting will help the team stay focused on the number one priority. And anytime you can go out of your way to deliver a positive customer experience, you’ll earn the additional trust of your superiors.
At the end of the day, you’re never too unqualified to set a good example. Many of these items are simply the right thing to do at all times. The more proactive you can be in these areas, the greater your chances of speeding up the next promotion.