There was a time when I had a huge misconception on how promotions and succession planning actually worked. I can hear a younger, and more naïve version of myself saying things like “when I get that job, I’m going to start doing blah, blah, blah.” It wasn’t a flaw in my communication or intent, but a fundamental error in my outlook on life. In my mind, you were expected to work at the level you are currently at. You should try your best and be really good at your current job. For some this is true; they do not desire a promotion. Moving up doesn’t appeal to them, so they do their job, and their job only, and are perfectly happy with it.
But if you want that next level, desire a bigger role in the company and are craving that big salary and stock options, working at your level is not going to cut it. Even working at the higher end of your level is not enough.
See, if you want the next job, the next level up, you have to act like you already have it. That’s right, in your mind, you already have the role and are just waiting for the big wigs to make it official. Dress the part, talk the part, and walk the part.
Here’s why you should
Employers don’t want a project. Yes, we understand that when hiring someone for an internship or entry level position, there is going to be massive amounts of training and mentoring required. But choosing a manager or director, not so much. They’re rarely going to take a chance on someone that hasn’t already proven themselves. Why not go with a sure thing? Choosing someone for a position is very self-serving. You want someone who is going to make you look good. You want someone who needs little direction and can make great decisions. What you don’t want, is embarrassment in front of the big cheese or phone calls at 2 o’clock in the morning.
So you’re not there yet? Don’t freak out. Here’s how you do it.
Look like someone who would fill the role.
No, this alone should not get you the job, or something is really wrong in your company’s culture. But coming in dressed well, clean-cut, looking like you belong in the next level up will make a difference. A drastic difference if you are making a drastic change. People will notice. I’m not talking about $1000 suits here, keep it reasonable and simple.
Learn the language of your management.
Every company has buzzwords. At mine, engagement and excellence were key. Incorporate them into your everyday vocabulary. Be sincere though, believe in them and use them appropriately, so they actually make an impact when you speak. Don’t force it. Smart people will know if you are just faking it. Pay attention to how the higher ups at your firm speak and interact with each other, and train yourself to do it like them, but with your own twist. You’ve got to stand out.
Drive for excellence (there’s that word).
Never be satisfied. Push yourself, and most importantly, your peers for greatness. If you get 99% of something correct, focus on the 1% and how to fix it. Coach your peers when you believe they have made a mistake or could do better. Management will appreciate that, and they will truly believe that if you can coach your peers now, when you’re not the boss, you can surely do it WHEN YOU ARE the boss. Walk the walk before you have the job.
Real Smart. There’s a good chance you’re not going to know enough for the next job, unless you go out of your way to learn it. Do more than those around to become the smartest person in the room. Learn your business and the theory behind it. Study, read, and emulate others until you feel your level of knowledge is that of someone at the next level, then learn some more after that. I can’t stress enough the importance of level of knowledge.
Bottom line, you are so much more likely to get that promotion if your management believe that you transition to the next job will be seamless.
Show them what you’ve got.