6 Ways to Better Position Yourself for a Promotion

Guest post by Jennifer Pinto - Talent Management Professional, Professional Development Advisor, and John Maxwell Certified Coach

Do you feel you are ready for the next step, but aren’t quite sure how to make it a reality? Have you applied for new roles but never get the position? Employees often struggle with maneuvering the internal waters of their organization to get to their desired destination. While each situation is unique, here 6 tips to better position yourself for a promotion.

1.     Understand and build your personal brand: Do you know what your personal brand is and is it what you want it to be? Ask 3 – 5 various key stakeholders how they would describe you. If you don’t like what you hear, develop a plan to change it. Often, good employees get overlooked because they are incorrectly branded due to one mistake they made a while ago in front of the wrong people, and they didn’t even know the true impact it had on their reputation.

2.     Make your intentions known: This is a twofold strategy. First, subtly make it known to the movers and shakers of your company that you are open to exploring new challenges. Next (and I know this one can be difficult and/or uncomfortable conversation), you will want to have a career conversation with your manager. Frequently your manager will catch wind of available opportunities before you will. Also, if your Human Resources Department and hiring leaders have a set internal recruitment practice in place, they will probably approach your current manager about your application or your interest in another role before they reach out to you. Even if they don’t, the last thing you want is for your manager to be caught by surprise that you have applied for another role. The world is a very small place, and your underlying goal should always be to continue to build and strengthen your network – not to tear it down. In some cases, your manager may not be the most willing or understanding person when it comes to your career growth aspirations outside his/her team. In that situation, consider approaching your manager’s manager, engaging your internal mentor for advice, or reaching out to Human Resources for guidance.

3.     Get a mentor at least a couple of levels above you and cultivate the relationship: You can’t imagine the number of people I run across that don’t have a mentor. When it’s time to discuss an open role and possible internal candidates for that open role you want to have someone in the room to advocate for you, and that person will be your mentor. But it’s not enough though, just to have a mentor; you need to develop that relationship the same way as you would a friendship. Maintain regular communication, and ask for that person’s support and feedback. If you are truly vested in the relationship that will increase the likelihood your mentor will be as well.

4.     Do your homework: Do you know the ins and outs of the position or positions you are interested in being considered for? Will the roles play to your strengths, capabilities, and personal motivations? Do you know what a good day in that role looks like? Do you know what types of challenges someone in that role would need to overcome? Or, do you know what it takes to be successful in that role? Have you spoken with an incumbent in that role to better understanding what you will be accountable for and how your success will be measured? What skills do you need to be proficient in to be a viable candidate for that role? Do you know who the key stakeholders are for the role? What is the hiring manager’s vision for their function/team/business? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you probably haven’t prepared enough.

5.     Don’t apply for every role under the sun: Such a strategy will do more harm than good to your personal brand. Be selective about the roles you apply for. If you don’t apply for this position, other opportunities will become available ­– either inside or outside your company. Besides, do you really want to be stuck in a role that you don’t like for the next few years? That will lead to personal dissatisfaction, a lack of engagement, and may impact your productivity – all of which could hinder your chances of getting the role you want when and if it becomes available.

6.     Make sure your current state is solid: Often employees are eager to move on to the next, bigger and better thing. That’s great, but if you are so focused on what’s next then you may start to neglect what’s right in front of you. If you want to position yourself for a promotion, you need to be successful in your current role. It seems simple and like common sense, I know. However, time and time again I see employees apply for a role and get declined because their reputation precedes them; things like not being viewed as a team player in the current role, not hitting performance targets, having a poor attitude, lacking collaboration, being difficult to work with, and so on. Such negative factors may derail any future role you want to apply for. People talk; word gets around. No hiring manager wants to adopt the problem child of another manager. So manage your reputation and your current position.

At the end of the day, self-awareness is key - awareness of who you are, what you want, what you don’t want, what you are good at, and how you are perceived by others. That can make all the difference when applying for that big promotion. Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the promotion the first time around. Re-focus, do some reflecting, and go out there and try again. Find your sweet spot!


Jennifer Pinto is a John Maxwell certified coach, trainer and speaker. For over 14 years she has helped leaders and professionals, at various stages in their career, gain clarity and focus around their own strengths, opportunity areas and what that means to their career. She has also worked within private organizations partnering with senior leaders to design and implement effective people strategies and talent programs targeted at identifying and maximizing the talent within the organization. She leverages those insights helping her clients understand how to best market and develop themselves within their organization. Her website is  www.PinteraCorp.com.