Getting promoted fast

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

One famous question that I am often asked when I train employees in many organisations is how to get promoted faster without stagnating in one position.

Every time I am asked this question I feel so happy thinking how lucky our country is to have such energetic, futuristic young generation with visions for their lives, as that will definitely contribute to the growth of the organisations as well as to the development of the country. Yet at all times I sense they simply want short cuts to the next level which really depresses me. This is a typical feature of the ‘Y’ Generation.

In an era in which businesses and economy change rapidly, there is an increasing need for individuals to take charge of the development of their own learning and careers. These changes in organisations occur in various ways; it may require a great deal of knowledge, skills and positive attitudes than ever.

Career ladders/paths are rapidly shrinking or disappearing as most of the organisations lead to flatter structures. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that employees should look for short cuts.

My grandfather told my father, “Son, learn the ‘tricks’ of the trade”. My father told me, “Son, learn the trade”. If young people want to climb rapidly in their careers, it is not impossible. They must know the business, understand the industry, know the environment within which the industry sector thrives or is throttled and, know and understand the customer very well.

What is Career Planning?

Career planning is a continuous process, which includes choosing an occupation, getting a job, growing in the job, possible changes in careers, and eventually retiring. Gone are the days that we plan for our careers once in our lifetime. But it is more likely to happen several times as we first define and then redefine ourselves and our goals.

Succession planning is more or less the other side of the coin. This is the responsibility of the employer. Through this process management or the employers can identify and develop internal people with the potential to fill key leadership positions in the company. Succession planning will also ensure the retention of experienced and capable employees who are prepared to assume new roles.

Whilst ‘succession planning’ is the intervention of the management to provide career growth for the right persons, individual development and growth is the responsibility of the respective individual.

What should you do to get a promotion?

First select and work for companies that can give you room to grow! Work for a type of company that can determine your potential for promotion. When applying for jobs, seek out companies with opportunity for advancement.

You don’t necessarily have to work for a huge corporation, although these usually offer plenty of promotion possibilities at any given time, but you do want to look for a company that has enough going on so that you can be assured you’re not running into a dead end. There are some business organisations that do not encourage career growth or support bright performers to grow.  

Think often where you are and why are you there

Every employee should take time to ask two questions from themselves. Where they are now?  Why are they there? This will help employees to study their key strengths that brought them up to that level and whether that strength alone can continue to be the leverage for the next promotion.

A personal SWOT analysis would help you to find weaknesses that you really need to correct before the next promotion. Pause to consider whether your company would re-hire you.

Where do you want to be and how do you get there?

Just saying that you want to get promoted is not sufficient. You need to be clear on your next position or target. You need to have an objective and goals set for you. Writing them on a paper will help you to re-arrange things. That will make you serious on the achievement than fantasising your targets. If you are planning on a promotion, in which section should it be, is it in the same department, in the same town?

If you are fortunate, you can even work this out with your immediate boss. Most bosses do not promise that promotion at such discussions but at the very least you get an idea of what the expectations are.

Do your best now

Do your best now, today. Most of the employees tend to relax in the glory of their previous achievements. Do not relax or pause because business does not wait for you. Further, no one else cares about it especially your bosses.

Do not think too much about future projects that are not implemented yet. That is in the future. When you reflect too much on the past and think too much about the future, you lose your focus on ‘now’. Thus focus on doing your best now. It decides how you are being judged.

I recall with great pride, my tenure at Mackwoods Winthrop (Sterling Winthrop), a Pharmaceutical Multinational Company. I joined as the Head of Human Resources and soon was re-titled as Director of Human Resources. My probation ended in six months and I was confirmed in employment from the seventh month.

In the eighth month since joining the MNC and in the second month after confirmation, I was appointed Regional HR Director, Sterling Winthrop, East Africa Region and based at the regional office in Nairobi, Kenya. The Region consisted of eight countries, i.e., Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Ruwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Mauritius. Now,

how did I climb with such speed? Well, no shortcuts… it was working hard and smart, delivering over and above expectations of country and regional goals. Consistency, focus and a aggressive determination to get things done, backed with results and not ‘excuses’, helped me achieve this regional post.

Do more than necessary

If you want to get promoted, do more than necessary and more than you are asked to do. You should take the ownership of the work given; volunteer to take new initiative in performing the job better. In other words you should not be sitting around waiting for work to come to you.

 With the rapid growth of business, bosses like to have subordinates who can really support them in problem solving and decision making. They prefer to have people who think out of the box, quick, and practical than having clerks who do only what is being said.

Being an efficient executive means that you are an asset to the team. Team will need you, they will respect you and you will become a competitive advantage for them. Bosses can tell if someone did more than is required for a particular job. A person with such attitude usually gets noticed. When matched with equally good work, a job promotion isn’t hard to come by.


 This is one advice that could be given to get promoted and many young employees find difficult to take. That is why they think of short cuts to climb the career ladder. Hardworking maybe sounds ‘thorny’ to many.

In order to be promoted you should be efficient and capable of handling work and should be able to take responsibility. When it comes to performance appraisals your superiors will talk more about working smart and getting the result than working hard. Yet you still need to be hard working in order for the results to show. Any short cut that does not require being hardworking will not bear quality.

Take personal responsibility

Passing the buck is one of the famous games in Sri Lanka. Do not play the game ever. Learn to take personal responsibility for the things that you do. If you made a mistake, accept it and say sorry. Bosses forgive employees who admit their mistakes and make efforts to change and learn from the mistake than those who provide excuse.

Manage time

 Time management is the major challenge you face when perform your job. Time is irreplaceable regardless of how senior or new you are. With good time management skills, you are in control of your time and your life, of your stress and energy levels. Someone who postpone, delay and idles time away will find that career promotion hard to come by.

Learn new things

Learning new skills and things is highly important in getting promotions. Take every opportunity through which you can learn new things.  Then you will be able to prove to the management that you have developed your skills and knowledge that is required for a promotion. They will impress by seeing your interest and commitment to learn skills that go beyond your current position.

Ask for more responsibility

If you think you are ready to get a promotion, it is advisable, not to use word promotion and request it from the boss. Instead, you tell your boss you’re ready to take on more responsibilities, it will show that you’re prepared to tackle a larger or more complicated workload and aren’t just looking for a bigger office and fatter pay check.

Show them the numbers

When you make the back ground for a promotion, you need to tell the management and others what you have done for to add value to the company. It will back your case if you can show your employer or supervisor specific results.

It is advisable to prepare documentation showing how and how much your brilliant ideas have helped them. This can be especially useful in the common scenario in which the person you’re dealing with doesn’t have the power to grant you a promotion.

See challenges as opportunities

The employees who take challenges as opportunities and do creative things to achieve expected targets tend to get promoted than those who complain about challenges and think of them as a burden. Mostly managements tend to give challenging assignments for young executives to handle.

If you want to be promoted, look at challenges as opportunities to shine.

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)

Recent columns