New year, new job title. If moving up at the office is on your list of to-dos for 2016, now is the time to start positioning yourself for a promotion. While advancing at work is sometimes a matter of luck (the right job opens up at the right time), it’s more often the result of diligent effort.
“Doing a good job isn’t nearly enough” if you want to get promoted, Tim Toterhi, an executive coach with Plotline Leadership and the author of The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting, said. “You have to prove – ideally with metrics – how you are contributing more than people in similar roles.”
Excelling in your present job is just the first step to a fancier title and a bigger salary, though. In addition to a list of accomplishments in your current role, you also need to demonstrate you have what it takes to be an all-star in the big leagues. Prove to your boss you’re ready for greater challenges and more responsibility by keeping these five tips in mind.
1. Let your boss know what you want
Waltzing into your boss’s office and demanding an unearned promotion probably won’t go over well. Yet if you don’t make it clear you want to advance in your career, your boss may not consider you for a different job.
“If your boss isn’t aware of your interest, it will be harder for him or her to initiate the moves on your behalf that you seek,” Nihar Chhaya, the president of coaching firm Partner Exec, said. Mention your goal of moving up the ladder during your annual review and identify specific steps you can take to grow in your career.
You’ll also want to keep your ear to the ground at work so you’re aware of any vacancies. If a position opens up and is a good fit for your skills and goals, put yourself forward as a candidate.
“If you are interested in an opening, don’t wait for your manager to come to you about it. Be proactive and bring up the topic first,” Mari Corella, the director of digital merchandising and operations at Avon, said. Even if now turns out not to be the right time for a promotion, you should still go the extra mile to support your boss while he scrambles to fill an open position. Doing so can pay off in the future, since it “shows you are a team player and offers you a stretch project,” she said.
2. Groom your successor
It’s the successful employee’s catch-22. You’re so great at your job, your boss doesn’t think he can live without you, and you never get promoted. Rather than consider you for the job you want, he prefers to keep you right where you are so he won’t have to find a replacement.
“If you are as good as you think, some managers will be reluctant to let you go,” Toterhi said. “Take that concern off the table by grooming your successor.”
Not only will training someone else to take over your responsibilities assuage your supervisor’s fears, but it can also be a great way to show your own leadership skills.
3. Help other people succeed
Excelling at your own job is important if you want to advance, but so is helping other people with their work. Stepping in when you see others floundering and volunteering to cover for a coworker who is on vacation show you’re committed to everyone’s success, not just your own. Doing everything you can to make your boss look good is also important.
“Find out what’s important to your boss, what their goals are, and help them reach them. You can’t be successful if your boss isn’t,” Rasheen Carbin, the CMO at nspHire, a job search app for millennials, said.
Taking over some of your boss’s duties while he’s out of the office is an especially good way to convince him you’re ripe for a promotion.
“You can position yourself to be on the short list when a supervisory position opens up if you have acted in the boss’s stead in the past,” Cheryl E. Palmer, the owner of Call to Career, a career coaching and resume writing firm, said.
4. Nurture relationships
You know you need to buddy up to your boss to get ahead, but other relationships matter too. Get to know people within your entire organization, from the receptionist to your boss’s boss.
“Work on forming deeper working relationships, both with your peers and your superiors,” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, said. “Ask people in different departments out to coffee or lunch. Guide conversations with people to learn more about them, what motivates them, and where they might need your help.”
In addition, a mentor or “internal champion” who can put in a good word for you can be invaluable, said Palmer. “Having someone else who is influential make the case for your promotion can be far more effective than you tooting your own horn.”
5. Learn new skills
The skills that make you successful in your current role may not be the ones you need to succeed in a different position. If your employer offers professional development opportunities, take advantage of them. Or, sign up for free training classes on sites like EdX and Coursera (as a bonus, taking charge of your own professional development also shows you’re a motivated self-starter).
In some cases, heading back to school for an MBA or other advanced degree or formal certification may be the trick to getting ahead.
“For many fields an advanced degree is becoming a necessity,” said Palmer. “Getting that degree can be a good reason for an employer to give you a raise and maybe even a promotion.”