With some companies beginning to emerge from the recession and pursue growth plans again, moving up the corporate ladder could be on your mind. Taking on a higher-level position -- and, ideally, the corresponding bump in pay -- could be especially appealing if you've assumed added responsibilities or put in longer hours during the downturn. What can you do to ensure you're on the short list of candidates for a promotion? Here are some tips:
1. Talk to your manager.
Your supervisor has a large say in your chances of earning a promotion. Don't assume he or she is aware of your desire to grow your career. Speak to your boss about your long-term plans. Your manager may know of opportunities within the department, or elsewhere in the company, and be able to help you evaluate and prepare for the opportunities. Your boss also has a more objective view of your professional strengths and weaknesses than you do and can provide an honest assessment of what steps you may need to take to assume a new role.
By involving your boss in your quest for a promotion, you can discuss with him or her any questions or challenges you face. For example, if you are an administrative assistant in the marketing department and are interested in a position as an account executive, your supervisor's feedback could help you determine if such a transition would be right for you.
2. Upgrade your skills.
There's a good chance you may lack some of the necessary skills or qualifications for a higher-level role. The supervisory position you're eyeing, for instance, may require knowledge of budgeting procedures or recruiting techniques. In some cases, you may even have to earn a new certification, license or degree.
You also need to consider if you have the necessary soft skills. A promotion may require you to do less hands-on, technical work and instead manage people, oversee projects, help various groups reach consensus or negotiate with vendors. If you lack experience in these areas, work with your manager to identify the appropriate training opportunities. Also, volunteer for projects that allow you to build skills in essential areas.
3. Expand your network. Being connected at work has multiple benefits. Most obviously, you could learn of opportunities you might not have otherwise been aware of. You also may meet someone who can provide insight into the job or type of position you seek. A manager, for example, could outline the steps he took to move up from a staff-level role and warn you about any stumbling blocks he faced.
Perhaps most importantly, networking with others allows you to boost your visibility within the company, increasing the likelihood that someone considers you when a position becomes available.
4. Gauge your interest. The most crucial part of preparing for a promotion is determining if you truly want it. While it's safe to assume that you want any additional compensation or perks the job offers, do you also want the additional responsibilities? After you've learned more about a role you're interested in assuming, ask yourself if you can do everything the position requires. Take into account not only your skill set and qualifications but also your life outside of work. If you have young children, for example, will your work/life balance suffer? Will a higher-level position require you to play office politics? Are you comfortable transitioning from peer to manager if you take a supervisory role?
A promotion is a great way to advance your career, but remember that it isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. You're unlikely to jump multiple rungs on the corporate ladder in a single move. So keep your eye on the position you want to assume eventually and focus on the steps, even if they seem small, that will allow you to get there.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.roberthalf.com/.
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