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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

6 Ways to Prepare for Your (Someday) Promotion Now

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It almost sounds silly to say, but there are times when getting promoted isn’t really on your mind. Maybe you’ve just started a new job and are still getting into the swing of things. Maybe the next step up for you is a big, big step—one you won’t be quite ready for until a couple of years from now.

But even if this is the case, you still may want to get promoted someday. And, for that reason, there are a few things you should be doing to set yourself up for success. The good news is, they won’t take much effort now—but they’ll pay serious dividends when you’re ready to ask down the line.

1. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments

You know that feeling: You’ve been at the same job for a couple of years, it’s time to apply for a new one, and you pull out your resume. And—with a sinking feeling—you realize that you have to recall all of your accomplishments from the last 24 months, not to mention gather data to put numbers to them. (Just how much did that ad campaign you ran affect sales?)

The same goes when you’re up for a new gig at your current company. When you’re asking for a promotion, you’re going to want to have a rundown of all the amazing things you’ve accomplished at your job.

So, make your life then easier, and start a running tally of your achievements—think sales numbers, project results, and awesome client feedback. (Better yet, don’t just keep these accomplishments to yourself. After, say, the end of a big project, send a wrap-up email to your boss detailing the results.)

To get started making this a regular habit, try filling out this handy worksheet—it only takes 10 minutes a week to do!

2. Go to Training—and Keep Track of it, Too

Along similar lines, keep a list of any trainings you’ve been to or certifications you’ve earned—everything from that industry conference you attended to the company management training you went through to courses you’ve taken outside of work. This is so easy—just keep a note in your phone or on your desktop, and take a couple seconds to add to it any time you attend a new training—but it’ll seriously come in handy when you’re ready for that next level and can easily show your manager why you're qualified.

And yes, implicit in this step is that you’re actually going to trainings, conferences, and courses. Even if promotion isn’t immediately on the horizon, it’s always a good idea to keep gaining new skills—who knows when your HTML or press release writing prowess might be just what your department needs?

3. Pay Attention to Who Gets Promoted

If you’re in a small team or company, this can be tough, but try to keep an eye on the people around you. Which of your co-workers are getting promoted? When?

More importantly, is there a common thread among the people who succeed at your office? Pay attention to any signals you can glean—maybe they’re all super tight with your boss or they consistently exceed their sales goals by at least 10%. At a previous job, I heard my department manager joke that he’d never promote anyone who left at 5 every day—but joke or not, I noticed that he consistently stuck to that guideline.

Even if there’s no real pattern, you can learn a lot about what it takes to (eventually) move up at your organization by watching the actions, habits, and accomplishments of others who’ve been successful.

4. Be an Open Book

If your boss is like most, he or she cares about your career goals. (Really.) So, if moving up in your company is something you’d like to do someday, don’t be shy about sharing that. No, you shouldn’t remind him or her at every update you have, but it’s OK to bring it up from time to time.

At your reviews (formal or informal), mention that your goal is to grow within the company, and ask for your boss’ advice on what you can be doing now to eventually be ready for the next level. Or, seek out people who’ve been at the company for a while, and ask what their path to growth within the company looked like. If your boss and other higher-ups know that you want to be promoted someday, they can offer you insight and advice that’ll help you along the way.

5. Look for Ways to Pitch In

At most companies, there’ll be opportunities to join committees or take on responsibilities that aren’t necessarily part of your job description: Your company is overhauling its social media procedures and needs a representative from every department to sit on the project team, say, or your office is putting on a major fundraiser for the first time and needs someone to coordinate with the event planning company.

Assuming you’ve got a good handle on your current job, these can be awesome opportunities. You’ll gain new skills, you’ll meet more people at work, and you’ll learn about how things are done across the organization—all things that position you for that someday promotion. At my last job, I volunteered to sit in on a company-wide web redesign committee. When my department restructured and needed a head of web communications a year later, I was a natural fit for the role.

6. Dress for the Job You Want

I know. You’ve heard it a thousand times: Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got. But I think this message goes far beyond the clothes you wear every day: It’s how you present yourself in meetings and at office events, how you interact with staff both above and below you, and how seriously you take your work.

Look at how the people one step up from you look, act, and yes, dress, and start doing that now. Let’s be honest: If you wait until two months before you want to ask for a promotion to start acting the part, it won’t exactly look genuine. Step it up now, and hey—that promotion might just be closer than you think.

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