Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

The 3-Step Plan That'll Significantly Up Your Chances of Getting a Promotion


Do you know someone who has run a marathon? Did you notice how he or she trained? Marathoners are very systematic in their training. They log their mileage, pace, and rests so they can best measure their progress and performance. Without tracking they would have no knowledge of their improvement. They might as well be running in place.

Your career’s a marathon, too, but do you track your performance? Do you have a system in place to measure your improvement and reach your goals?

While marathon training often involves fancy GPS watches, microchips in your shoe, and other technology, all you need for your career are tools you already have—some Excel or Google Drive spreadsheets.

Here are three easy ways to track your success and boost your potential this year.

1. Start a Learning Log

Have you ever found it difficult to think of the things you’ve accomplished off the top of your head when asked? Despite being busy all day, every day—your mind suddenly goes blank and you can’t think of any recent wins.

A learning log is a great way to combat that (common) problem, and you can create it using a spreadsheet. Title the first column “Date” and the second one “What I Learned.”
At the end of each day, fill that second column with something you learned about yourself, your job, your company, your industry—really anything. You’ll find you not only can rattle off information way better when prompted, but you’ll become acutely aware of your progress (or lack thereof), things happening at the company, and how you prioritize your work.

This puts you in position to foresee potential inefficiencies, become a champion for your company, work smarter, and at the very least—share what you’re doing when prompted.

Bonus: You’ll also make the most of your days. If you find that it’s 2 PM and you haven’t learned anything significant yet, you’ll refocus your efforts for the remainder of the day.

2. Create a Promotion Plan

What pairs really nicely with the learning log is another spreadsheet, called a Promotion Plan. It’s a document that you’ll create to use when you have a meeting with your manager to discuss your performance. (Already have that performance review on the calendar? Now you’ll be prepared!)

Here’s what your Promotion Plan should include:

Position Requirements Audit

List out the requirements of the position you would like next, or whatever responsibilities you would like your promotion to include—this can be within your department or even on another team. If you’re unsure of those requirements, take someone who’s currently in that position out for coffee. (Of course, if you work at a small company and moving up would involve this person losing his job—tread carefully. You don’t want to come off as cutthroat.) Then create three columns, titled “Needs Some Love, Meets, Exceeds.” Fill these out as honestly as possible. When the time is right (and you might need to set a meeting), ask your boss to also weigh in on where you stand.

Individual Requirements

Label the next group of tabs “Requirement One,” “Requirement Two,” and so on. Here’s where you can go more in-depth on any items that need some love. For example, if delivering presentations is a requirement necessity of the job you want, you should jot down any time you give a presentation, even if only to your internal team members. If there aren’t any upcoming opportunities, you should step up and volunteer to present at a meeting.

You can also use this to motivate yourself to develop the required skill outside of the office. For example, sign up for an online public speaking course, join Toastmasters, or even watch TED talks. Just Be sure to log all activities related to the required skill, and any accomplishments that happen as a result.

Now, when you meet with your boss—or he or she presents the case to promote you to his or her managers—there’s a document that can speak for your motivation as well as your achievements.

3. Create a Feedback and Kudos Folder

This is your final document. Here’s where you log any and all verbal and written feedback you receive as it comes in. Save those emails from clients about your great work, as well as the notes from colleagues that say you really helped the team on a certain project.

Anytime a co-worker or client says, “You’re really good at that,” or “I appreciate you taking care of [XYZ],” or “Thanks for helping me with [a certain project],” you should add those kudos to a running document as well. It can feel awkward to keep track of people saying nice things about you, but having a running list of compliments will inspire you to master those skills that need improvement.

Just remember not to sell yourself short. It’s easy to think, “Oh that was just a passing comment: It’s not that important. I won’t track it.” Instead of the, “Oh that was just” mindset, take the opposite approach and assume it's all significant. You can always go back later and decide if you’d like to cut something.

It’s much easier to make a case for your promotion when you have tons of compliments you need to whittle down, as opposed to no examples of positive feedback. Not to mention, it’s a nice little ego boost on a day when things aren’t going according to plan.

Remember, your career is a marathon. To avoid running in place, you need to measure your performance. You don’t even need any fancy technology: These three spreadsheets will give you a system to track your progress and achieve your goals.