My client Morgan called me recently with an important question about her career planning. After two years in her job as a project coordinator, she saw the majority of her colleagues stay at the same level of the organization—only a small portion of them were being promoted to the next level.
It wasn’t clear how she could become ne of the few selected to move to the next rung on the ladder and more responsibility?
If you’re looking for a path to promotion or a raise, here is the four-step plan I suggested to Morgan. If you take these steps now, you’ll position yourself for more by the end of this year.
Step #1: Get Clear on Your Value Proposition, Inside and Out
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is assuming that their manager knows everything they do and the impact they have on the organization. But in reality, no manager could possibly know that!
To position yourself for more, you have to understand and clearly communicate what you’ve accomplished, the results you’ve delivered, the superior qualities you bring to your work, and your ability to work effectively with others.
In short, you need to figure out how you make your manager look like a rock star for hiring you. And then you need to remind him or her of it.
Morgan, for example, had assisted on numerous projects, timelines, critical deliverables, and budgets. She’d navigated her first solo project and delivered her client’s needs with aplomb. She’d received numerous commendations and believed she was performing above the bar relative to her goals and peers.
They key, I told her, was to keep track of all of these accomplishments (try creating a “brag” folder), so that she had accurate records with documented, quantified results. Staying on top of your achievements helps keep you focused—and can help prove your case later, when you make the move to ask for a raise or promotion.
Set aside 15 minutes on your calendar each Friday to record key updates and accomplishments you’ve delivered that week. Be sure to focus on results, not just a list of tasks.*
Step #2: Share Your Accomplishments and Career Goal With Your Manager
Studies show that Millennials, in particular, want to be promoted quickly—sometimes without merit. In fact, one survey indicated that 40% of Gen Y employees felt they should be promoted every two years, regardless of achievements or work habits.
Maybe some organizations will come to embrace this way of thinking down the road, but it’s certainly not the case in most places today. For now, any raise or promotion you want will have to be earned.
Keep in mind, most promotions and salary increase decisions are made far in advance of the time you actually hear about them. So if you’re aiming for a move by the end of this year, have a conversation with your manager in the first quarter of the year to explain the accomplishments you’ve already achieved, and let him or her know what else you intend to achieve by the end of the review period.
Schedule a career planning conversation with your manager. Let him or her know you intend to be one of the high performers and want to move to the next level. Review the summary of the accomplishments you documented in step #1.*
Step #3: Ask What it Will Take to Get Promoted
Instead of leaving her career to happenstance, Morgan planned to ask her manager, “What do I need to accomplish to be promoted from project coordinator to project associate at the end of this review period?”
I told her to insist on specifics: What results need to be accomplished? In what timeline? What outcomes need to be delivered? How will those outcomes be measured?
Until you understand—very specifically—what it takes to be selected for a promotion, you do not have enough information to take the action you need to make it happen.
In your career planning meeting with your manager, ask, “What specific results and outcomes do I need to deliver, and what specific behaviors do I need to demonstrate to be promoted to project associate at the end of this review period?” Ask follow-up questions to get the specifics you need to build a plan to make that promotion happen. Leave nothing to chance!*
Step #4: Schedule Quarterly Reviews
Once you’ve completed your career planning conversation, schedule follow-up quarterly meetings with your manager before you leave the meeting.
Why? Because it will demonstrate that you are committed to making these results happen and that you’re going to hold yourself accountable for coming back to your boss with regular updates on your progress.
If you wait until later, it’ll be easy to push the meetings off or let other work issues get in the way. And if that happens, you can kiss that promotion goodbye!
As you wrap up your career planning conversation, coordinate calendars with your manager for the next three quarterly conversations.*
Once you’ve set up quarterly reviews with your manager and done this up-front work, you’re off to the races. Now, you need to deliver.
During each following quarterly meeting, ask for feedback about your progress. If your manager is serious about promoting you, you’ll get specific points on what you can do differently and how you can adjust. If you sense that your manager is wavering, it’s likely you may not see that opportunity materialize, and it may be time to think about your next move.
But no matter which way the road turns, you’ll get a huge boost of confidence and great career management experience by going through this process. And you’ll set yourself apart as a professional who’s on the way up.