Ever thought you were a shoo-in for a promotion at work, only to watch your boss announce the role was going to someone else? It’s got to be one of the worst feelings you can experience.
So I understood where a Lifehacker reader was coming from when they wrote to me recently for career advice.
After 15 years, this reader had hit a ceiling at their company; even though they had stellar annual reviews, they kept getting passed over for promotions to management level. “So I’m starting new at a different company (and slightly higher pay) and want to start with the networking and self promotion right away to advance quickly. What advice do you have?” they asked. “I’m sure networking with people above you (e.g. managers, directors, etc.) is a good step, but anything else?”
I knew there had to be some tips beyond plain old “networking” for this reader, so I reached out to some experts in the world of hiring and promotions. Here’s what they had to offer for someone who’s just landed at a new job and wants to grow quickly.
Set goals ASAP
“There’s no fast track to sustainable career growth,” warned Shannon Falotico, HR and talent manager at Circa Interactive, but you can take steps to signal that you’ve got big plans for your new role.
“Make it clear to your manager from the start that you’re excited to tackle the responsibilities of your new position, but that you also have long-term career goals,” she said.
Executive coach Sonya Sigler said not to wait for your manager to sit down with you to talk about goals. She tells her clients to formulate a 90-day success plan. “Set goals and then set expectations,” she said. “You are going to set new goals and meet them and then talk about meeting those goals. Everyone will associate you with meeting goals from the get go.”
Obviously, you won’t slack off once you hit 90 days, she said. But “Doing it right off the bat and then talking about it is what makes the difference.”
Learn something new
Being excited to expand your skillset can provide the push you need to get noticed.
“Be sure to take advantage of any and every learning opportunity,” said Kim Hoffman, director of talent acquisition at Intuit. “Chances are, there are free courses, trainings, or clubs offered at your company designed to build out skill sets—as well as network within the company.”
Think you’ve maxed out the hard skills for your role? Consider training outside of that realm. Consider introduction to management course if you want to move into a supervisory role, for example.
Record your achievements
In a perfect world, your manager is engaged in your professional development and will be happy to talk about your early accomplishments in your role.
But if they’re less enthused about hearing about your achievements, don’t let those wins fall by the wayside.
Falotico recommends tracking your accomplishments for your role in a spreadsheet or slide deck. Don’t forget to include those learning opportunities you’ve taken to expand your skills.
That way, when you do get a chance to sit down with your manager, you don’t have to rely on your memory to recall your greatest hits.
Find support beyond your boss
Still not getting the warm fuzzies from your boss? Take the conversation to a new outlet.
“Make a meeting with your HR representative,” Falotico said. “Most organisations have career mapping programs available, even if they’re not utilised frequently, and your HR rep should be able to provide career counselling.”
That HR professional may also be able to recommend someone in your organisation who can serve as a mentor to provide advice specific to your role and goals.
“Outside that mentor, make sure to ask for feedback from everyone you work with,” Hoffman said. “This helps to identify your strengths and opportunities for improvement.”
Act fast after a big win
Don’t let your achievements fade into the background before inquiring about your potential to advance. “Often promotion considerations are affected by the person’s most recent performance,” said Cook. “So if you are completing a particularly high profile project or have just beaten expectations on a deliverable, that is the time to start the promotion conversation.”
He explained that many promotion decisions are made based on the last two or three months of someone’s performance. But keep an eye on your company’s promotions schedule. If there’s only one time of year when everyone gets reviewed and a lot of people get shuffled around, that’s when you want to get noticed. “[You can] optimise your chances of progress if you can engineer your best results to delivered two-three months prior to this time window,” Cook said.
Be (somewhat) patient
“Promotions are very unlikely to occur within the first year after joining an organisation, but you have a sweet spot of two to four years,” explained Ian Cook, vice president of people solutions at Visier.
So don’t get antsy if you’re doing everything right but you don’t see progress on the pay or title side of things. You might not be in that ideal window yet—or you might be past it. “After five years…it slows down considerably,” he added. Cook said if you don’t get the growth you’re looking for in that five-year window, it may be time to change organisations.
Keep promoting yourself
Even if it’s not the time of year for reviews or promotions, you should still look for opportunities to remind your superiors about your skills and achievements. That especially goes for those skills you’ve had for ages, but don’t always get to call upon in your role.
“Getting skills noticed that you may not be using in your current role takes a major PR effort,” Sigler said. “You have to talk about your prior work experience and what you learned from that experience on an ongoing basis. Otherwise people forget—or they didn’t even know in the first place.”
Hoffman agreed. “You won’t get anywhere if you’re waiting around for a promotion to land on your doorstep,” she said. “I would recommend reviewing your company’s core values and ensure you are hitting each of those in every task you touch.”