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Poised for a Promotion? Consider This First

Robin Reshwan

Feeling ready to move up before your manager taps you for a new role is a common workplace frustration. Often an employee's view of what constitutes readiness for a promotion is very different from her manager's perspective. Before asking for a move up, consider these four things.

1. Am I good at what I do? It seems simple, but actually being good at your job is often critical to earning the right to advance. Ask yourself if you are one of the top performers in your role AND if it is recognized that you are a top performer. Just because you think you're great doesn't mean anyone above you has noticed. Look for the obvious signs like compliments, performance reviews, bonus percentages and internal company results rankings to determine where you stand in management's eyes. If you don't yet have the reputation you want, seek out ways to demonstrate your value. Some ways to accomplish this are volunteering for high profile projects, demonstrating stronger results in performance metrics/rankings, collecting endorsements or references for your work and putting in more time at the office. In other words, make your contributions, effort and attitude obvious to those that have the power to promote you.

2. Am I more efficient? Think about how much time it used to take you to complete all critical tasks when you first started in your role. Then compare that to how you spend your day now. Employees that excel typically become more efficient in their original role to make room to take on more complex and often more valuable projects. Note how well you are doing in this area and what new duties you have absorbed due to your efficiencies. These accomplishments demonstrate that you can master new challenges and increase your value to the company. (They also serve as a great confidence booster -- very useful when negotiating your worth in a new role.)

3. Do I look the part of my desired position? It is not always spoken about freely, but "promotable" professionals carry themselves like the roles they aspire to attain. Evaluate the trends in dress, demeanor and work hours of those above you. Mirror those to the best of your ability. You don't need to be a clone, but chances are managers will be looking for someone to fit in with those patterns.

4. Have I backfilled my job? Early in my career, I asked for a promotion. My manager looked at me and said, "As soon as you have filled your shoes, the job is yours." Time and time again, I have seen that having someone trained and ready to take over my job is one of the best ways to move up. Of course, having an understudy who is loyal to you and would like to keep working for you is also a big plus. In general, one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are ready to ascend is to backfill your role. By accomplishing that, you are also saving your manager the time required to recruit and train your replacement.

If you have accomplished steps one through four, it is time to go after a promotion. If there is a position you're targeting, review the key requirements so that you can present how you are a good match. Even if there is not an opening today, make it known that you are interested in developing professionally. You can ask, "I have set a goal of becoming a POSITION X. What things would you be looking for to consider me for a promotion?" Find out if you are "viewed" as ready to move up or what would need to change to be taken seriously.

No one should care more about your professional development than you. If you take the time to honestly review your candidacy and ask the tough questions about what, if anything, is needed to help you move forward, then you will be poised for promotion.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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