There is one essential thing you can do to improve your chances of getting promoted dramatically. And failing to do so will almost certainly put you at a disadvantage to those who do.
Make sure your boss knows your ambition and that you want to stay
The number one thing you can do to get promoted is to let your bosses know that you are looking for one. If you do that correctly, you will remove any doubt that you are right for a more senior role.
I’m not saying you should storm into a partner’s office and demand a promotion this week, I’m saying you should let your plans to grow within the firm be known.
Remove all doubt that you might leave after the promotion
Everyone hates it when someone leaves right after a promotional round. So most bosses will try to make sure that you want to stay before they promote you.
If you’re looking outside the firm or just want to change departments, your boss is not going to be very eager to spend a lot of time to help develop your career.
Do not underestimate this point. It is a huge pain in firms with the high turnover you see in investment banking and consulting.
… but why would anyone think I’m leaving?
It doesn’t matter if you think you have done nothing to make people believe you are looking for outside challenges. As long as you haven’t said you want to stay, you are considered a flight risk.
Tell your boss that you enjoy working there and that you are motivated to work hard the next year to take the next step up. And do it early so she has time to see you develop over the year.
Get the timing right
You need to know when you are up for a promotion. If you’re working in a law firm, an investment bank or a consulting firm, the hierarchical levels are usually pretty strict.
In an investment bank, the standard employee starts out as an analyst, then becomes an associate, VP, Director and MD. And then there are varieties of partners or head of divisions depending on where you work.
You don’t just outperform as a 1st-year analyst and get promoted to associate. You usually stay on for 3 years, and then you’re up for a promotion.
There might be some wiggle room for early promotions, but it depends on the firm. Sometimes there’s a hard policy in place on not promoting anyone early. Know when you’re up for one, and work accordingly.
Start asking what you can improve one year ahead
If this is the year you know you can get promoted, you should have a chat with some of the seniors you work for. Ask them directly what they think you need to improve to be promoted this year.
Most bosses will be happy you asked, and will willingly share pointers on what you need to improve.
If you’re an analyst, you might need to improve your powerpoint skills. As an associate, it might be the timing of your deliveries, or how you work with clients.
In a more senior role, you will need to develop more leadership skills, coordinate larger projects and bring in your own contacts (Read how to network here).
Note down the steps you’re taking to improve and share your steps with others during the year.
Don’t slack on your other skills either
In the end, you need to get good performance reviews, and there’s no room for underperformance in any area.
Make sure you show initiative and work well socially within the group. How your colleagues perceive you is still important.
Work well with your clients and bosses, but also the people at your level and below. Treating someone badly won’t get you anywhere these days.
I know I said this is a guide to the one thing you need to do to get promoted, but we all know this needs to be a part of your total package.
What to do if you didn’t get promoted
Is there any wiggle room to negotiate in the room when they tell you that you won’t get the position you wanted?
Both yes and no. You won’t be able to push the decision right then and there, but you might ask for a possibility for a mid-year promotion and what you need to do to get there.
Threatening to take another offer might also get you there in the end, but you need to be ready to walk if you don’t get it. And even if you do, you will probably have ruined the standing you had with your bosses.
Have your own promotional stories or tips to other readers? Share in the comments section below or DM us on Instagram.
Further reading …
If you’re looking for other concrete tips on how to get promoted at work, check out the following articles: