Promotions: 10 Tips for Moving Up the Corporate Ladder

I recently had the honor of being the featured guest on ChaChanna Simpson's BlogTalkRadio Show, A Stellar Day with ChaChanna. The 45-minute show, "Movin' on up in your company," covers how to have promotion conversations, tips for moving up the corporate ladder, and common promotion pitfalls to avoid. Listen here, or for those of you who don't have the patience to listen to audio (like me!), I've summarized my talking points below. Summary of my key points - 10 Tips for Moving Up the Corporate Ladder:

  1. Don't just focus on promotion as an end in itself - It's like losing weight: you can either focus solely on the number on the scale or on getting healthy overall. Getting healthy has many more fringe benefits. Similarly, don't just focus on the promotion itself. Focus more on the competencies, expectations and behaviors that will lead to a promotion; you'll be better off in the long run and most likely get there faster.
  2. Build your career like a pyramid not a ladder (Carol Bartz) - Don't be afraid of horizontal moves. Focus on finding work that is soul-stirring (as Tim Gunn would say) and make adjustments along the way. Much better (for most people) to focus on finding work that is a great fit rather than just on getting promoted. Sometimes you have to make a lateral move, but if it leads to greater happiness and productivity, it's probably worth it in the long run.
  3. Have the right conversations - ask your manager: what does success look like? In 3-6 months, what would you love to see me doing? What should I be doing to operate at the next level?
  4. Be an observer - Pay attention to people who have been recently promoted or who work in the level above you. What skills, experiences and attitudes do they have?
  5. Save the entitlement - You may think you deserve a promotion (and you might be ready) but also be aware that much of the time people think they deserve promotions earlier than their managers might think so. Be willing to compromise and navigate this through open, direct conversations. Also remember that it often depends on many factors outside of your job performance alone (the economy, other people in the company, etc).
  6. Networking is key - Often there will be more people involved in deciding whether to promote you than just your direct manager. Try to get experience working on projects that involve other leaders within the company.
  7. Want a promotion? Ask for more responsibility instead - In many companies, you pretty much have to already be operating at the next level before you get promoted. Keep this in mind. Keep asking for more responsibility.
  8. Stand out - Make yourself indispensable by being proactive, having a positive attitude and being a flexible "team player." Come up with ideas, solve problems before your manager asks. Do what it takes to be their right hand.
  9. Don't sacrifice your sanity just to work toward a promotion - It's not worth it! You'll get angrier and angrier if the promotion doesn't come right away, but mostly because YOU are giving too much. Keep the balance and remember to have fun, even as you're trying to move up the ladder.
  10. Focus on impact, not just output - As you are taking on more and more responsibility, focus on delivering quality work that makes an impact. Be able to show that the work you are doing is improving the company in a material way (for example: increasing sales, making processes more efficient, making programs more effective).

What did I miss? Any other tips for moving up the corporate ladder?


While you have your headphones on:

For those of you social media newbies out there, I also recently delivered a 40-minute webinar for People OnTheGo called "Accomplishing More with Less: 4 Social Media Tools You Don't Want to Live Without." I cover the basics of Google Reader, Delicious, TweetDeck and WordPress. Take a listen: Part 1 and Part 2.