Going after a promotion is not a straightforward process and there’s no way to be absolutely certain until the very end. So, the last thing you want is to make simple mistakes that could cost you your promotion.
We care about promotions because they’re usually accompanied by very positive outcomes. Like greater recognition and respect, higher pay and status, extra perks and motivation to keep going.
But getting promoted is stressful because it’s not something you can control. And not getting promoted can feel like a very public loss of face, or being sentenced to mind-numbing boredom.
No wonder most of us experience anxiety and late night worrying in the lead up to the big announcement.
Promotions get harder to land
Looking back on my investment banking career, the first couple of promotions were almost automatic. Even though everyone in our cohort was stressed out about the process, the reality was you got promoted as long as you hadn’t lost a lot of money or killed a client.
But the more senior I got, the more nerve-wracking it became. By then, I had a family to support, so the rise in pay would make a big difference.
There were many talented, deserving people but fewer openings. Even though the criteria were written down in the performance evaluation system, it wasn’t clear what it would take to land that promotion.
Whatever sector you’re in, over time the stakes keep getting higher.
So what can you do?
Avoid these 3 common mistakes
Aside from being excellent at your job and showing you’ve got great promise, one of the most important things you can do is avoid making simple mistakes that could cost you your promotion.
Over the years, from having been promoted 10 times in my 24-year career and from helping many others get promoted, here are the three most common mistakes people make.
Mistake 1 – Leaving it to the end
One of my team members waited until two weeks before promotions were going to be announced before he came to my office to make his case. By then, decisions had been made and new information wasn’t going to help.
Another team member spent the first half of the year operating at half effort. Then, he kicked into high gear a month before performance evaluations. While it was great that he was calling on clients more actively and participating in our internal meetings more proactively, it was too little too late.
Start thinking early, know what promotion you’re aiming for a year from now, and carve out some time to make a plan.
And if you’re worried it’s too late, there’s no better time to start than right now.
Mistake 2 – Being invisible
One of my unsuccessful promotion attempts could be traced back to not being visible enough.
Having landed the two promotions before this one, I used the same strategy that had worked twice before, which was keeping my head down, working hard, and doing a great job at my job.
But when my boss took my promotion case to the committee, it was rejected. When he presented my case, no one around the table knew who I was. His was the lone voice in the wind. And in a tough year for the business, that was enough to cost me my promotion.
Don’t hide your light under the proverbial bushel. Show up at events with senior people, speak up in meetings, and let people know what you’re working on.
Mistake 3 – Upsetting your boss
I’ve had people tell me, “My clients love me, the senior department heads think I’m terrific, I get along great with my colleagues and my team. It’s just my boss that I have a problem with.”
I’m thinking, “And you expect to get promoted?!”
Unless your boss is about to be fired, I’ve never seen anyone get promoted when their boss doesn't rate them.
If you haven’t figured out the care and feeding of your boss, this would be a great time to do it. This is the time to be doing your job well, which includes making your boss look good and making their life easier.
What’s your next step to getting promoted?
While you can’t promote yourself, you can put yourself in a position to be promotion-ready.
As you look toward your promotion, keep working hard but also keep your eyes focused on the promotion prize.
When you keep those lines of communication open and steer clear of these common mistakes, you’ll have less to be anxious about and you’ll be ahead of the game.
So, what’s your next action to take?
If you’re unsure about what to do to be promotion-ready, then join me on Wednesday, September 20th for a special online workshop. It’s called:
In this special workshop, I'm going to reveal what it takes to land your next promotion.
If you’re stressing about an upcoming promotion, wondering why you were passed over for the last one, or simply wanting to advance your career and get prepared for the stages ahead, then this workshop is for you.