Are you on the lookout for a project or team that will provide you with promotion opportunities? Or maybe you’ve been asked to join a project and you’re wondering whether saying yes will help you get promoted?

Well, you’re not alone.

Here’s a question I was asked on my recent workshop on How to Get Promoted:

“If we can select projects and teams, how do we determine which would entail more promotion opportunities? What characteristics do you look for?”

How to choose the right projects

Promotion opportunities come from having the chance to demonstrate to the right people that you have what it takes to succeed at the next level.

So when you’re choosing your next project or team to join, you want to do it consciously and think about whether it will give you a platform for showing what you can do, developing more skills, and being seen and appreciated by the right people.

When it comes to figuring out what characteristics to look for, I like to think of it as a two-part equation: what can you get and what can you give?

What can you get?

The get part of the equation is important and here are six aspects you’ll want to look for.

Learning opportunities

Since getting promoted and advancing means you don’t want to stay static, it’s important that the projects you take on provide some element of learning so you can develop into that next level professional.

Learning can take many forms, whether that’s learning new skills, developing your understanding of a new market, or deepening your understanding of the organization you’re in.

While sometimes you’ll have to do the same thing with the same people in the same way, always try to stretch yourself to take on something that broadens your horizons when you can.

Mentoring from the leaders

Closely related to learning is what kind of guidance and support you’ll have as part of the project team. And this depends largely on the people who are leading the project, and the degree to which they like to take people under their wing and provide the kind of feedback that we all need to get better and get ahead.

At a minimum, make sure you know whether the leader is someone who likes to hog all the limelight and act as a gatekeeper from all the upside opportunities, such as presenting to senior management or attending key meetings.

Two kinds of visibility

This is primarily about being seen by people who can influence your future career prospects. Will there be an opportunity to work with or present to senior people and those in different areas of the organization?

As a side benefit, this could also help you with a second kind of visibility: your having visibility on what’s going on in other parts of the organization. That’s the kind of knowledge you can bring back to your own group, share and apply to foster new ideas and new ways of approaching your business.

Forming connections

Getting promotion opportunities comes from knowing and being known by people beyond your immediate circle of influence. If the project includes people from other areas of the organization, or even external stakeholders, that can broaden your opportunities for advancement.

Size of the stage

You also want to know how important this project is for the organization and therefore how big the stage is that you’ll be performing on. The more important it is, the easier it will be to attract resources and the more likely you will be to work with talented people.

While it’s generally best to work on the higher profile projects, the caveat is that these are the situations where senior people will tend to want more control, which could mean less autonomy for team members.

That said, it's usually worth it to be involved in something truly big and meaningful. Just look for a piece that you can carve out and own.

Does it spark joy?

Last but not least, you want to make sure it’s a project and team you’ll enjoy working on and with.

Even if something ticks all the other boxes, if it doesn’t spark joy for you, don’t do it. When something just doesn’t appeal to you, it’s hard to perform at your best. And that won’t put you in a better position to win promotion.

What can you give?

While it’s important to understand what you get from the project, you also have to add value. That’s the give side of the equation, and this boils down to two questions.

What value do you bring?

What you bring to the table are your strengths, skills and connections.

Make sure you get in touch with what these are for you. It could be technical skills, a fabulous network of connections to help get things done, an innovative way of approaching problems, an infectious positive energy that brings out the best in everyone, or some other set of assets that make you distinct.

It’s great to bring value, but if the project team and its leadership don’t or can’t make use of it, it’s hard to get any upside. Which brings us to the second question.

Will your value be appreciated?

This is a function of the business goals of the project and the people involved, especially the leader.

Take a look at the value you bring in the context of the specific business needs of the project. To what extent can the project make use of the talents you have? For example, if it’s a highly technical project, will your expertise on the user experience be seen as a valuable input or will it be disregarded? And if you’re one of five people with expertise in the legal aspects, how will you differentiate yourself?

If you’ve been approached for the project, you’ll learn a lot by asking what made them seek you out. If you’re the one promoting the idea, then it’s essential to have a clearly articulated rationale.

Open the door to promotion opportunities

So when you have an opportunity to select projects and teams, look for both what you can give and what you can get.

And when you do, it’s useful to focus on the value you bring, the other people involved, and how the project fits within the business priorities of the organization.

Once you choose, then commit and do your very best work.

And make sure you do what you enjoy. That’s the key to opening the door to more promotion opportunities.

What projects are coming up for you, and what characteristics do they have for helping you advance in your career?

Leave a comment and let me know.