Category Archives: Promotions

5 career books to help you get promoted

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This article does not contain affiliates links. I am in no way compensated for recommending these books. They are just good reads that helped me in my own career and can help you in your career too.

From Day One: CEO Advice to Launch an Extraordinary Career by William J. White

From Day One is a great read for recent college graduates and experienced professionals alike. William J. White was the CEO of the Fortune 500 Bell & Howell Company prior to his retirement.

This book discusses how to develop your career from new hire, to first time manager, onto habits for a successful career. Take a look at this book if you want to learn how the most successful corporate professionals create extraordinary careers.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

Wharton professor Adam Grant takes on the notion that selfish people finish first in life. In fact, he argues that people who “give” to others are more successful in life than those who “take” from others.

If you are looking to succeed in your career while keeping your morals and ethics, this is a great book to help you along the way.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

We’ve talked about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) before. As you climb up the corporate ladder, EQ becomes more and more important. EQ helps you manage your own stress, lead other people, and make better decisions. Reading Daniel Goleman’s classic book is a great first step to improving your own EQ and helping you climb the management ranks.

How to Read a Financial Report: Wringing Vital Signs Out of the Numbers by John A. Tracy and Tage Tracy

At some point in your career, you will need to read financial reports. If you don’t have an accounting background, you will need to learn how to read financial reports and possibly how to create them.

As a Director managing a department budget, you will need to read and create financial reports, and you will certainly need these skills as an executive managing a corporate budget.

This book is a great tutorial for learning how to read a financial report, especially if you don’t have an accounting background.

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

There is no doubt great leaders have charisma, but Olivia Fox Cabane shows that anyone can learn to be charismatic. As a corporate professional, leadership skills will help you excel in your career all the way from the first time manager to the seasoned executive.

The Charisma Myth is a great read for people who want to learn the basic of charisma and improve their leadership skills.

If you want to get promoted up, you might need to get promoted across first

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Many people at the bottom of the org chart look up at the executives and VPs amazed at everything they know and their steady climb up the corporate ladder.

But if you ask, those people at the top of the organization will tell you that their climb up wasn’t steady at all, and they gained all of that knowledge slowly over time.

Research shows that CEOs often worked in 3 to 4 key functional areas before their promotions to the C-Suite. Those key areas often include finance, operations, marketing, engineering, or running a key business unit (i.e. a unit that generates a lot of revenue).

One of my mentors told me about how he couldn’t get promoted any further as a VP of Operations. Then he switched over to a marketing role, did excellent work in his new role, and got the promotion he wanted after a few more years. He ended up being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company later in his career.

As many executives will tell you, their careers were not straight promotions up the org chart. They often worked as an Analyst in Department A, then got promoted to Manager in Department A, then moved to be a Manager in Department B, then got promoted to be a Director overseeing Departments A and B, and so on.

How can this knowledge benefit your career?

Perhaps to get that next promotion, you need to move laterally at your company before you get promoted up.

As you go up the corporate ladder, your knowledge must get broader and more strategic.

The typical career path usually goes as follows: Someone enters the company as an entry level employee, say as an Analyst. She does her job well and get promoted to Senior Analyst. After two or three more years, she continues to do her job well and then get promoted to Manager who oversees the Analysts and Senior Analysts she used to work with.

This is where a lot of people will get stuck. Up until this point, the knowledge you gained within your own department was enough to help you do your job: You were either doing what you did as an Analyst or managing people doing that job.

But at some point, the next level up will require you to work with people who have done things that you never have. That next level has people working on separate functions of the business reporting to you, and the person who gets the promotion to that position will need a solid understanding of those functions.

This would be the case for you if you look at all of the people reporting to your boss and you don’t have the skills of all of those people reporting to your boss. Then you might need to move laterally into one of those other departments and gain some of that knowledge before you will get promoted up.

How do you move laterally to a new position and develop those skills? The best way is usually through your own company.

Remember all of the cross functional projects you worked on during your tenure at the company. Think about if any of the people who led those projects lead teams in another department. If so, you can reach out to them and ask about your interest in working on more projects in that department. These people are already familiar with your work, and if you did a good job, they would love to have you on their team.

Another great way to learn about internal positions is to talk to HR. Human resources focuses on helping employees stay in the company and grow professionally so it makes sense that they’d rather have a current employee move within the company instead of go to a competitor.

If you are interested in staying within the company but going to a different functional area, you should talk to an HR representative. When internal jobs open up, HR will often search to fill the job internally before going external, and if an HR representative knows about your work and which departments you want to go to, he can alert you to the internal positions.

As a final way to learn about jobs in other departments, go to company wide events such as corporate trainings. When you attend, talk to new people and learn about their work. If that interests you, keep in touch with that person and try to work on some projects with them. It doesn’t even have to be a project related to your job. It could be something like helping to plan the company holiday party with that person or joining a company sponsored activity like the company’s running club. Then show them that you do great work.

Go out to events, meet new people in the company, and demonstrate your strong work ethic. If you do so, people who lead teams in other departments would love to hire you when they have a job opening.

If you feel stuck at your current job, you might want to move to a different department in your current company so you can learn more about different functional areas. As you gain more knowledge of the company as a whole, you’ll be more likely to get that next promotion up the corporate ladder.

The person you need to know to get promoted

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You go into work on time everyday and do everything that is expected of you. You complete your assignments on time. You get along with your coworkers. You understand how your job fits into the company’s goals. Your boss and your coworkers know that you are crushing it.

But you can’t seem to get noticed for a raise or promotion. That can get frustrating for even the hardest working employee.

If you are doing your job well, the reason you aren’t getting noticed is likely because the right person hasn’t noticed what a great job you are doing. That person is your boss’s boss.

Your boss’s boss is the person who approves your performance reviews and raises. She’s also the person who picks your boss’s replace should he leave and hires others at your boss’s level across the company. If she doesn’t know who you are, you won’t get selected when those jobs open up.

She’s also one of the best mentors you can have. She has a better strategic vision of the company’s goals than your boss does and she has more access to the executives. Talking with her can get you thinking like a senior team member before you’re promoted into those positions, and if you’re already thinking like a senior team member then people will see your leadership potential early in your career.

Ideally your boss would make it clear to his boss that you’re doing a great job. And then your boss’s boss would realize what a great job you are doing, but that doesn’t always work out. Sometimes your boss isn’t a great communicator. Sometimes your boss’s boss doesn’t ask about the employees two levels below her. Sometimes your boss is threatened by your success and fears you might replace him.

Whatever the reason is, you can still get noticed by your boss’s boss.

Whether your boss’s boss knows you or not, a good way to talk to her is to ask for industry advice or ask about the company’s goals.

If your boss is a good communicator and supports your professional development, ask your boss to introduce you to his boss. If not, I’d suggest sending your boss’s boss an email requesting a short meeting to learn about her career path, the company’s goals, and general questions about how your industry operates. Checkout my article about how to ask for advice: How to ask your boss for help.

Once you meet with her, you can do some general check ins. You want to check in when you have something valuable to add to her life. Some good ways to keep in touch are:

  • Volunteering to work on a cross-departmental project. Your boss’s boss is likely involved in this type of project since it involves multiple teams that report to her.
  • Sending your boss’s boss a congratulatory email if she does something noteworthy, such a speaking at a conference or being recognized in a company wide memo.
  • Letting her know when your boss does a good job on a certain project. This both helps you keep in touch and keeps your boss happy.
  • Asking about the company’s strategic vision and how her department plays a role in reaching that vision.
  • If you see a news article that relates to her work, you can email the link to her saying, “Just in case you missed this, I thought you’d find this article helpful: [link]. No need to reply.”
  • If you happen to have a hobby in common or a similar life situation (like your kids playing in the same soccer league), you can talk about that when you see each other at the watercooler.
  • Asking to meet as a mentor once or twice a year, most likely with your boss also present. You can talk about what additional skills you should learn to help the company.

While you are doing this, keep in mind that you still report to someone else so you should ask the majority of your work related question to your boss. And you don’t want to undermine your boss by going straight to your boss’s boss when you have issues. Talk to your boss’s boss about interdepartmental questions, the company’s strategic goals, industry topics, and casual watercooler talk. These topics are appropriate for someone two levels above you without challenging the organizational hierarchy.

With all that being said, your boss’s boss can know you and like you, but if you aren’t doing good work, you still won’t get the promotion or raise. If you do good work but don’t know the right people, you won’t get promoted and will get frustrated that your work goes unnoticed. If your boss’s boss likes you as a person but you don’t do good work, then she won’t risk her career by promoting you. But if you do good work and your boss’s boss knows you do good work, then she will promote you when the time is right.

Master the basics by doing your job well, demonstrating leadership skills, and adding value to the company. Along the way, get to know the leaders two or three levels above you in the org chart. Then your boss’s boss will help you climb up the ladder.