Who isn’t impatient to get ahead? According to a recent national workforce survey conducted by IPSOS, a global market research firm, and the Jack Welch Management Institute, 31 percent of American professionals said they have been passed over for a promotion they felt they deserved and 43 percent thought about quitting their jobs in the past year, due to frustrations at work and limited opportunity for advancement.
And while promotions can sometimes be limited by the growth of your organization and other factors outside of your control, there are always certain things you can do (and make an effort not to do) to accelerate yours.
Obviously, the only surefire way to move up in the organization is to consistently deliver great results and deliver them the right way. But here are some additional tips to think about that have the power to help you to stand apart and get in the running – fast – so that the next promotion that comes around doesn’t pass you by:
What does that mean? Whenever your boss gives you an assignment or asks you to figure something out, he or she usually already has a pretty good idea of what the answer is. For example, if your manager wants you to confirm that the market share of one of the division’s products is 35% and you go out and do the work only to come back with “Yes, you’re right, it is 35%”, that isn’t over-delivering. It’s just doing what you were assigned.
But guess what? School is the only place where you get an A if you do exactly what you’re asked. Work isn’t like that. To over-deliver, you’ve got to redefine the assignment, make it bigger, and open your boss’s eyes to a larger horizon.
Don’t underestimate the incredible power of positive surprises. If you come back with something that’s truly eye-opening and presents a new opportunity, your superiors are going to remember it for a long, long time. In the example above, for instance, if you came back defining your market share within a larger market definition that no one had thought about before – that spells opportunity… And nothing will serve your promotion ambitions better than making your boss look smarter to his or her leadership.
Don’t Make Your Boss Play Defense.
No matter where you work, your boss has a certain wonderful thing called political capital in the organization that he or she has earned over the years by getting results and being a good team player. The last thing he or she wants to do is use it up on you – especially if you want a promotion. If someone has to come to your defense because you’ve done something stupid or careless — you’ve upset the client or you’ve been late a few times, you are using up political capital. If you ask your coworkers to cover for you, you are using up political capital. And if your boss finds him or herself forced to say things like “Please cut Mary a break because she’s really a good employee; she’s just having some problems with her dog, okay?”, you’re definitely using up political capital.
That usually works precisely one time and then it gets very old. So, pick that time very wisely, once every five years.
When you’re gunning for a promotion, you often start being very, very loving to the people above you – it’s just what happens. And as you spend all of your time tap dancing for the powers that be, you might tend to forget the people who work alongside you and below you and start to ignore them. That’s ugly. Nobody likes it. In fact, even the people in power probably take note and are grossed out by this behavior.
Now, a little bit of boss-handling is always par for the game. “How was your vacation?”, “Understand your son scored two touchdowns on Saturday… Nice going.” Fine — everyone does that sort of thing. But you have to go beyond kissing up and also show some love to your coworkers and people who are subordinate to you. Get to know them as human beings. Find what you authentically like about each one of them — not just in your immediate group but in the whole organization. And yes, it really has to come from a place of authenticity — this is not something that can be phony because people can sense that right away. Yuck.
Just remember the path to your promotion is paved with big love, that’s real, and in every direction.
Volunteer for Tough Duty.
Every once in a while, a boss comes along with an assignment that nobody wants. A risky new initiative. A new job that involves working overnight. The customer with the bad personality that everyone avoids representing. These kinds of risky or unpleasant assignments that no one wants are actually a great opportunity for you to raise your hand and really get out of the pile. You may not succeed at them, but you will get points just for putting yourself out there and saying, “I’ll take the risk. I’ll do it.”
Take those tough assignments just to get yourself on the radar — even if you have to hold your nose while you do it. It could end up being the best career move you ever make.
Seek Mentors… Everywhere.
Look, everybody wants a mentor. Under the right circumstances, having a mentor can be great. Just remember one thing. You’re limiting yourself greatly if you think you have to look to a single person as your mentor. Everyone’s a mentor, everyone. Every person you know knows something that you don’t know — alongside you, up, down, and sideways. People in other companies. People you read about in the newspaper… Everyone.
So if your definition of mentoring is too narrow, redefine it to make everyone your mentor and soak up all the insights, ideas and best practices that live all around you. You’ll be so much smarter for it.
Ultimately, these five “extras” are no substitute for delivering solid results, all the time. But if you wake up every day thinking about how to supercharge your performance with them, it will be very tough for your organization to ignore you for long.
Jack Welch is Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win.
Suzy Welch is co-author, with Jack Welch, of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post best-seller The Real-Life MBA, and of the international best-seller Winning.