byRomy Newmanon Apr 26, 2016

How to Get Promoted: Building Your Personal Brand

Women getting promoted

Photo credit:Creative Commons

Are you wondering how to get promoted at work? Research shows that men are promoted more often based on “potential” than women, who are still primarily rewarded for “performance.” How do we break the cycle? By giving our careers a little P.R. help.

According to a recent study conducted by Fairygodboss, over 60% of women think that they receive equal consideration for promotions as men. Encouraging, right?

Unfortunately, our optimism may prove unfounded. Research shows that the path to promotion is dramatically different for men. According to a landmark 2011 research study by McKinsey & Co, men are generally promoted based on potential—i.e., what it seems they could achieve— while women are promoted based on performance. In other words, management tends to be less likely to take a leap of faith on a women’s capabilities.

If you are an ambitious woman, that finding might seem somewhat discouraging. However, ultimately the pathway to promotion lies in your hands—not in your manager’s. What you need to do is figure out what you want and get focused on achieving it.

With that in mind, here are eight things you should be doing regularly to get yourself the promotion you’ve been wanting—and the one after that, and the one after that…

1. Define yourself by your unique skill set and become famous for it.

Spend some time evaluating yourself thoroughly and honestly. What roles have you excelled in? What projects have interested you most? Pick an area and specialty to differentiate yourself in—and define yourself by it.

Try to identify something that is valued by your company, and make it your brand. For example: Susan is great at driving revenue. Patty is great at managing projects. Lidya is great with the financials.

2. Build your own advisory board.

Get to know the leaders of your company in various disciplines—and actually build relationships. Reach out and ask if you can get 30 minutes on their calendar to meet and get to know more about them, their role, and their career.

When you do meet, come prepared to share a clear, concise story about your background, your accomplishments, and your interests. This is your personal pitch. Lay out what your hopes and aspirations are, and ask very clear, well-informed questions about them. Think of it like a job interview!

After your meeting, whenever you have a chance to interact with those leaders, use those opportunities. Every time. Whether it’s with smart, concise contributions at meetings, a well-constructed question at a town hall, or just a smart remark in the hallway, building a relationship takes consistency.

Note: Don’t forget to loop your current boss in on your aspirations, and let her know why you’re reaching out to other managers. No boss likes to be blindsided or undermined by conversations she’s not aware of. If possible, your boss should be your biggest champion and feel invested and involved in your career progress.

The more you can find ways to add value—especially voluntarily—the stronger your reputation will become.

3. Raise your hand for a project where your work will stand out.

Keep an eye out for projects that you know you can ace. Better yet, come up with an idea that could make a difference to your company and pitch it. 

Find something that can really change the company through revenue contribution, cost savings, process improvement, or improved knowledge capital. For example, if you feel your company is deficient in social media, propose a project in which you will spend your spare time researching smarter marketing practices and come back to the company to present ideas about how they could be using it better.

The more you can find ways to add value—especially voluntarily—the stronger your reputation will become. And, the more people throughout the organization who get to know you and what you’re capable of, the more your name will come up when opportunities for promotion arise.

4. Set an objective for your project, and broadcast it.

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. When you are leading a project or a business unit, pick a clear, ambitious but achievable objective for your team. Make it quantifiable. Then tell everyone—your team members, your managers, your peers. Rally everyone around that number. Track progress. talk about it every day.

Sticking close to the numbers keeps everyone focused, but it’s also great for your personal brand. Everyone will remember you as the person who contributed $X million to the company, or brought in 23 new customers, or increased social media followers by 400%.

5. Loop ‘em in.

Make sure you are telling all your stakeholders what you’re up to—whether it’s via email, meetings, or a tool like Slack. Identify key milestones and let everyone know when you’ve completed them.

And, if you hit a roadblock or you’re unsure of something, seek input. The more you can get others invested and involved in your success, the more fans you’ll have on your side.

Don’t forget to check back in with your advisory board regularly to let them know how you’re progressing and what you’re learning.

6. Don’t mess up.

This may sound flip, but now that you’ve put yourself in the spotlight, it’s on you—and you better achieve what you said you would. Leaders and managers are responsible for a lot, and their accomplishments and failures can be very public.

To get the next job, you’ve really put yourself out there by being very public about what you’d like to accomplish and exactly what numbers you’re hoping to achieve. Now you better meet your own targets so your brand becomes identified with success, not mistakes.

7. Take [your hard-earned] credit.

Now, you’ve taken the initiative to find a place to add value to your company, and you’ve achieved results. Don’t be shy about sharing your success. Women are notoriously shy about taking credit because sometimes it can feel uncomfortable, but graciously taking credit is a key trait of successful leaders.

A nice way to do this graciously would be to prepare a summary deck about your project that reviews what was accomplished, and also what you learned along the way, and what could be done better for next time.

8. Ask for it (!!!)

Now that you’ve built a reputation for yourself as an ambitious and capable leader, that promotion is yours...all you have to do is ask for it. Clearly and unequivocally.

And if you don’t get it the first time, ask again. One accomplished C-Level woman I know had to lobby for her role several times over until it was finally hers. But her persistence showed everyone just how determined she was.

So don’t be shy. The path to your next promotion is within your control. You may have to work harder than the man next to you to get it, but it will be well worth it. And once you get into management, hopefully you can help be a part of the process that mitigates that bias and puts promotion evaluation on a more equal footing for men and women.

This article was originally published on Career Contessa here.


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