Aside from getting hired in the first place, getting a promotion may be the biggest workplace challenge facing most employees.
Sometimes getting a promotion is about money. Other times it's about power, prestige, or increased responsibility. In most cases, promotions bring a little bit of all of the above, making scoring one something most people dream about.
In a lot of situations, it's not just you who wants a promotion. You're fighting against coworkers, people outside of the company, and probably more people than you know about.
That's why it's important to start working on securing a promotion well before it's time to ask for one. Your company probably wants that, since a 2012 study by Matthew Bidwell, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, showed that it costs 18% to 20% more to hire externally. In addition, outside hires get lower marks in performance reviews during their first two years on the job.
Of course, your company may not know that, or you may not have done enough to have earned the position. That's why you have to plan ahead for the job you want.
1. Make sure you qualify
If a job requires a master's degree or fluency in Spanish and you don't have the necessary qualification, your chances of getting hired become very small. Identify the promotion you want and make sure you meet all the basic requirements.
2. Be good at your current job
Whether you hope for an internal promotion or will look at other companies to nab a superior job to the one you have now, how you perform your current job will be an important determining factor. If your performance slips because you become too focused on what's next, you can find yourself out of the running. Very few companies promote people who do a bad job into positions with more responsibility.
3. Be a good teammate
How you perform at your job affects whether you will get a promotion, but so will the opinion of your coworkers. This can be especially relevant if you will be supervising people who were once peers.
Prepare for a promotion by being a good teammate. Be the person others can count on, the one who helps them get their work done or solve a tricky problem. Share credit liberally and never toot your own horn.
4. Never gossip
Whether it's in the lunch room or after hours, a lot of people like to sit around and complain about the boss. If you someday hope to be the boss, that's not a good idea. In this day and age, nothing is secret. A comment made about the boss in a casual setting could come back to bite you when your name comes up for a promotion.
5. Stand out
In many cases the person who gets the promotion is the one who works the hardest for it. Volunteer for difficult assignments and gladly take on new responsibilities. Be willing to learn new skills, and be open to anything put in front of you.
6. Take disappointment well
Wanting a promotion doesn't always lead to getting one. Sometimes you can do everything right and lose out to someone better qualified, longer-tenured, or better connected than you.
When that happens, it's important to be gracious. It's tempting to wallow after a defeat, but it's more important to dust yourself off, congratulate the victor, and be ready for next time. Losing well shows maturity, and it could well result in a different outcome the next time.