how to win at work: 5 action steps to getting that next promotion

Photo Credit: Juliette Leufke

Photo Credit: Juliette Leufke

If you’re one of those people who think you deserve something simply based on tenure, then sorry, honey, it’s time for a reality check.

Over the past 8 years that I’ve been in the working world, I’ve been promoted 3 times: once at my old CPA firm and twice in the 4 years I’ve been at my current company.  My most recent move up the ranks this past November (which left me with little-to-no time to work on the blog – sorry!) was by far the biggest jump, going from managing a whopping zero people to being in charge of an entire department of 11 (aah!).  And I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t because I was the oldest or had been there the longest.

My company chose me for this position because they had a front row seat to my work ethic over the past 4 years.  They saw my drive. They saw my motivation. They saw how dedicated I was to doing my job well and being a team player.  And because of that, they believed in me enough to offer me the job.  And if your goal is to do the same – to further your career, challenge yourself, and make more money (yes, please) – I want to help you do just that.

Below are 5 action steps you must do if you want to be the front-runner for that new job opening.  I’m not going to lie to you, it takes some serious work, and it’s serious work that must be done consistently, day-in and day-out.  However, I have faith that if you commit to implementing these 5 steps at your current job, good things are going to come your way.  Now let’s get to it.

HAVE INTEGRITY

Your bosses and co-workers have to be able to depend on you, not only that you’ll show up on time to the office/meetings/etc.  or make deadlines but also that they can rely on your work.  If your boss has to constantly second guess or fact check what you’re telling them because they can’t depend on you doing it right, you’re on the slippery slide to the bottom of the promotions list.  If you complete tasks correctly in your current role, why would you be able to do any better at higher level projects?

[RELATED: My Work Week Review: A Free Tool to Help You Take Back Control of Your Career]

So first and foremost, make sure that everything you present to your boss has integrity, both in your personal character and your work.  Be someone they can rely on when they have a difficult project to complete or a tight deadline, and remember to review everything before you submit it to your boss. We are all guilty of human error, and I’ve caught a handful (….or 1,000) of my own mistakes by doing this. 

BECOME THE MASTER

When I was working at the CPA firm, I was the go-to for figuring out Schedule M-3s (damn that sounds nerdy…but true).  If someone had a question or needed help completing one, they’d head straight for my little cubicle. In my current position, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I handle that no one else really knows how to do.  I mean, it gives me heart palpitations just trying to imagine all the time I’d have to spend training someone on them all.

Moral of the story? One of the best ways to turn yourself into an indispensible part of the team and demonstrate your worth is to become the master at something.  Whether that’s designing company graphics, planning company events, or knowing the ins-and-outs of your entire product catalog , being the “go-to” person for that specific knowledge or skill set is going to increase your value to your company tenfold and show that you can handle being the lead on certain aspects at your job.

BE A TEAM PLAYER

Want to know one simple step that will elevate you faster than all the others? Before you leave the office at night or when you have downtime, ask this question: “Is there anything I can help you with?”  Yes, it’s that easy.  Helping others will make you more likeable, more respected, and prove that you have the work ethic and dedication to your job. Triple whammy in the best sense of the term.

Now, this isn’t a question to pose to your boss and your boss only – you need to ask this to your co-workers, too.  Does that mean you may have to help on tasks you really don’t want to do or stay a little later than you hoped? Sometimes, yes.  But it’ll be worth the effort when you finally get your own office. With a door. (The luxury!)

TAKE INITIATIVE

If an issue arises, don’t be the one that always has to have someone else tell you what to do.  When the execs are looking for people to promote, they want problem-solvers: individuals who can identify an issue and find a solution for it.  They don’t want to tell you what to do or how to do it; they just want you to figure it out and present them with a solution.

[RELATED: Why Dreaming Sets You Up for Failure (And What to Do Instead)]

This doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions or talk through a problem with your boss if you’re absolutely stuck; sometimes you need to do that just to uncover all of the information necessary to figure out a solution.  However, you want to work as independently as possible to find the answer – again, it signifies you’re capable of taking the lead and solving problems, both of which are highly-valued skills when looking to promote within.

TAKE NOTES

If your boss has to tell you something twice or three times, you’re screwing up.  Plain and simple. 

Everyone makes mistakes, and for the most part, people get that.  But being told the same thing over and over again doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.  It means you’re lazy and/or forgetful, and neither of those work in your favor.

If someone is showing you how to do something or going over a new project with you, please, please, PLEASE take detailed (and I mean detailed) notes.  As a boss myself, I would much rather spend the time upfront making sure you fully understand how to do something than having to tell you the same thing multiple times or fix it on the back-end.  That gets annoying.  And you don’t want to annoy your boss.

BONUS: DON’T BE A D!$%

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but people like to work with people they like, and your bosses are no different.  If you are hard to work with, petty with your co-workers, and don’t act like a team player, you are much less likely to get the recommendation for that new position.  You don’t have to become best friends with everyone at the office, but be polite and be respectful.  Honey always attracts more promotions than vinegar ;)


Promotions don’t happen overnight, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the one you’ve been chasing.  Be consistent with these 5 (okay, 6) steps, and you’ll be well on your way to climbing the career ladder (and all that extra $$$!).

They say it takes a village, so I would love to hear from you all about recent promotions, your tips for moving up the ranks, or what you look for when deciding to promote from within.  Let’s all help each other achieve our goals – feel free to share in the comments below!

promotion