I'd bet most of us look forward to being promoted. Promotions usually carry more money, perks and prestige. They also serve as another milestone along our career paths. On the other hand, there are some people who don't seem to care if they're promoted because they don't want to endure the extra stress a position of authority and leadership can foist on them. Generally, however, most of us see a promotion as something very positive and coveted. This topic came to mind as I was reading an article in a recent issue of Communication Briefings (published by Encoders Inc., Blackwood, N.J.). The article, headlined "Getting Ahead-The 4 Myths of Promotions," offers some insightful discourse on the subject.
Quoted in the article is Marian N. Ruderman, a research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. Her observations make good sense, and anyone desiring to advance in any organization should pay close attention. For instance, the first myth she explodes is, "People are promoted because they earned it." According to Ruderman, there's something else that counts as much as merit-timing. An example is the employee who's promoted because he or she can relocate. Sometimes the timing just isn't right for a relocation because of personal reasons. Ruderman counsels employees to make sure management knows that when the timing is right, you're the one for the job. She also says volunteering to take on new tasks and head a team project will impress the higher-ups. They notice people who aren't afraid of additional work and responsibility.
The second myth Ruderman addresses is, "People who have skills best suited for the position will get the promotion." Actually, many jobs are created or tailored to fit a person's skills. She suggests one way to take advantage of this is to determine what other jobs your company needs to achieve its goals and then suggest to management you have just the right credentials for the position. In other words, tailor a job to suit your strengths and then sell that to management.
A third myth is, "People who have excellent performance reviews are the ones who get promoted." That isn't always the case because bosses often make decisions based on their own gut instincts and the opinions of others. Ruderman says employees need to show they can change their performance based on feedback from their bosses. Promotions usually go to those who are smart enough to follow the boss' advice.
Finally, there's the myth of, "People who are promoted share the same principles." Obviously, having good work habits and the ability to get the job done are very important, but so are the politics within any organization. How you communicate and interface with your peers and bosses has a lot to do with how you're perceived. You may be one of the brightest people in the world and may be able tell funny jokes and play the piano at parties, but if management isn't aware of your successes on the job, you're probably not a good candidate for promotion. Make sure the decisionmakers know about all the wonderful things you have accomplished. Generally, "shrinking violets" don't get very far because nobody knows what they can do.
What I believe Ruderman is counseling is that it's a tough world out there. Yes, principle, hard work, personality and loyalty are critical, but if an employee hasn't sold himself inside a company, that person could be traveling a dead-end street. Management is always looking for good people to promote, but they need to know who those people are. Don't fool yourself and think others will worry about your career. They're usually too busy with their own agendas. Let managers know not only who you are but why they should keep you in mind whenever they need someone to elevate to a key position.
Don't be shy,
Charles S. Lauer