When I entered the corporate world five years ago I had no idea what I was doing.
I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t know how to handle office small talk. And I especially didn’t know how to speak to big executives.
I didn’t have a clue.
I was a tiny little pawn thrust into this cutthroat game and I didn’t know the rules.
And this foreign world made me timid.
I was afraid to say hello to people in the hallways. I would sneak in and out of the break room. I would wait for co-workers to leave the bathroom stall before me.
I avoided any unnecessary interaction.
In fact, there was only one place I did feel comfortable… and that was in the confines of my own cube.
I thought that if I stayed there and did my menial job to the best of my abilities then people would recognize me. This is how I would begin my climb in this new working world.
Work hard = Get Promoted…. How wrong I was.
I sat in that cube in my entry-level job for nearly two years, the second of which I nearly withered away.
I was looked over for promotion after promotion. I saw peers who put in half the work as me get the job I wanted.
I was confused. I was lost. I was devastated.
I thought, I would never make it in this corporate world. No one would ever give me a chance.
Surely, I would die in this cube.
Maybe you’ve felt like this before? Heck, maybe you feel like this now?
The fact is that no matter what level you get to in your career there are going to be times when you feel stuck.
And it’s not always going to be clear as to why you can’t get to that next level. It’ll be frustrating. It’ll be stressful.
But there is a way out. There is always a way out.
Looking back now, I know why I didn’t get promoted.
I had it all wrong. I was doing everything backwards.
Here’s exactly what I did wrong:
- I became an expert in a job that I hated
- I failed to develop any of the skills that would make me successful in the job I wanted
- I didn’t network with the people who had the power to put me in that role
- I didn’t seek advice from any of the people who had got the promotion before me
Being young, naïve and timid, I let myself get played.
Because I decided to live comfortably in a role I was already good at and in a cube where I felt safe my talent went unnoticed.
In retrospect, all of those encounters in the hallways and breaks in the coffee rooms were moments for me to shine, not to cower away.
The people that had the power to promote me were there all along waiting for me to step up. Waiting for me to prove myself. Waiting for me to showcase my abilities.
Needless to say, I would’ve done it a lot different.
And if you’re in a similar situation right now, you too can do things differently. You too can fight for that promotion that’s rightfully yours.
Here’s 5 Things You Can Do Now to Land Your Next Promotion:
1. Network Now (Don’t Wait)
As I alluded to above, one of the major mistakes I made during this early juncture in my career was not connecting with people in power. What I didn’t understand then is that you can’t just do your job well but you must ALSO tell people you’re doing your job well.
Similarly, people in higher positions are not mind readers and therefore don’t know what your career intentions are. Because of this you must set meetings to tell them who you are and what your career goals are.
The good news for you is that managers expect these types of meetings and if you’re a good enough employee then they will even enjoy them!
Within about six months to a year of starting a new job, you should be networking with the people who could promote you to the next level. Approach each meeting as an informational conversation where you two get to know each other both on a personal and career level. This is NOT a time when you want to be asking about specific roles but rather express your desired career path.
By having a series of these conversations with the right people you will start to form your web of advocates who will be the decision makers by the time you go for that promotion. With enough of these people in your corner, you’ll have as good a shot as anyone.
2. Get a Mentor you can Trust
When you’re young and new to the corporate landscape it’s essential to find someone you can trust who will show you the ropes. Or even if you’re just switching companies it’s still a good idea to find a colleague who can gage the lay of the land at your new home.
A mentor can be someone who holds the same role as you or a higher one. It shouldn’t matter too much. The important thing is to find someone who you trust and who seems to be on the inner circle already.
It should only take you a few months to identify someone who you can trust and learn from. I’d suggest inviting this person to coffee to build rapport with them. A mentorship is usually not a formal relationship but rather like having a friend in the office you can confide in.
By finding the right mentor you will be able to learn rapidly what would take you months to learn on your own. You’ll learn about the interworking of the company culture and get tips on what it takes to get promoted. If it wasn’t for several mentors I’ve had over the past five years, I know I never would’ve been able to climb the sales ranks at all.
3. Develop the Necessary Skills for your NEXT Role
As I mentioned above, one of the major mistakes I made was becoming a master at my current role. While it is important to be proficient in your role, it is better if you don’t become TOO good at it as your employer will want to keep you there.
Instead, once you master your role, you will want to spend your downtime learning things that will get you ready for the next level. Whether it’s polishing up on presentation skills, studying for an industry designation or taking on an important company project these are all productive activities.
The goal here is to teach yourself the skills that they’re sure to ask you about in your future interview. If you’re not sure what you should be working on, pull the job posting for the job you want. Develop those skills and then find a way to showcase them before you ever step in for an interview.
4. Take Initiative (but don’t be “That Guy”)
Let’s face it. Corporate America loves go-getters. They love people who wake up in the morning ready to conquer the world. Even if this might not be your normal tendency, it’s best if you can bring out your inner “go-getter” and showcase it in any way possible.
A few ways to consider doing this are by actively participating in meetings, volunteering for big company initiatives or even starting your own project.
Now, while initiative is important, you must make sure you’re being genuine with your approach. Don’t be the brown-noser that everyone in the office hates. This is a fine line that you will have to use your judgment to toe.
By taking the right amount of initiative outside the bounds of your normal job, you’ll be able to show the company that you’re capable and eager to do more. Also, any project you embark on will only add to your resume when that time comes.
5. Be the REAL You
If there’s one thing I learned above all in my years of climbing the corporate sales ladder is that you can’t be afraid to be you. A lot of my anxieties in corporate America were due to the fact that I thought I always had to be the person they wanted me to be. I thought I had to have certain hobbies, certain interests, and ask the right questions.
But the reality is that we’re all humans. Everyone at your company is trying to figure out their life. No one REALLY knows what they’re doing. There are people at ALL levels that are insecure and dealing with their own problems. Because of this, they don’t have too much time to think about you.
This may sound bad, but it’s something you can use to your advantage. Instead of going into each meeting scared or anxious, you should try to approach each meeting with genuine curiosity. Try to learn as much as you can about the other person.
By doing this you have the chance to unlock a real conversation and THIS is when authentic office relationships are formed. It’s these relationships that will pay countless dividends for you down the road.
So don’t be afraid even if you’re stuck right now. Know that there’s a way out. Know that there was someone in your shoes not too long ago.
If you have any specific questions or want some feedback on your situation don’t hesitate to email me at Brendan@straddletheline.co. Or sign up for our email list below to get helpful insights from me each week!