April 5, 2010 | Barb Carr

Career Development: How to Get a Promotion

Have you ever felt frustrated that other people you work with seem to be getting all of the lucky career breaks?

How long should it take to get a promotion?

How you answer these two questions may very well determine whether your work will be rewarded in the end with the promotion you seek.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ~ Thomas Edison

First, you can’t compare your success to another person’s success. No matter how well you think you know another person’s work experience and effort, you don’t. Every tiny career step that person made in life brought that person to the point where he/she stands today. Every single step mattered. We all make dozens of little career decisions each day that don’t look like much by themselves, but they all work together in the end. Most of the time, a lucky break wasn’t involved in your co-worker’s promotion. Promotion usually means preparation met opportunity. This formula works for you the same way it worked for them.

new-driverThink about when you learned to drive a car. Perhaps you thought since you rode in a car all of the time, you didn’t need to study for the written test — so you flunked it. Then you decided to actually read the handbook, and you passed the second time. You were a little nervous that first time behind the wheel but you knew how great the freedom of a license would be, so there was no holding you back. You might have ran into the neighbor’s mailbox or dinged your dad’s car practicing. If you did, maybe you were required to earn some money to fix the car (or the mailbox) before you were allowed to drive again. Setbacks. You got more confident with merging onto the highway and parallel parking with practice. And eventually you got to the goal and received your license, and were sailing down the highway enjoying your freedom. Your co-worker has a similar story. The co-worker may have studied the handbook and passed the written test the first time, but no one gets a license without going through the entire experience.

Second, your company is not going to reward you with a promotion before you finish the work that needs to be done. Telling them the work you plan to do is great. But you actually have to do the work before the reward. Did you know that when you are working on a goal, 80% of your effort will be invested before you see even a 20% return on your investment? You have to work hard consistently until 80% of the goal is complete before you’ll start to see any results. Lots of people would like to see the rewards before that much effort, but it just doesn’t work that way. Consistently working your goals steadily over time is your best option. It will take time for your efforts to get noticed, but they will … if you keep at it.

I knew a manager many years ago who had suffered a setback when the company he worked for went out of business, and the only opening he could find in his field was a non-management position. He had over 10 years of experience as a manager. He spent years and a ton of effort into positioning himself for promotion at the new company, but the first three times he applied, someone else got the promotion. Just when he was about to give up and look for a job somewhere else, someone encouraged him to give it two more years. He didn’t sit around waiting. He completed some certifications during those two years knowing the certifications would help him whether he stayed or left. The company took notice, and he was promoted to a position that was better than the first three positions he had applied for previously. He is now a top officer at his company.

The decisions you make today count toward a future promotion. Remember: 80% of your work will be done before you see any return. Stay with it. Don’t give up. Keep driving. You’re getting there!

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