Are You Promotable?

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It’s September already, and year-end reviews are just around the corner. It isn’t too late to show your boss that you’re worthy of a promotion.

Maybe you’ve been holding down the same position for a few years and are ready to move up. Maybe your company is going through some internal shuffling and you’re expecting your dream job to open up. Or, maybe you’ve been disappointed a few too many times by other people getting promoted ahead of you.

Whatever the reason, you want to make certain now that you’re ready to move up. In other words, you need to make certain that your boss sees it that way.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” –Steve Martin

Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington has studied bias more than just about anyone, and his research findings have major implications for your ability to get promoted. His recent studies showed that unconscious workplace biases tend to stay constant, and bosses follow these biases, whether they are aware of them or not.

"People are claiming that they can train away biases," Greenwald says, "[They’re] making those claims without evidence."

When it comes to getting promoted, you want to present yourself in a way that feeds into the biases that bosses’ have about what makes someone promotable. You’re already doing the hard work, so why not frame your effort in such a way that it increases your chances of obtaining the position you want?

While this probably sounds a bit manipulative, there are several straightforward things that you can do to showcase your work and make certain that you're promotable. The following five actions will appeal to your boss’s inherent biases about promotability, without you being disingenuous.

1. Stretch your boundaries

2. Don’t be too irreplaceable

3. Demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ)

4. Make certain you speak the company’s language

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for it

Bringing It All Together

You may not get the promotion you’re aiming for. If that happens, ask for feedback, but stay away from sour-grapes questions like “Why did you pick him and not me?” In fact, don’t speak about the person who got the promotion at all. Instead, ask which of the critical skills you lack and what you need to do to be ready for the next opportunity. Don’t argue; just listen, and ask thoughtful follow-up questions. Just make certain you follow through on the suggestions you’re given. If your boss suggests some things you can do to become more promotable and you don’t follow through, don’t expect to be considered the next time around.

Promotions don’t just happen, and they’re not a guaranteed result of high performance. That’s because you don’t get promoted as a reward for what you’ve already done. You get promoted because your boss thinks you have the potential to add more value in a larger role.

What have you done to demonstrate your readiness for a promotion? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

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