The more time you spend in the workforce, the sooner you realize that getting a promotion isn't a cut and dry proposition. Before you even approach your boss, there is much to do, including evaluating whether you are ready, doing your homework on the company and preparing yourself for the transition.
Determine if you're ready
"It's almost like you've hit that place where you recognize you want more, and also recognize that you can offer more," says Carol Scobie, vice president of human resources at Cumis Insurance Companies.
According to Scobie, being able to gauge whether you're ready depends on your familiarity with the position you're seeking. You need to be able to break down what types of personal qualifications would be called upon, and then be honest with yourself about whether you can meet those demands.
"There are certain positions where you have to have a certain attribute to do the job," she says. "Throughout my own career, there were positions that I thought I wanted, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would have had to change the way I am. The job would ask me to do something that would go against who I am. I had to recognize that and make the decision not to go for it."
Examine the position
If you've decided you do have what it takes, the next step is to get an idea of the responsibilities of the job -- what kind of skills and knowledge the job entails -- and how you can prepare yourself. This can include anything from pursuing extra training to diversifying your current responsibilities to enlisting the help of a personal coach.
"Whether you've taken some coaching courses, or have received mentoring that has helped you get to that stage, that will all contribute to how ready you are," she says.
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Demonstrate your eagerness
Sit down and evaluate your current workload, and figure out what you can do to give yourself an edge. Taking on and successfully completing bigger and more challenging assignments, on your own accord, shows you're willing to take initiative and are able to handle greater challenges.
"Add more serious responsibilities to the top of your list, and drop more junior ones from the bottom," says Steve Jones, president of ACSESS, with 18 years in the staffing and recruiting industry. "Ask for more senior responsibilities. Do it and do it well, and you'll be in a better position to negotiate."
Making a commitment to increase your workload may also mean putting in longer hours. According to Jones, it may not seem just, but it's a fact of life that those putting in longer hours inevitably make an impression on their supervisors.
"It's totally unfair to say people who work longer hours make a greater contribution, but most bosses don't know exactly what you're doing and how well you're doing it -- they know you're either there or not there," Jones says. "They might have two employees who accomplish the same thing, one from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and one from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and they will say the person who stays till 7 p.m. is more dedicated. The perception that it creates is big."
Research your company
As critical to increasing your responsibilities is increasing your knowledge about the company -- particularly about its financial health. A company experiencing financial woes may not be in a position to allow for promotions, and the accompanying pay increases.
"Be considerate of timing and company performance," Jones says. "Certainly don't bring it up if the company is downsizing, but if the pay isn't there, you can still ask to take on those extra responsibilities."
Once you've taken all of these steps, you'll be in an excellent position to approach your manager. The extra assignments, training and overall greater effort will speak volumes to what you can contribute to the company.
"You use your past history as your basis, and you set up the conversation around that," Scobie says. "You've showed you were able to make bigger decisions, to take risks and to strategize, and you're ready for it because of A, B and C that you've done."
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