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You'll Need More than Potential to Get Promoted

You'll Need More than Potential to Get Promoted

Last month, I had the fortunate pleasure of meeting a new client who expressed interest in being promoted at work. As I spoke with her about why she hasn’t been promoted, she spoke about the company’s culture, competitive colleagues, and the fact that she’s selected to take on additional assignments.

It became clear to me fairly quickly that potential wasn’t her issue. She didn’t have to raise her hand to demonstrate competency and value; she was singled out (in a good way) because of her performance results, dependability, and talent.

However, inside she recognized that if she was good enough to be selected for additional work without the reward, she was great enough to be promoted, which eventually became a frustration point for her. She’d convinced herself she needed allies and sponsors, which is true (you will need a mentor, coach, and sponsor at every stage of your career).

However, my question to her was: Who knows you’re interested in upward mobility? Who have you informed of your desire to be promoted in twelve months or less?

Unfortunately, she hadn’t vocalized her aspirations to those who needed to hear them. To this point, your potential isn’t enough. You’ll need to communicate what you want, and you’ll also need to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. My client experienced a shift in approximately thirty days; she went from “I deserve to be promoted,” to applying for a role, to now going through several rounds of interviews as a final candidate.

Her story encompasses these top mistakes women make while on the road to promotion.

1) Communication.

My client expected someone to notice all of her hard work. She was performing and tackling additional responsibility, but that’s not enough.

You can’t assume someone will notice. You can’t expect someone to promote you when you haven’t communicated your goals. If you want a different result, you have to be willing to have a different conversation, which sometimes is accompanied by a different course of action.

2) Strategic support.

Price Waterhouse Cooper released a report titled “It’s Time To Talk: What Has To Change For Women At Work,” and this one sentence struck me: “Women won’t succeed without formal and informal support networks.”

It didn’t say that women "can possibly succeed" or women "will succeed with or without formal and informal networks." It says women won't succeed. I understand you have competing priorities, I understand your plate is beyond full and that your cup runneth over, but you have 24 hours in the day.

My advice: Find time to proactively grow your network. These individuals are in your community, in your organization, in your industry, and on LinkedIn.

[Related: Will Networking Pay Off? Five Steps To Measure Your Efforts]

3) Clarity.

My client knew what she wanted professionally, but do you? Better yet, can you communicate who you are minus your title and/or who you are in relationship to someone else?

If you’re telling others “I’m VP of Operations and I have two kids,” consider taking a deeper dive to communicate those things and more. Being a VP is phenomenal. Being a mother is a blessing and an accomplishment within itself, but can you articulate your skills to the point where you can identify those you possess that expand your career options and communicate your competitive advantage?

Have you identified your “why” when making career decisions, or the "how?" I was someone who exceeded performance expectations, but who lacked clarity - who stifled her own progress. Many of my clients experience the same thing.

[Related: Who Are You Beyond the Roles You Play?]

4) Planning.

As I mentioned earlier, my client has potential and she’s working her way toward promotion, but she and I both knew she would still need a plan. I provided an outline of how her conversations with senior leaders should flow as she met with them to express her desires of being promoted. I suggested potential verbiage she could leverage. I advised her on when to follow up.

She had a plan, and you’ll need one, as well.

5) Resume readiness and interview preparation.

Last, but certainly not least, your resume must be a living document and your interviewing skills cannot be average. Employers aren’t looking to hire average talent, so you can’t afford to have an average resume or a subpar interview.

Update your resume monthly; track your accomplishments, projects, and results weekly. If you haven’t interviewed successfully in over two years, you may require assistance.

Potential helps, but understand it’s simply not enough when you’re on the road to promotion and are looking to make power moves in your career.

[Related: Three Steps to Reinvent Your Work Identity]

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Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman, which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger, and make PowHer Moves by identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: erickaspradley.com.


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