How to get a promotion at work

It's a question everyone has: what's the best way to get a promotion at work. But as few firms spell out the criteria for advancement, it’s important to have a game plan.
Such are Najat Vallaud-Belkacem’s – the French minister for women’s rights – concerns about the female battle for top jobs, that last month her ministry published a smartphone and tablet app offering career guidance and advice. But struggling to assert yourself at work is not a uniquely female issue. Competition is fierce. And while no one likes engaging in awkward conversations with their boss, if you want to move forward, they’re part of the game.
First comes asking for a promotion. While there is a wealth of information available on how to step up the career ladder, here are some of the more useful tips.
1 TIME IT RIGHT
Asking for a promotion is one of life’s more stressful experiences: what if they say no? Getting your timing right could help. January is the best month, according to Mark Di Vincenzo, who has studied in detail the places, times and ways we can maximise how we live our lives. Between 2000 and 2012, 16 per cent of all promotions occurred in the first month of the year. Strategically, however, July could be your best bet. “Businesses are slow in the summer, so if you are promoted, you’ll have time to get up to speed before things pick up in the autumn.”
2 IF YOU DON’T ASK...
Passed over for a promotion despite stellar results and glowing reviews? “In most firms, promotions are governed by unwritten rules – the often fuzzy, intuitive, and poorly expressed feelings of senior executives regarding individuals’ ability to succeed in C-suite positions,” John Beeson wrote recently in Harvard Business Review. So it’s important, as an aspiring executive, to have a game plan.
Few companies spell out the criteria for advancement – and longevity may not guarantee you climb up the career ladder. So if you want to get ahead, be vocal about it. “In the current tough economy, employees feel lucky to keep their jobs, and are scared to rock the boat,” James Lock of recruitment firm Communicate told AOL Money. “But employers are scared too, of losing staff and not having the budget to replace them.” Identify the specific position you want, and do your research. “You need to show that you’ve performed a level higher than your current role,” executive coach Blaire Palmer recently wrote on What’s Wrong with Work.
3 THE FLEXIBLE DILEMMA
Advances in internet technology have boosted telecommuting’s popularity, with 59 per cent of employers offering teleworking in 2011, up from 13 per cent in 2006. But research from MIT Sloan has shown teleworkers get smaller raises, fewer promotions and lower performance reviews. The study argues that office workers and bosses are heavily influenced by “passive face time,” the mere presence of someone’s face in the office on a regular basis.
Fortunately, however, there are ways that flexible workers can demonstrate productivity and enhance their career prospects. Responding to emails immediately shows availability, for example. Using video rather than phone calls, and ensuring you are extra visible when you do go into the office, could help mitigate the “face time” problem.
4 THE NEXT STEP
Thought getting a promotion was hard? Requesting a payrise is so daunting that research has found only six in ten people will get round to it. This may be down to inertia – asking for a salary hike requires a water-tight business case and evidence of your skills. Yet being well-prepared to discuss your pay at the negotiating table is essential. “Work out your market value by researching the internet,” suggests Palmer. And according to Rony Ross, founder of Panorama Software, the secret to successful negotiating is to take the ego out of the equation. She told Forbes: “I’ve been in many negotiations that start with ‘I want this, I want that’. Talk instead about how ‘we need to reach a solution,’” and you may get a better deal.
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