Most of us seek promotion for fresh challenges, to improve self-esteem or
simply to earn more money. There is no clearer indication that your talents and
abilities are being recognised than a progressive climb up the career ladder.
Although not everyone wants to make it to CEO or even HR director, there is
anecdotal evidence to suggest that many of the disciplines applied to career
advancement can also lead to greater fulfilment in your present role.
Where do I start?
Thankfully, modern work environments mean there is less of a requirement to
be obsequious or suck up to superiors, but having the right skills and working
hard are not always enough to secure that upward move. As with everything
career-related, it is your responsibility to guide your own career path, so you
need an action plan. Charlotte Bradshaw, managing director of Bright Young
Things, a recruitment firm that specialises in identifying high-flyers, advises
positioning yourself now for where you want to be tomorrow.
"Imagine what you want to be doing in two years," she says.
"And imagine what the person who’ll recruit you into this next role wants.
Gear up everything you do now to getting this role."
What can I do to improve my position?
Your most valuable commodity is your reputation, so it is vital to have a
clear understanding of how you are perceived by senior management and your
colleagues. If you’re regarded as a committed, team-spirited key player, then
you are far more likely to succeed. Ask yourself how often colleagues come to
you for help, involve you in their projects or heed your suggestions in
meetings. If you are not highly thought of at present, then engage in some PR
activity to bolster your image.
Increase your visibility in the organisation through networking outside of
the department, which is also an excellent way of finding out more about the
business as a whole. Make sure key influencers are aware of your ambitions, but
not in such a way that will cause bad feeling or resentment among your colleagues.
Avoid becoming embroiled in office politics – spending too much time around
the water-cooler airing your grievances will ultimately earn you the wrong kind
of reputation. You must show yourself to be a good communicator and presenter,
and a strategic thinker with business acumen who is able to consider issues
from both a business and technical viewpoint.
Find a mentor
We never tire of advocating the benefits of having an influential and
experienced mentor. If your organisation doesn’t operate a formal mentoring or
coaching programme, think carefully about who can perform this role. Not only
can a mentor help improve self-awareness and pinpoint how any formal learning
or training programme corresponds with your career goals, but they can also
alert key influencers to your abilities.
Continuing professional development
As an HR professional, you should already know that qualifications and
training are synonymous with promotion, so update your skills whenever
possible. HR is a dynamic function and its skills have to adapt to the changing
climate. At the height of merger and acquisitions activity due diligence was
regarded as indispensable, whereas now, in terms of economic uncertainty,
hiring and firing ability is more likely to be key.
If you haven’t yet joined the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development
(CIPD), maybe it’s time you did – especially since members are set to be
granted use of the ‘chartered’ in their title as individuals in the same way
that lawyers, accountants and engineers are. If you are serious about moving up
the executive ladder, you should also consider studying for an MBA.
Keeping up-to-date with what is happening in the wider context is a major
part of your continuing professional development. Famili-arise yourself with trends
and issues in your sector through the trade and business press.
Scour the appointments pages for suitable openings and, even if you’re not
ready to move on, apply for at least one position a year – just knowing that
someone else is interested in your talents can raise your confidence within
Take your lead fromhigh-fliers
If there are meteoric risers in your organisation, look and learn from them:
what special talents do they have, and what are they doing that you are not?
Where can I get more info?
– Get Paid More and Promoted Faster: 21 Great ways to get Ahead in your
Career, Brian Tracy, Berret-Koehler £14.99, ISBN 1583762078
– The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R Covey, Simon &
Schuster, £10.99, ISBN 0684858398
– 30 Minutes to Get Promoted, Diana Cambridge, Kogan Page, £3.00, ISBN
Top 10 networking tips, www.personneltoday.com/goto/18096
How to… manage your career, www.personneltoday.com/goto/17691
How to… improve your market value, www.personneltoday.com/goto/18892
If you only do five things…
1 Formulate an action plan
2 Focus everything you do on getting the role
3 Have a clear understanding of your reputation
4 Find a mentor
5 Update your skills whenever possible
Expert’s view: Charlotte Bradshaw on promotion
Charlotte Bradshaw is managing director of Bright Young Things, a recruitment
company that exclusively focuses on identifying high-flying young
professionals. She was previously a business development director for ntl’s
consumer division, where she focused on strategy development, deal origination
and negotiation and relationship management.
What’s the single most important thing you can do to improve your
Proactively manage your career. Make sure the key people know your ambitions
and timelines. Use this to create an upward spiral to ensure your aspirations are
met. Don’t be afraid to change companies if you feel opportunities are slowing
What are common pitfalls?
Don’t get stuck in a rut – do not be perceived as just a safe pair of hands.
If you’re nearing your comfort zone, push for the next challenge. Focus on
developing new skills to demonstrate your ambition while setting you apart.
Should your approach differ depending on the sector or industry you work
Proactively managing your career is key wherever you are, though the focus
may vary. If you have a very defined career path, hit specific targets as
quickly as possible. If progression is more flexible, upward management and
gentle self-promotion are critical.
How critical is it to have a mentor?
The more flexible a company’s career path, the more critical having someone
to sponsor your progression becomes. You need them to advise you and ensure
that key influencers in the organisation are aware of your talents and