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HERC Career Blog

Six Steps to Getting That Promotion

By Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
October 3, 2017
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No matter your industry or position, promotions can influence your short and long-term job satisfaction - from career progression to future opportunities. Use this two-part approach to make the most of internal advancement opportunities by ensuring you are top of mind for promotions and other critical opportunities.


Part 1: Lay the Groundwork Now

By the time a new position is announced, or a colleague gives notice, it may be too late to throw your hat in the ring for the role. Why? Because hiring managers and department heads may already have someone in mind for the position. Your goal is to be that person, and that means laying the groundwork now.

  • Be a strong performer. The first step is also the most obvious one: do a good job in your current position. This will likely be the single-most important factor when being considered for a promotion. If you are struggling with aspects of your job or feel you aren’t meeting your objectives, ask for help. Many managers value intellectual curiosity and a desire for self-improvement. Show that you check those boxes, to compensate for any short-term weaknesses in your current role.
  • Be a team player and a leader. Hand-raisers get noticed. When a new project emerges, don’t be afraid to volunteer as a team member or as a group or departmental leader. The higher up the professional ladder you go, the more you’ll be expected to exhibit both sets of skills—being a good team member and a good leader who’s communicative, reliable, and both respected and respectful. By taking—and thriving—in roles that go above and beyond your immediate job description, you will show your supervisor and other hiring managers that you are committed to your institution’s or department’s overarching success, which is essential when promotions are being considered.
  • Make learning a priority. Consider taking classes in your field, investing in coursework or certification programs, or finding a coach or mentor, so you are continually learning new skills. On-going education is valued in every industry, especially in higher education. And when promotions arise, decision-makers will know that you have both the foundation and tactical skills to move into the role and get the job done.


Part 2: Securing the Promotion
That said, it’s not a good idea to sit back and wait for opportunities. Instead, when a position comes up that you’d like to pursue, do something. The sooner you act, and the clearer and more decisive your actions, the better chance you’ll have of being considered—and hired—for your next great job.

  • Ask—and ask SOON. Again, this is an obvious step, but it’s worth saying: ASK for the promotion. Whether it’s your supervisor or a hiring manager in your department—or even one from outside—express your interest in the role and succinctly articulate why you think you are a good fit. Depending on your relationship with the hiring manager or decision maker, you could ask in person, over the phone, or via email. Ideally, though, if it’s someone you know or who’s accessible to you, make an appointment and present yourself face-to-face.
  • Submit a formal application. Often, a new position or recently opened role will be posted online, on the institution’s job board, or on third-party sites. Apply for it when you see it go live. Unless you have been told there’s an alternative route for internal candidates, go ahead and take steps to be formally considered. In some cases, an “official” application is required. In other instances, the person you talked with about being considered for the promotion may not be communicating with human resources or external staffing teams. Having your resume cross his or her inbox will ensure you are seen and considered.
  • Talk with your supervisor. If your boss isn’t the hiring manager for your desired role, make time to discuss your interest and intent to pursue the promotion. Most good managers support their staffers as they grow and excel in their careers—no one expects you to stay in this job forever. It is respectful to alert your manager, and in many cases, your manager will even be central to helping you secure the promotion. If you have followed the steps outlined in part one—demonstrating that you are a strong employee—your manager may be willing to pick up the phone or sit down with the hiring manager in support of your candidacy. And that speaks volumes about a candidate’s work ethic, experience, and overall desirability.

By focusing on your day-to-day performance, you’ll be well-positioned when promotions and other opportunities arise. And, of equal importance, by treating every potential promotion as a formal “official” job application and interview, you’ll be front-and-center as decisions are being made and offers are being extended. Together, this two-part approach will ensure you’re top-of-mind for future promotions and effectively put yourself in the mix for professional growth and achievement.


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