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Think you’re ready for a promotion?

We’ve all experienced ‘the itch’. It’s the feeling you have when a role no longer challenges you. Or the awareness that the gap between your skills and the skills of your superior seems to be closing. It’s that moment where you begin to look around for your next opportunity.

But how can you tell if you’re really ready and what should your next move be? Three professionals share their advice.

Do your research

First things first: research is imperative. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to find the right opportunity. Deakin MBA graduate James Buzzard, who works in management consulting at KPMG, says one strategy is to look for a niche that you can fill.  ‘See where the internal moves are happening, where gaps are forming and prepare yourself to be the fit for when the time is right.’

Once you fully understand the landscape you are working within it’s possible to upskill yourself in something that is lacking within the organisation. ‘But also don’t forget to keep an eye on what’s happening outside as well, your promotion might be an external role,’ Buzzard adds.

You’ve got this – so show them

In Buzzard’s personal experience, opportunities came through when he concentrated on his work performance. ‘We always talk about demonstrating capability at the next level up. Luckily for me, I’ve been in an area of immense growth and have found that the firm has supported me in accepting responsibility over and above my “grade”. As such, I’ve rapidly advanced through the layers.’

Buzzard is mindful of the fact that not all organisations offer the same types of opportunities for growth. ‘Often there are limited roles at the ‘next layer up’. In those situations, I think it is best to excel at your own role and find opportunities to support those above you, such as seconding into their role if they are on leave, or seeking other opportunities to demonstrate capability above what you’re currently engaged for.’

Melissa Di Vita, Head of Distribution at Guild Super, says it’s important that management can envisage you in the position you are aiming for. ‘Dress for the position you want, not the position you have. This also means act for the position as well.’  Di Vita says it’s worth being clear about your strengths. ‘Demonstrate what you can bring to the role that isn’t already there.’

Have the conversation with your manager

If you believe you are ready for something new, one of the best strategies is to let it be known that you are ready for new opportunities. Buzzard says, ‘Never expect a promotion – but definitely talk about career pathways and demonstrable measures of “promotion ready” capabilities with those who make decisions.’

Ian Allison, another MBA graduate and director of Botanical Funerals by Ian Allison, adds: ‘Be clear from your manager what the expectations are for success and failure in your particular position in the company. So often people aren’t on the same page as their manager, which may hinder their ability to get promoted.’

In Di Vita’s experience it’s essential to be prepared for the fact that your manager may not agree that you are ready. ‘I’ve had staff continually tell me that they are ready for a promotion, but I know deep down that’s not the case.’

While this can be difficult news to hear, if your manager is willing to get specific, it can also be a great opportunity for growth. Di Vita says her employees benefited from the fact that she is upfront. ‘Hard conversations are hard for a reason: I point out the areas they need to work on and help them grow. In my circumstance they realised why I said no and rather than aim for a promotion they worked on being a better version of themselves.’

If your employer questions your readiness, Di Vita suggests asking for advice on what skillsets you need to improve and then discussing ideas for your professional development. ‘If you can’t rely on your manager, organise it yourself. My employer paid 50% towards my MBA (completed at Deakin in 2013) but I took full ownership of my second master’s and organised this myself.’

'Never expect a promotion – but definitely talk about career pathways and demonstrable measures of “promotion ready” capabilities with those who make decisions.'

James Buzzard,
Deakin MBA graduate

Know your worth

In some circumstances, an organisation or a manager may be blocking your capacity to move forward. Buzzard suggests, If you can consistently display the promotion-ready capabilities and have had discussions with your superiors about promotions, but aren’t receiving one, then think of reiterating your aspirations and desires.’ If that still doesn’t work it may be time to find a new job externally.

Keep expectations realistic

Remember, the promotion isn’t the end game. It’s generally the start of a whole lot more work. Buzzard says, ‘Be prepared for change – the first 100 days of a new role, even if you’ve been with the organisation for some time, is always a time of change.’

He says people will most likely treat you differently. You may experience jealously and other adverse behaviours. You’ll probably make mistakes. This all comes with the territory. ‘Seek advice from colleagues at your level and superiors on expectations and how to perform well. Be prepared to forge your own path. Mimic behaviours that you admire and minimise behaviours that are problematic or adverse. Most of all, try to find time to rest and recuperate – don’t burn yourself out in your new role.’

If you’re keen to add to your professional skillset, learn about Deakin’s Master of Business Administration

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