The New Year Promotion Plan

Earn your next promotion in the New Year with these five simple steps.

By Frances Cole Jones


There’s a crispness in the air and we’ve all got that back-to-business, “wow, I’d forgotten about this sweater!” vibe that keeps our energy and career motivation high. [TWEET]

Unfortunately, as the days get shorter and holiday madness sets in, it’s all too easy for this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed attitude to fade away.  But there’s one sure-fire way to keep yourself on-track and focused in your career over the holidays: Begin to plan today for a promotion in the New Year.  Below are five items to check off your list to keep you on the New-Year promotion tract:

Dress the part

You may have heard that you should “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and this idea is particularly important once you’ve set your promotion deadline. While I have no doubt you are dressing appropriately for your current role, the position you want might require you to make some adjustments.

For example, perhaps your office has a policy of dressing down on Fridays, and this is something you and your contemporaries look forward to. That said, you’ve noticed senior management doesn’t take advantage of this.  If this sounds like your office, I’d recommend you take a page from management and abandon casual Friday, too. The visual assurance that you have picked up on, and are willing to adhere to, this unspoken policy will go a long way toward management feeling confident that you’re ready to become part of theit team.

Speak up

A vitally important way to impress your superiors is by exhibiting ease in multiple situations. One of the quickest ways to have this ease recognized is by speaking up at every opportunity, from your weekly staff get together to meetings with key business officials.

For instance, perhaps you find yourself on the elevator with your CEO a few mornings a week. This is a great opportunity to get your feet wet in speaking up. Rather than simply standing face-forward and observing the control panel, I recommend taking this chance to greet him or her. I’m not asking you to be effusive—a simple “good morning,” coupled with a smile, is often enough to start getting noticed.

Initiate appropriate action

I have a client who is a trainee stockbroker at one of Manhattan’s larger firms, as well as a former Marine. One day he was in the men’s room, which was littered with paper towels. He began picking them up. At that moment, one of the directors came in and asked him what he was doing. He said he was picking up paper towels. The director asked why. He said because they were on the floor. The director pointed out that this wasn’t his job. My client agreed, but explained what the Marine Corps had instilled in him: “In the absence of orders, initiate appropriate action.”

Suffice to say this seemingly insignificant display of initiative did a lot to enhance his reputation with those occupying corner offices.  Similarly, a show of initiative on your part – in ways both large and seemingly small— is a great way to move up in the ranks.

Lead a team

Few jobs these days are about working in isolation. They instead require people skills that are as strong as any technical skills you might have. Given this, demonstrating you have the ability to lead and motivate your co-workers is a strong indicator to the people upstairs that you’re ready to be one of them. With this in mind, I strongly recommend volunteering to head a team project. Or better yet, initiate one of your own. Remain aware that your work as a leader will be silently evaluated just as much as the impact your work might have on the bottom line.

What’s the easiest way to provide motivation and inspiration for your team? Praise them. Again, I’m not asking you to be effusive. It can be as simple as saying, “good work today,” as they leave the meeting. I think, however, that you’ll be surprised at the difference this makes in their willingness to go the extra mile, and their improved performance will reflect well on you.

Ask for it

For many of us, the idea of asking outright for what we want or deserve is foreign. But asking for what you want is a must. Not doing so means you’ll be disgruntled, and no one wants an employee with a chip on his shoulder. There are a few first steps to asking for your promotion:

  • Make an explicit appointment to discuss your request.
  • Provide concrete examples of how you have contributed to the firm’s success.
  • Have a specific salary figure and/or title in mind.

With these five tips implemented, you’ll be in great shape to ask for a promotion by the New Year. However, I recommend recognizing that there’s a chance you might not get what you want. And “no” is typically just information– not a reflection on your value to the firm. In fact, it’s more likely a reflection on the history of the position, or the current balance sheet of the company.

Why is this important? Because making requests with this in mind will help you remain relaxed throughout the conversation. And when you’re at ease, it’s easier to roll with the punches. You’ll convey confidence and humor, essential elements in the negotiation process. And when the balance sheet does look more favorable, your request may still be top of mind.

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