What to Do While You’re Waiting to Be Promoted

When some hotshot skyrockets through the ranks on the way to the C-Suite, other middle managers can feel slighted or overlooked. They worry that they’re not getting enough opportunity or recognition, and wonder why their boss or someone from HR isn’t coming to tell them what a great job they’re doing and promote them.

But meeting expectations and staying out of trouble is never enough to ensure advancement. Whether you have your sights set on the boardroom or you see yourself as an expert individual contributor, try these five approaches to help you attract more attention — appropriately — for your contributions and capabilities.

  1. Take more responsibility. No matter how high up in the hierarchy you are, look for additional ways to deliver what your leadership needs. Treat your boss — and your boss’s boss, for that matter — as your best customer: Take nothing for granted, visit often, express gratitude, check on progress and satisfaction, ask for feedback about your work, and inquire about what else your boss needs you to accomplish.
  2. Figure more out for yourself. If you suddenly found out you were going to be promoted to the job you really wanted, what new ideas, innovations, or improvements would you come up with? Why not start sharing them right away rather than waiting until your boss realizes you have more to contribute — which may or may not ever happen anyway. Whenever you notice that something isn’t working as well as it could, delegate to yourself the job of assessing what needs to be done, and make the proposals for what could be better.
  3. Build more teams. Thoughtful senior leaders are always concerned about bench strength and succession planning. If you’re successful at developing teams you make yourself more valuable. An effective, strong “utility coach” gets more opportunities, and also more access, so demonstrate your excellent team-building skills to become a contender for jobs that require enhancing team cohesion and engagement — even if they’re outside your functional expertise.
  4. Cover more ground. Don’t just look up the organizational structure for opportunities; look across too. It’s common now for employees to move between groups, gaining broader experience at the same level, and building bridges of collaboration and informational flows between related functions. The more you understand about how departments link together, and recognize opportunities for synergy and efficient use of resources, the more likely it is that senior people will see you as the potential “answer” to organizational problems.
  5. Get more connected. You need a network that’s not just rooting for you, but can also provide nuanced crucial feedback or introductions to kingmakers. Try volunteering for projects outside your group and attending management-wide events where you can look for mentors and champions besides your boss. This way, even if your boss doesn’t appreciate you enough or doesn’t have the traction to get you the necessary organizational exposure, you’ll be able to find others who can give you an extra boost.

Don’t Just Bide Your Time

It’s tough to be patient when you’re feeling neglected, or if the cultural norms in your organization require you to twiddle your thumbs and wait your turn. So in the meantime, why not identify every possible opportunity to learn and accomplish more? That way, you’ll accrue the necessary experience and warrant the special attention that will help you to move up successfully — whether that happens where you are or somewhere else.

Onward and upward,


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