As a career consultant, I have been fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work with clients across career stages right from the level of entry and junior professionals all the way up to senior roles and CXOs. And over the years, certain patterns become obvious regardless of the career stage the professional is at.

One constant complaint I hear from my clients, apart from having hit the glass ceiling at the current organization, is that they have been passed over for a promotion.


The Classic Mistake Professionals & High-Performers Often Make

Moving up the career ladder involves a lot of deep self-introspection which many professionals make the mistake of not dedicating enough time to. Some of the high performer clients I work with love to assume that their accomplishments will do the talking! Others feel that they deserve a promotion because they have been loyal to the organization, while the others left for greener pastures or sought better opportunities elsewhere. 

There's also a tendency amongst senior managers to assume that personal development will become self-evident and that clarity about one's own strengths will emerge automatically without a decent amount of self-introspection. Others assume that investing in an MBA or a global executive MBA will cover for it. Sometimes this works, especially if the skill sets are in high demand, in which case they are like to face a similar hurdle at a later stage.


What Do You Need Clarity On?

The reason the process of gaining clarity is so complex is because, at every stage in your career, it involves least three aspects of your career development:

1. Discovering, recognizing, understanding and appreciating your key contributions and learnings and crucially, how they all fit into the next role.

2. Having a good understanding of your company's evolving aspirations, their expectations from your target position and how good a fit you currently are.

3. Your ability to position and pitch yourself for your target role based on the first 2 aspects objectively without assuming or that you deserve it simply because of x amount of years with the company or because your colleagues were similarly rewarded (can't stress this last one enough!).


Some Questions to Get You Started on the Process

So, before you embark on the quest for your next promotion ask yourself the following questions-

  • "What am I the best at?": Gain more clarity on your specific skillsets and personality traits
  • "What do my co-workers say I’m good at?": In a lot of ways, this is more important than what you think of yourself. Ask yourself, “How are you being perceived by them? Is this how you want to be perceived as? What can you do to turn it around positively or make it even better?”
  • "What does my job require me to be good at?": Make a note of your peers’ and especially your boss's feedback. Find a way to receive honest feedback. 
  • "Are my strengths being underutilized? If so, why, and what can I do about it?": You should be able to gain insights into this question based on the responses you have gained for the former questions. Make sure to avoid the classic mistake of answering this question solely based on your own individual opinion or that of your spouse or family members (especially those who may be always biased in your favor!)
  • "Do I have clarity about the next role and what it entails and is it a good fit for my skillsets?": Get more details and gain clarity on this important question before you aim for that promotion. You may begin with this question first if it gets you motivated as long as you do not skip the other important questions as well! The more clarity a professional gets about these three aspects, the better are his/her chances of getting that well-deserved promotion. 

Please do share your own story or comments on getting promoted!


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