Moving forward: smooth operators

Firstly, be clear that you really want a promotion (are you really looking
for a pay rise, better feedback, learning opportunities, or a different

Take up opportunities to stand in for more senior staff to find out if you
really want the additional headaches that come with a more senior role.

Managing how others see you is a critical step, particularly when it comes to
key decision-makers in the organisation. Being good at what you do is not always

The business world is full of people who work hard and stay at the same level
while other smoother operators sail past. Managers report that they decide
whether someone is suitable for promotion based on just one or two key events ­
and high up the list are public moments such as presentations, or project

It’s not a question of what you do, but how far you are seen to be doing the
things that matter.

Focus on working smarter, not harder. Don’t think that long hours will
automatically mean you climb a rung on the ladder. ‘Presenteeism’ may also
demonstrate poor time management skills and a failure to achieve any kind of
life/work balance.

It’s fine to take on extra responsibilities but give attention to the
projects that matter to the most senior staff in your organisation. Make sure
your achievements are noticed ­ if things have worked well on a particular
project, let people know so that others can adopt the same strategies.

Telling people that you hope to receive a promotion might sound like setting
yourself up for a fall but it’s often a good idea to flag up your ambition in a
reasonable way. Talk about what you need to do be seen as a credible candidate,
but make sure you look and sound the part ­ the right image often leads to the
right opportunity.

Finding a mentor is often a key step ­ someone within the company who can
help you decode the system ­ and give you objective advice about the skills you
need to develop and the contacts you need to make. Gaining allies also helps you
to identify the key projects that are coming up. Doing everything you can to
work on the right projects and teams may make the difference between being
trapped in a career rut and moving up the ladder.

John Lees, career coach and author of How To Get A
Job You’ll Love

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