Nexford advises on how to position yourself for your next job promotion
Getting promoted is not a right, it is earned. To make yourself more noticeable and worthy of one takes determination and a degree of upskilling to thrive
Jennifer Bangoura, Nexford’s Director of Career Innovation, and one of Nexford’s mentors as part of The Global Grid initiative, Raymond Victorino, recently chaired our first-ever mentorship session around the particularly important topic of ‘Positioning yourself for your next job promotion.’ These are the fascinating insights that came out of the Q&A session.
Watch the full webinar on positioning yourself for your next job promotion.
Question: I have a big challenge with the structure of the organization I work for in terms of how they value my input and recognize the results that I bring to the table. I’ve requested a promotion and used real facts to back it up. I honestly believe that I’ve earned it and deserve it, but much to my dismay, it still has not happened. It looks as if management is unable to move forward because of a poor internal structure which bothers me. What should I do?
RV: I think the structure of the organization, or your department, is extremely critical when considering making a career move. It could be that the company is downsizing, or it’s a very lean organization that means you may not get promoted unless this boss leaves the company or is transferred to another department, or are themselves promoted. But to answer the question, there are two things to consider.
Number one is that you must recognize that you have a timeline for your career. If you’re eligible for a promotion, it may not happen at once. I know that you believe that it should happen now, but sometimes the structure of the organization is such that it takes time to move up. So, if you are willing to wait, then my advice is just to go ahead and continue doing what you do and developing yourself, keep adding value, act, and follow through with your boss.
Number two is, and this goes to my point of continuing to add value, or adding more value, is that the position you are in requires certain skills that you currently don’t have in your armory. In which case, there is a case for going back to learning and upskilling yourself to make a stronger case for why you are right for the new job.
Question: People don’t leave companies because of bad jobs; they leave companies because of bad managers. So how do you handle a line supervisor who has bossy behavior?
RV: First, we have different interpretations as to what a bossy supervisor is. It could mean that the person keeps on giving you responsibility for stuff that’s clearly not yours. Or it’s about their demeanor. But then again, my advice is that if you have a bossy supervisor, and you feel that you’re not comfortable working with them, you should take the initiative to engage in a conversation and express your feelings. If you focus on the facts and take emotion out of it, they must listen to you and recognize your unhappiness with them being a bossy boss.
Many of us would fear that it might go against us or make us feel that the best way to address those concerns is in a written form, but remember, an email can be taken out of context and it’s difficult to judge tone. In my experience what I have found is that a face-to-face conversation, where you clear the air, often actually translates into a better working relationship. That’s the most common outcome of confronting your boss in person or in a satisfactory manner that’s not judgmental and clarifies why your boss is showing that kind of behavior.
I also discourage people from spreading gossip or rumors about their boss being bossy. This doesn’t help and can blow up in your face. Your working relationship should deal with things upfront rather than gathering allies from different departments and grabbing your pitchforks.
Question: What is the best advice for someone who wants to change their career path? Or trajectory?
RV: My advice is to know what you really want. You cannot just venture into something of which you are unsure. Seek out people you trust that you can get information from to ask about the role, what it is like, and what does a typical working day look like? This will give you a clear perspective before you move on to the next part of your career and leave you able to make a more informed decision.
But my advice, and I have spoken about this before in an earlier webinar, is that the best time to shift careers would be at the very early stages of it. Because, if you are already in the middle stages, and you are already a manager, for example, it would be particularly challenging. There are few companies right now that will offer you a different role at your current level.
So, some people tend to take a step back, you know, one step back two steps forward and take a lower-level role for a while, just so that they can gain that experience for the new career that they’re looking for. But really, what I have seen works best most of the time is when employees explore another career option within their current company.
Some companies have programs like career lattice or cross-posting where you can be immersed in another function that you don’t have any experience in. At the same time, you can also take on volunteering goals in projects that will allow you to work with, for example, sales or marketing folks in the company. There can be a lot of opportunities within your organization, so I suggest you look there before deciding to leave and explore a different career in another company.
JB: That’s a great point. I was talking with a Nexford learner about this earlier this week when they asked me the same question. My answer was that they should look at some of the Nexford courses that they’re already enrolled in and use that to map a new career path. Looking internally is really a key place to start.
I think a lot of people reach this point where they say, I need to change careers, and I must do it at a different company. But it can be easier when you look within first and think of how you can explore a new educational offering that will help get you there. So yes, often you are taking that step back, potentially, or making a lateral move, but at the same time keeping your eye on the longer-term goal of where that pivot can take you.
RV: Just to add. Say, for example, you’re taking an MBA at Nexford University you’re being trained and equipped for that field as part of your MBA program. So again my suggestion is that you try to look for opportunities in your current company where you can apply because that will help you in your transition.
Question: Is it possible to stay away from office politics that you become engaged with the moment you sign up, and more so when people want to influence things in one way or another?
JB: This came up in Raymond’s last webinar around avoiding office politics. And just to be emotionally aware of who you’re engaging with and around what topics. I guess people wanted to hear more about how to navigate that.
RV: That’s an interesting question, and I remember mentioning that in my read. Office or workplace politics can be described as the manifestation of the power dynamics in an organization. However, I think I did not delineate or differentiate the various kinds of office politics that exist. In my experience, there are two kinds, positive office politics, and negative office politics.
Positive office politics would mean giving appreciation or recognition to another person in the company, or it could mean creating or presenting a corporate image of yourself. Negative office politics could be backstabbing, blackmailing, spreading rumors, or gossiping. So, what I am really talking about is for you to stay away from negative office politics. I guess, in summary, your loyalty shouldn’t be to the company values and principles.
JB: It involves people being aware of and taking the time to reflect on having conversations and using their judgment to decide if this is something that they want to have associated with their professional brand. I think it’s an art of learning how to redirect some of those conversations, and if somebody starts laying into that bossy boss, they need to be asking themselves if they want others to repeat what they’ve said to others. It’s all about being sensitive to that.
Question: What advice would you give to someone who is currently taking on more responsibilities at their place of work because the company is reducing staff in the department and the job load is getting overwhelming. But the manager has said, “There’s no way the company is adding more staff now.”
RV: I think during COVID, a lot of people have felt this pressure with either the great resignation or layoffs happening. So, how do you, one take care of yourself, and two make sure that your manager or team acknowledges the extra load that you’re taking on?
That’s the unfortunate reality we currently find ourselves in. Many workers are working for companies that are merely surviving because they are operating in industries that are not really performing well. So, first, I think more than the promotion concern, this is an emotional, physical, and mental health issue. You must evaluate if it is still healthy for you to take on those responsibilities.
I don’t see anything wrong if you express to your boss that you feel overwhelmed. It may be that your boss is under-resourced in your department but might have other resources that they can tap into to help you. If you feel that you can still take on the responsibilities, without compromising your overall well-being, then by all means I think there are a lot of opportunities for assuming the responsibilities of others who left the organization. At the end of the day, it can work to your benefit, increase your leadership experience, and demonstrate that you can step up to the plate when the chips are down.
But of course, at the same time, you must manage the expectations of your boss, because a job that is performed by five employees previously, the outcome might be different, especially if it’s being done just as a single person. So, there must be an alignment of expectations, and don’t be afraid to seek help.
JB: Agree that it’s all about managing expectations and being clear about things like, ‘here’s what my job description is’, and ‘here’s what I’m doing now.’ Then look to prioritize what you realistically can do with the time that you have in your area of commitment that worked, making sure that your manager and team are aware of it.
Question: How valuable is an MBA when it comes to negotiating promotions and pay raises?
RV: An MBA can be used to gain a promotion, and you can view it as a form of investment in yourself. So, when you take an MBA, for example in my case, my undergraduate course had nothing to do with HR. I was a marketing graduate. So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in HR, because I wanted to equip myself with the theoretical foundations of HR and to add credibility to myself as an HR practitioner.
Of course, I’m not underestimating the value of the experience that you gain over the years, but I think more than the title, an MBA is valuable because it enables you to acquire the skills and knowledge that will help you move to the next level. The benefit would be even better if you’re able to apply all the knowledge and skills that you got from your MBA back to your job.
JB: It’s understanding both the theory and the practice, that experiential nature of it, and being able to articulate the value to your employer. So, really think critically when you look at your coursework and the projects that you did. Look at how you can connect the dots for somebody to understand the true value of your MBA.
Question: What are the ways you can stand out if you’re in a competitive role or a large team?
RV: I think a lot of people can feel like, does anyone see me or notice the work that I’m doing? I’ve seen this a lot where people are feeling like, does anyone see the contributions that I’m making?
So, my number one advice would be to find out what specific competencies your company are looking for. It may be that they are looking for skills that they believe will take the company to the next level. Once you’ve figured that out, try as much as possible to impact the four areas that I mentioned in my webinar. That’s all about the perception of people around your visibility, your influence, and your impact. You must be able to display those competencies and make sure that all four are working together to help you achieve your goals.
Question: What are the most important skills that will help you to get into senior-level positions?
RV: Based on my experience, in most multinational companies, it’s about segmenting your skills and competencies. One would be technical, or hard skills, and then the other one would be leadership skills. So, of course, if you’re dying for a more senior role management role then you must do well in the leadership skills aspect.
Bear in mind though that no one size fits all competencies for every company. They might have some similarities, but other leadership competencies might be different from the others. However, what I can think of right now is number one, concentrate on people development and engagement skills. You must be able to groom the next set of leaders that can replace you and continuously engage the people that are reporting to you.
When I say engagement, it’s not just about HR creating these engagement activities or events, but really, it is in a deeper sense, the primary role of our line leaders to engage with people daily. Another thing could be effective communication. Whatever level you are at in the organization, effective communication is significant. Especially if you are in a leadership role, you must be able to communicate and articulate the strategies of the organization and influence the people to join you, and take the organization in the direction that will help it succeed and grow.
Another possible competency is as a leader of purchase business and financial acumen. It is important because as you move up the ladder, or even maybe you are in the lower ranks, you must be able to know how the company makes and loses money. You must be able to identify what are the factors that influence the outcome of the company. So, it’s important, especially if you are in a supporting functional role like HR that you are not just competent in the HR role, but that you are also able to speak the language of the business.
Furthermore, you need to consider strategic thinking. You must be able to think long-term and consider where you have the skills to help the company come up with strategies, projects, or initiatives that can help it achieve its goals in say three to five years. So, right now, those are the skills that I can think of that will help you to move up the career ladder. Of course, it depends on the organization.
JB: What gets me excited about that and our Nexford offering is our competency-based curriculum and the skills-based nature of our courses. So, as you’ve highlighted here, when folks look at the courses, certificates, and degrees that we have, they can draw out these specific competencies.
I think it’s a healthy exercise to continually ask oneself questions like, ‘what skills do I need to get to that next level or into a more senior role?’ Really stepping back and thinking critically. Asking where do I have real strengths and where do I have gaps, which is what has been mentioned consistently throughout this Q&A session. It’s about having those open lines of communication with your manager, with your boss, and with your colleagues at large. It can be a healthy exercise to ask people questions like ‘here is where I am, where I think I am now, here’s where I want to be, here’s what I understand my skills and strengths to be, and here’s where I have some growth areas that need addressing.’
Then get insight and feedback from people to find that the reality that you perceive is self-awareness, making sure that others are perceiving the way that you perceive yourself. Once you identify those growth areas, you should be able to identify that it’s the lifelong learners that can stay competitive, because they are both competent and confident in their ability to execute in their roles.
Raymond Victorino is just one of several Nexford mentors in ‘The Global Grid’ program, where learners can gain valuable insights from leading industry experts. Look out for more webinars and Q&A sessions and then register to take your place at the table.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
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