10 top tips to get ready for a work promotion

The idea of a work promotion is an exciting one, often laden with all the benefits you’d expect such as increased salary, bonus, better benefits, higher status and responsibility. But the process of getting ready for a promotion is far from straightforward. Many promotion processes can be lengthy and challenging, testing the mettle of even the most talented people. Some require you to out-perform your peers, and feature endless assessments, paperwork, presentations and interviews.

As a result, the process of getting promoted can be exhausting, especially when you have to fit in the extra work in your spare time. However, the good news is that there are lots of things you can do to increase your chances of success and stay on top of the process. 

Here are my top 10 tips to help you get ready for your next promotion:

1. Give the promotion process due time and attention upfront

Don’t leave anything to chance! Make sure you know exactly what is required of you and when, including what paperwork you need to complete, what interview panels or presentations you need to prepare for. This often trips people up when they realise there’s something they’re not prepared for, causing last minute panic and stress! (And if your organisation isn’t very clear on what’s required in the process, you may want to enquire upfront and find out).

2. Create a timeline & action plan with key dates and milestones

Spend time drawing out a timeline with all the milestones and deliverables. This will help you become familiar with the process, including any hidden aspects you may have overlooked. For example, if you have a deadline to submit your business case, what are the steps you need to take to meet that deadline? Many people forget to factor in time to ask sponsors / trusted supporters to review paperwork before submitting. These people are often busy and, understandably, don’t like to be asked to review something with a tight turnaround time. Remember, perception is key – if you appear disorganised, or that you haven’t given the process due attention, that could go against you.

3. Gain critical internal support & build valuable internal relationships

Who are your key sponsors? Who are the key decision makers? What could you do to influence support? If you’re not clear on who’s supportive of the idea of your promotion (and maybe, who isn’t), this could cause problems further down the line. Don’t assume – find out.

Sometimes, promotion sponsors ask around internally for informal perceptions of promotion candidates. This can be useful to bring to light any information that could negatively impact a promotion decision. That means it’s a good idea to raise your profile during the process, especially if there’s an internal expectation for people to build relationships outside your immediate team or department. This could be increasing your visibility, getting to know people from other teams or areas, working with a new team, contributing more during meetings or joining a new internal network. It’s really about expanding the amount of people who know you internally, especially senior people. This isn’t about sucking up to anyone, it’s just about finding useful opportunities, talking sense and showing an interest. All these things will help to create good perceptions of you, especially when people don’t know you very well.

4. Understand what’s really required of you at the next level

What will change for you at the next level? Is it significantly different from what you’re doing now or just a slight change? How much of a step up will it be? Sometimes people assume they’re doing the job already and that the promotion will be in name only. How do you know for sure? Challenge yourself to consider what assumptions you might be making. If necessary, ask around, and check that your perception matches reality. It’s easy to imagine an idealised perception of what’s involved at the next level, which, if you’re wrong, can lead to being out of your depth very quickly in the next role.

5. Raise your profile externally

Are you expected to bring in new business or raise the company profile? Will you be given extra responsibilities that require you to have a good external profile? If so, it’s a good idea to look at your profile and build your credibility. How often do you post on social media, write articles or blogs? Who are you connected to? What sort of posts do you ‘like’? What do you stand for? What impression are you creating out there?

6. Practice talking about yourself confidently

Many people, especially women (from my experience), struggle to talk about themselves and their achievements in a way that feels both genuine and confident. It’s easy to imagine that you’ll come across as being boastful or arrogant. But the truth is, you need to show you believe in yourself. Otherwise, why would anyone else? It’s a good idea to spend time recalling examples of your success, with anecdotes that bring it to life, including what you achieved and how you did it. That means what you personally achieved, not what your team achieved. That’s an easy mistake during an interview. Practice talking out loud to help reduce your discomfort and increase your familiarity with what you’re saying. You could record yourself to see how it sounds, or ask some trusted friends or colleagues to help you.

7. Prepare well for presentations or interview panels

Presentations and interviews can be particularly nerve-wracking, leaving people feeling vulnerable and worrying that they’ll mess it up. This is another good reason to practice in advance! If you can, find out who will be interviewing you or present in the room, what level they are, and what the format is going to be. There’s a big difference between a ‘Dragon’s Den’ scenario v. a more informal set up with people you know and trust! Make sure you practice presentations to the extent that you could cope with any problems on the day, such as any technological hiccups like not having your slides. Consider what type of questions you’re likely to be asked and make sure you have your facts and figures to hand. Oh, and remember to breathe!

8. Practice handling challenging questions 

There are likely to be one or two questions that catch you off guard during an interview or presentation. This can cause unexpected reactions you might regret afterwards, like saying the wrong thing, blagging an answer, or reacting defensively. So, it’s worth getting yourself into a resourceful state of mind to allow you to stay grounded and present. Plan your answers upfront, asking yourself “what’s the worst thing I could be asked?”, “what topics will I find hardest and why?” or “what will I do if I don’t remember everything?” Going through this in advance will increase your sense of readiness for the unexpected.

Sometimes, questions are intentionally provocative to test your ability to stay grounded and unflustered. This a good skill to have the more senior you become, so find opportunities to practice before the real thing. Ask someone you trust to run a ‘mock’ panel and ask you some challenging questions. Listen to their feedback on how you reacted and if need be, practice again till you feel comfortable that you’ve adapted your response.

9. Find your ‘why’ for this promotion

If you’re already in a lengthy senior promotion process, you’ll know it’s full of ups and downs, testing your resilience at every stage. Therefore, it’s worth knowing your ‘why.’ Why do you really want this promotion? It’s not usually about the money or the status; usually it’s something deeper, related to purpose. If you can discover your ‘why’, it will act as your North Star, guiding and grounding you when things get tough. It will help you stay focused and resilient during the promotion process, and at the next level as well.  

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It’s easy to feel alone during a lengthy promotion process. But don’t forget that other people have been through it before. They know what it’s like and how challenging it can be. Sometimes, people are pleased to be able to help as mentors, informal mock panel interviewers or a trusted sounding board. So don’t be afraid to ask for help!

If you want to increase your chances of promotion, my promotion readiness programme supports candidates through a tricky promotion process. Find out more here.