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The Secret to Being Promoted

By Sander Biehn | Jan 23, 2014

During the countless employee networking events I attended over the years, I was often struck by the perma-smile faces looking up at the executives who graced the stage telling  us what we needed to do to enhance our careers. These events were always bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it was an opportunity to press the flesh with the company higher-ups and hopefully get noticed. On the other hand, the crowds were a reminder of just how hard it would be to get promoted to the next level. The pyramid seemed very wide indeed at the base.

But I was encouraged by some news I heard today. One of the senior VPs, who often spent time speaking at the networking events, was promoted into his boss’ job. In today’s marketplace, organically moving up the chain without switching companies can be regarded as a ‘he must be doing something right’ moment.

But in order to crack the code, I think we need to take a step back. Instead of heading to the next networking event to hear him speak on what to do to be promoted, let’s examine what he actually did. What exactly did this guy do to impress the CEO and win this promotion?

1. He had a strategy. Most of us at the networking events thought that simply attending these quarterly events was a pretty good strategy for getting noticed. But if we look at what this VP did, he was adding a lot more value than simply filling a chair at the meeting. He was inspiring the team and making himself available to the troops. He got his boss’ attention by offering to help with the networking events and being an integral part of their success and massive attendance. His messages were optimistic and hopeful.  He brought success with him in the form of good speaking skills and inspiration. There is no doubt the upper level execs at my company noticed.  Hope is not a strategy, especially when it comes to being promoted. We all must find a way to deliver value to the business that is tangible, preferably something that others will see and tell the top deck about. Find a place to lend a hand, and lead the team to success in order to be noticed.

2. He branded himself. He offered career advice that included a synopsis of his management style and his story. From humble beginnings he trusted in the wisdom of his superiors and the love of his family to propel him forward. What a guy! You can almost see him throwing the baseball after work with his son in the driveway. Who doesn’t want to be a part of his success?  His management style wasn’t so superior to anyone else who had eyes on the promotion he received. The difference was he had codified what he did and spent his lunch hour once a quarter preaching that gospel to a wide audience.

3. He created a following.  As a result of this VP’s exposure during these meetings, he met many people from a wide range of departments. He was sought after for career advice. Because of his connections, he was asked to build and run a new department that focused on future products. For him, this was a snap. The resumes came flooding in. Everyone knew his creed and liked his style. Presenting himself as a ‘can do’ leader to the ambitious crowd looking for upward mobility, enabled him to surround the new department with top talent.   After that, it didn’t matter what he was doing or even if his department succeeded in their goals. The positive attitude and top of mind culture he built trumped everything else. Forget about garnering the right experience to be promoted. Concentrate on being known for success regardless of what you are asked to do.

I am sure the decision to promote him was unanimous. As a divisional leader he will now be able to increase his sphere of influence outside the company. With polished speaking skills and an eye to maintaining his brand, I would not be surprised to see him in the CEO chair before long.

In order to get promoted, it is going to take a lot more than attending networking events. That is, unless you are using those events as part of your plan to brand what you do and equivocate your name with success.

What are you waiting for? Don’t be alarmed by the number of people on the same quest.  It may be much easier than you think. I know a lot of people who think just attending networking event will do the trick. See you at the top!


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