I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last year discussing how internal promotions will be on the rise over the next several years. After what has generally been a lull for at least the last 5 years in particular, this is welcome news. But it comes with a price: strong competition for the coveted spots so many have been waiting in the wings for.
So far in my “Road to Promotion” series, I have talked about the value of building a forward-looking innovation page that outlines ideas tech candidates can put forth to showcase how they can use their tech skills and background to be a true strategic partner for their organizations.
In this post, I’d like to look at the promotion process more broadly and point out a key factor that, for a variety of reasons, seems to get overlooked by most internal candidates.
The Job Promotion Process Is Just a Job Search by Another Name
Because of our familiarity with the organization and often our own sense of, well, entitlement (we’ve worked for them for 10 years, we deserve this), often when it comes to putting in for a promotion, we fail to approach it with the same gusto we do with an external search. And this is a mistake….maybe an even bigger one than being lax in your external search.
Because with the internal process, no matter what happens, you still have to work there afterward.
At least with an external search, if you mess up or it doesn’t go as well as hoped, you move on to the next opportunity. With the internal promotion process, you don’t always get a second chance or it may be a long time in between opportunities.
Furthermore, if you thought the competition was fierce in an external search, just wait until you get into the internal promotion process. Now, most likely you are competing against some of your esteemed internal colleagues (who all think they deserve this promotion too) AS WELL AS the top external candidates your company is paying search firms to find. (And let’s face it, more times than not, companies will lean toward bringing in a strong external candidate if they think it is the “sexier” hire.)
With that said, your approach to the promotion process needs to be every bit as serious, if not more so, than your approach to the external search.
Here are some key tips for getting prepared to conduct your promotion process:
- Don’t skimp out or rush through preparing your tech or IT resume…no matter what your internal “source” is telling you. I have seen this happen with candidates in the past, and it is a shame. They think because they are internal (and someone told them the job was theirs for the asking), the quality of the resume is less important because “no one reads it anyway.” The problem, though, is that 1) no job is ever “yours” until its “yours” and 2) if there is strong competition, your resume will be reviewed against the others. Go back to your school days…don’t submit shoddy work and expect a high grade.
- Brush up on your social media profiles. At the very least make sure your LinkedIn profile and Facebook bios are “cleaned” up and something you are proud of. Employers are checking! If you are one of those who thinks you are smart by staying off of social media, think again. As crazy as it might sound (and it is), not having a LinkedIn profile can typecast you as not engaged in today’s marketplace. Over the next several years, companies are going to be embracing social media more and more, and they are going to be looking to their employees to help them with it (God help us all…).
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile to attract recruiters. OK, now I know this one sounds odd. After all, you are going for an internal promotion, right? Yes…but wouldn’t it be nice to have leverage? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a better understanding of your “value” in the marketplace, not just within your organization? This approach isn’t meant to put your employer’s back against the wall, but it is wise to have a good sense of your marketability. Some people are nervous to speak with recruiters unless they are really “ready,” but in truth, finding a recruiter who has a placement for your skills is not as easy as you might think. And you can always turn him or her down! The point is that you don’t want your current organization, as wonderful as it is, telling you what you’re worth. Test the market and see for yourself so you can, gently, let them know what an asset they have.
- Recognize that employers have amnesia. No matter what you deserve, when it comes to the promotion process, the onus (fair or not) is on you to remind your employer what contributions you have made. They generally have short memories…in case you haven’t noticed. AND they tend to play politics, which means they will easily forget what you’ve done if they think they have already made up their minds. One of the best tools you can bring to the table is a Project Highlights page along with a Testimonials page. Because you are on top of things, I am sure you have been keeping tracking of all your projects (and the results) and have kept emails and other messages from clients, management, or peers that have praised the work you have done…right? I hope so! Think of yourself as a small business owner who must remind a client of all the wonderful things his company has done for the client in the past, so that the client will hire his company again and again. In other words, let’s make it as difficult as possible to turn you down.
The internal promotion process, in my mind, is one of the best types of job search there is because it can mean capitalizing on your current engagement and maximizing its potential without having to look elsewhere. BUT too often professionals don’t take it seriously enough and expect their tenure with the company to “speak for itself.” Good or bad, that is asking a lot, and it rarely plays out that way. So overprepare if you have to, but don’t let it slip away.