A client with aspirations of getting promoted quickly recently told me, “I want my work to speak for itself.” I understand his line of thinking:

  1. He doesn’t want to be considered a braggart.
  2. He wants to earn promotions with merit.

This is noble. But what if his peers are more assertive in positioning? Then my client will wait.

I see two holes in this mindset:

  1. Ignoring that “self-confidence” is a critical hiring criterion for managers.
  2. Assuming that managers see everything you do “behind the scenes.”

Let’s look at both to see why your work won’t always speak for itself.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Desire matters when it comes to your career. I see it materialize in everything that you do, and especially in a leadership role. Teams can smell when you took a promotion for the wrong reasons.

I have mistakenly promoted many who weren’t sure they wanted the next role. I saw great people getting uncommon results. So I put on my sales hat and convinced them to take a chance.

One such person did not think she was ready to lead people. She was a top performer every year and had more tenure than anyone else in the office. Lines formed at her desk because she was caring and patient with her teammates.

She did a manager’s job without the title, often without noticing it. But she didn’t want the pressure of being responsible for a team’s results and also didn’t want to give up her individual duties, which was her true passion.

I stubbornly persuaded her to take the leap, largely because she was our best internal option and I wanted someone that I trusted in this role. I believed that her self-confidence would improve as she progressed as a manager.

I was wrong.

Her lack of confidence was immediately apparent. She didn’t want to make decisions, deferred to her team, and rarely confronted anyone about performance. She didn’t see herself as worthy of the job, and that didn’t change once she had the role.

In most cases where I have to sell the promotion, people struggle in their new role. This is why I appreciate people who assertively push for more responsibility.

I want you to demonstrate your confidence.

Show Me What I Can’t Easily See

I also can’t see most of your efforts to elevate your teammates.

For the intangibles, I only have two means of discovery. I can ask you or I can ask your peers.

  • Who are the people you are helping behind the scenes?
  • Are you quietly mentoring peers in the office?
  • How often do you sacrifice to help someone else?
  • What would your peers say about you?

I can’t measure these things and won’t find them on any report. But they are critical pieces of information that will make or break your upward mobility.

If you can’t lead without the title, what makes you think you can do it once the pressure ratchets higher? Suggest that I talk to some people on your team who you have helped to reach better results. Let social proof sell for you if you are uncomfortable tooting your own horn.

I love to promote people who know for certain that their peers will speak highly of them. This is the mark of a true leader.

So How Can I Get Promoted Quickly?

Would Coke or Disney be as successful without marketing? Of course not.

The best products in the world won’t sell if a company doesn’t bother to tell you about their unique value. Marketing works best when it educates and shares information we might not already have. The same applies to marketing ourselves.

I wrote about how successful people are simply more assertive, as “fortune favors the bold.” Passive and quiet employees rarely move on to more impactful roles.

Be your own Chief Marketing Officer.

  1. Be specific in what role you want next.
  2. Help your manager see your entire body of work.
  3. Position yourself as someone already doing the job.

With my client, he had a long list of peers who he quietly mentored.

When asked if they would vouch for him, his answer was a resounding “Yes!” So I suggested that he ask his manager what type of skills were required in the role he desired.

Once she lists what she is looking for, he can respond with, “Great! I’m already doing so much of what you’re looking for. Do you mind if I share some of those efforts with you?”

This isn’t bragging.

I appreciate anyone who helps me fill in the blanks as a manager. That additional color helps me make better decisions. The best part of promoting yourself in this way is that others will corroborate your efforts.

State your career ambitions clearly and lay out your case with evidence. Take extra caution to share your accomplishments that are not easily measured. Tie your body of work to the requirements of the job you seek and ask for the promotion.

Because your work won’t speak for itself.


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