Recently I was given the challenge of running a session at the APM Women in Project Management conference on how to raise your profile for promotion. As I pondered what I would say, I realised that this was a bigger challenge than I first thought. To start with promotion means many things to many people so what do you say when addressing a diverse audience? Then there are many ways to raise your profile and get noticed so which do you focus on? I started by considering my personal experience of being promoted and realised that I have had two very different sides to my own career progression.
The first was in the British Army. I spent 16 years serving in the British Army and finished my career at the rank of Major before proceeding to work in a major defence and aerospace company, plus several smaller companies on the way.
My experience in the army was that of a traditional hierarchy organisation. The army has developed a formal career progression structure and clear route for progression through the ranks. Promotion comes from a mixture of training and passing courses, to on the job experience and operational experience to grow you knowledge and capability. The system is very age based also; you can only get promoted into certain ranks at a certain age. Your career route and path is easy to work out – all you have to do then is prove yourself and beat the competition!
Then I left the army and wham bang the world changed. I entered the world of the matrix-based organisation. Hierarchy disappeared and the way to promotion became one of demonstrating value and success in your job. I have navigated this landscape for many years now and firmly believe promotion in some large companies is less formal and often lacks a structured approach. These two examples show how raising your profile for promotion really depends on the organisation you work in.
So back to my presentation – how should I talk to a diverse audience about raising your profile for promotion?
My approach was to create a coaching session designed to stimulate the audience’s thinking on the topic and make them think what their personal route to promotion could look like. So if you are wondering how to raise your profile for promotion, I recommend you get yourself a cup of tea, sit back, have a read and consider what the 5 steps below mean to you.
Step 1 – Define your GOAL. Start by looking into your own heart. Think about your life. What do you want in life? I ask this question because it is important to consider the issue of what you want to do with your life. This could be ‘go all the way to the top and become a Director of a company’, it could also be ‘work for a charity close to your heart’ or simply ‘become a team leader in your current organisation’. Decide what promotion means to you – is it about money? Is it about getting the opportunity to help a charity achieve its mission or is it getting more opportunity to travel? Knowing what promotion means to you is the first step in getting there. Define your GOAL.
Step 2 – Understand what your value added is? The value you add to a company will be a unique mix of you and your experience. What is it you have or can do that makes you stand out from the crowd? Now we are getting down to REALITY. Is your value based on your wonderful good character or your ability to work collaboratively? Is it your fantastic leadership style? What about your qualifications, skills and capabilities? These all need to be reflected on, articulated and presented in a positive way to demonstrate your value add. If gaps are identified then a clear personal development plan also needs to be presented.
So now you know what promotion means to you, have a goal and have reflected on your key skills and capabilities, the next thing to think about is how to sell yourself.
Step 3 – You are your product – sell yourself. It’s time to get innovative and create your personal brand. Your personal brand is what defines the unique you. Think about your identity - how will you describe your uniqueness, values and beliefs? Then seek out opportunities that align to these. If you gain clarity about these you will find it easier to sell yourself, for example, I believe in working collaboratively, I believe in delivering to deadlines, I value creative problem solving. When asked what are your strengths you will find it easier to reply if you gain clarity about the things that make you unique and special and enable you to add value. You need to be able to articulate these – this is your personal brand. How would you talk about yourself on Linkedin, Twitter or YouTube? What are your OPTIONS for self-promotion? Yes you will have to do self-promotion in this competitive world, you will need to get proactive, creative and innovative to get known and raise your profile.
Step 4 – Develop yourself. During steps 1-3 you will discover your strengths and also your weaknesses. You will need to think about how you are going to develop your skills in order to overcome your weaker areas. An active personal development plan will help you progress and reinforce your brand. It is important to consider your technical business and emotional needs. Are you very self-aware? Do you need to do more training in emotional intelligence? What about leadership development, team working skills, communication and negotiation skills and/or project management skills? Being able to show you have a clear personal development plan demonstrates commitment to going further in your organisation and also a desire for promotion. It will also help you gain the RESOURCES (time and money) to pay for the training.
Step 5 – Identify the opportunities. Now that you have defined what promotion means to you, understand the value you have to add to your business and your unique brand (plus a clear development plan), it is time to seek out OPPORTUNITIES to put this into practice. Speak to your team leader, boss or HR Department and find out about your company talent management system. Make sure you understand how promotion works in your organisation and then plug into it. If you are working independently or in a small organisation you will need to start to promote yourself and raise your profile using whatever platform is available – reputation, contract wins, social media platforms, networking and so on.
Finally, it is important to realise that promotion does not just come along and happen to us. If you really want to get promoted then you first need to raise your profile, to do this you need to know how to articulate and describe who you are, what you are capable of and the value you add i.e. your brand. Keep working on this, polishing it, practicing how to present it and seeking out opportunities to go for promotion and eventually you will succeed. Good luck, follow your passion and have fun.