Career Moves: Mastering The Art Of The Internal Promotion

Are you bored in your current position at work? Do you like your company, but see yourself doing more? Do you have dreams of promotions, pay raises, and corner offices?  It's one thing to go after a brand new job in a brand new company, but do you know about the art of the internal promotion?

At the time I left my old company, the Director of HR confirmed that I had set a record for most promotions (beep beep! Oh, sorry. That's just me tooting my own horn), with a total of 4. In 5 years, I worked my way up from an entry-level position to an executive role working closely with the Untouchables (our VPs/CEO) and our clients. It wasn't easy, but I'll let you know how I did it:

  1. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. When I was prepping to apply for a position higher ranked than my current one, I started making small wardrobe changes. Sure, we could get away with jeans every day, but I started mixing in nice dress pants. When I did wear jeans, I threw on a blazer and boots instead of a T-shirt and Crocs like my cubicle mates. Superficial, but you want the higher-ups to be able to look at you and see their new hire. If they have to waste time squinting their eyes and picturing what you could look like? They're on to the next.
  2. Let your intentions be known. When I found out that there was an opening for my dream position, I went right to the man who would be my boss and let him know I was interested. I asked him for information on the position and what type of person he was looking for to see if I'd be a good fit. After I actually did win the position, he told me that he was impressed by my approach - a lot of people applied for the job, but I was the only one who came to him to let him personally know that I wanted it.
  3. Repent your corporate sins. This is one that you should be cognizant of at ALL times, because certain things can come back to haunt you. Take an honest look back at your history at your company. Do you have constant friction with other coworkers/your boss? Do you bring home life problems to work? Are you liked? Are you trusted? Be aware of anything that has happened that may work against you. Set plans in motion to show change, or for serious, distinct events, be prepared to discuss or show how you've grown.
  4. Shhhhhhhhhhh! I've personally had better luck with promotions when I don't tell any coworkers that I'm going for the position. I've seen other coworkers put all their cards out on the table, but then jealousy, one-upping, and general badmindedness commences. I've always been able to get more information when no one knows I'm their competition. Sneaky? Maybe. But do what you gotta do! Don't show your cards until you absolutely have to. If any nosy coworkers ask if you're going for the job, put that poker face to good use.
  5. Don't slack off because you know the company. When I was going for my executive role, I knew that I would be up against internal and external candidates. At first, I thought I was golden since I was the most senior internal applicant (which I thought put me above the other internals), and I had a concrete knowledge of our confusing company (which I thought put me above the externals). Once I realized that some of these externals had been working in the position for almost as long as I've been alive, I changed my cocky tune. Stay on top of your game, because you truly don't know what talents others bring to the table. Choosing you might be a comfortable move for the company (less training needed, you already fit the corporate culture), but they may be in the mood to take a risk and hire some fresh blood. Don't slack off.
  6. Go hard or go home. Continuing from my last point, make sure you go all the way with whatever is asked of you in the interview process. I've had higher-ups say "Bee, we know you. Don't kill yourself preparing that assignment, because it's just protocol and we know you're capable. Just focus on the interview itself."  That would have made my life easier, but I didn't want there to be any question that I was the person for the job. Example: One interview process required candidates to come up with a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation on any topic, and present it to a panel of executives. I created and memorized a presentation on Gender Identity Disorder and the coverage of gender reassignment surgery in Canada, including how that could affect our business if we took on more provincial clients. My internal competitor did a PowerPoint presentation which consisted of pictures of them and their family. At Disney Land. At Christmas. At home. Why? Because they listened to that person who said not to try too hard since "we know you." Who was the front-runner after that round, and got the promotion? Yours truly (beep beep)!
  7. Treat an internal interview like an external one. This one goes back to not slacking off. From beginning to ending of the interview process, conduct yourself as if you don't know ANY of the people involved. Arrive on time, dress properly, answer questions clearly and concisely, and send a follow-up thank you note. Pay particular attention to the questions asked. No matter how basic they seem, answer them just as you would in any other interview. Never say, " know what I mean!" in your interview - as far as you're concerned, they do NOT know. Your interview is the time to prove it to them, even if you've worked with your interviewers for 10 years.
  8. If at first you don't succeed... You may not get every promotion you go for. If you're unsuccessful, make sure to find out why. Use this as a teachable moment and learn what you can improve upon in order to be successful the next time you throw your hat in the ring. This is the biggest pro for internal promotions - very rarely in external interviews do you get the opportunity to ask why you weren't chosen. Put your pride aside and find out what skills you need to get to where you want to be.

There are so many nuances to internal interviewing and promotion, but I think I've covered the basics here (at least from my experience). Do you have any internal promotion/interviewing tips? Do you need any help or advice? If so, hit up the comments section!


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