Want to Position Yourself for a Promotion? Here’s How.

Lately, there’s been a lot of chatter about millennials in the workforce. From negative misconceptions of laziness to positive recognitions of being tech savvy, everyone has an opinion on millennials’ work ethic. I believe, as with any generation, there are young professionals that fit both descriptions. Those with whom I engage with frequently are the achievers who are persistent about learning how to be promoted. These individuals disprove the negative assumptions about millennials in the workforce through their work ethic and drive. Beyond an excellent work ethic, here’s how to position yourself for a promotion:

Rid yourself of self-doubt and only allow exhorters to speak into your life. As a young professional, I was often fearful that I wouldn’t achieve to my fullest potential. A lot of my self-doubt was driven by a personal narrative that I had little control over. Once I realized that I was in control of my script going forward, I was very intentional with my words and the people I allowed to speak into my life.

Recognize that promotion isn’t just about advancement up, it is also about growth across. It took time for me to learn that lateral wasn’t a synonym for “going nowhere fast”; but once I did, I became a better student of success. Diverse experiences in work will differentiate you when the time is right to move up the ladder. When I took a job at Faith Beyond Walls many years ago, I can recall discussing with my wife my struggle over my sense that it was a lateral move. Five years later, I had the same discussion about the move to United Way—it was a lateral move. I had absolutely no idea that I would have the opportunity to do more than I ever imagined possible.

Learn to say yes more often than you say no. Throughout my career, when my bosses asked me to take on special projects that stretched my knowledge and skills or to represent them at key community functions, I always said yes—it was my default. As a result, through the years I got exposure to great career building opportunities and people who collectively helped to sharpen me as a leader. As you advance in your career, you will have to be more discriminating, but for now be ridiculous with your “yes.”

Make your boss look good. I have enjoyed all of my bosses; in fact, my first professional boss and I still keep in contact. She is doing wonderful things for our region and state. After learning how stressful leadership can be from watching her interactions, I vowed to do whatever I could to lighten her load. This entailed being excellent in my assignments and working hard from the background to help her excel. I followed this same pattern with every boss—including board chairs. A good boss will always find ways to appropriately recognize your contributions—but even if they don’t –still make them look great.

Operate with humility. Never believe that you are more important than you are. Every job is key to making an enterprise function from the seemingly low-level to the top spot. When humility is part of your DNA you know that it isn’t ultimately about a position, it’s about purpose. When you’re clear on purpose, a promotion is within reach.

Embrace public speaking. None of us are born public speakers; we have to work at it. When you are able to communicate clearly, you will help pave a path for your promotion.

Stick around a while. Don’t buy into the trend of job hopping every 18 months to stay relevant. The only way you truly learn anything is to practice in place. Sticking around will ensure that you experience the best of times and the worst of times—you will be stretched in ways unimaginable and you will be better for it. Don’t jump ship before you are stretched. Being promoted starts with mindset and ends with time. It requires the same things that every generation has needed to advance and it can’t be manufactured after three weeks on the job.

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Orv Kimbrough

Orv Kimbrough serves as the president and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis. Through his faith, determination and a strong support system, Orv has built a career and passion for helping people live their best possible lives. Read Orv’s thoughts at reimaginingourfuture.org and connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.