Promotion checklist: 10 things every IT pro should know

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You don't have to be Machiavellian to get promoted, but you do need to be proactive about your career goals. A promotion checklist can help you achieve the results you desire. As career coach Steve Bauter of Organizational Consultants to Management indicates, the actions you should take to become more promotable are actually a combination of personality traits and activities – both of which can work in your favor when it's time for that promotion. Bauter recommends working on mastering each of the following traits and actions.

1. Take time to get to know the people around you

“As children we are taught to play fair,” Bauter says, “but that's a barrier we need to break.” He isn't implying that you cheat or be dishonest to get yourself promoted. Rather, “don't play fair” is a tongue-in-cheek way of emphasizing that promotions happen because of people and that you must recognize the connectivity of your universe. So, take time to get to know people and be genuinely interested in them. One of them could very well make the connection you need to obtain your promotion.

2. Network (a lot)

You can't hide in a corner and expect to get promoted. Be gregarious. Look for opportunities to build relationships with as many people in your organization as you can. Promotions often hinge on knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone. Plus, connecting with the people around you may also make it easier to succeed in your current position (you never know what they can help you with).

3. Brag a little – but be polite and don't overdo it

Ask yourself, “Do my superiors know what I do?” Bauter says it's okay to remind people of the value you bring to the table, but do it in a way that isn't offensive. To get promoted you must demonstrate a successful track record. Therefore, communicate your wins, milestones and educational achievements (degrees or certifications). Also, brag about your peers. You'll demonstrate positive interactions with fellow employees – a valuable leadership trait – by giving credit where credit is due, celebrating group wins and the successes of others.

4. Volunteer

Serve on committees and cross-departmental collaborative teams. Be the step-up person and do it energetically. Do more than what's listed in your job description. Look for leadership opportunities that demonstrate you can motivate others, push to get the job done, delegate and manage projects. Bonus: your participation is a great opportunity to network, too. Just be sure you're focusing on the project rather than opportunities for advancement.

5. Serve as an idea person

In meetings, offer solutions to problems. Bauter says being quiet can be misread by management to mean you don't have an opinion … or you don't care. Speaking up demonstrates leadership and shows you're engaged and interested. When possible, take ownership of challenges and solve them for the company. Of course, this doesn't always have to equate to being the loudest person in the room; as author Susan Cain points out in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,” great ideas can also be expressed in other effective ways like writing (email, work chat, etc.), smaller brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations, to name a few.

6. Be a good listener and a good communicator

Over-communicate, that's Bauter's suggestion. But be sure you're communicating the right messages – a direct result of being a good listener. Hear what other people are asking. And take time to formulate your response, if needed (having an immediate answer is great, but a short wait for the right answer is almost always more valuable). You'll put yourself in a much better position if you recognize the various communication styles within your company and use them to be effective.

7. Never stop improving yourself

Will a new certification make you more promotable? Add to your knowledge and skill set by regularly taking classes that advance your knowledge. While a longer-term second or third college degree can be beneficial, often equally as helpful is a one-off class or series of classes focusing on building a skill in an emerging technology area (ex: Swift, a First Look) or one in which you'd like to feel more confident (ex: Advanced JavaScript). You may also opt for personal-growth or to add managerial skills with a public speaking class or a course in presentation design. Demonstrating that you're always looking for ways to improve yourself resonates with management.

8. Be a team player

Demonstrating that you work well with others shows you're part of the team and able to work within a team environment. Even if you usually work individually, always be willing to tackle group endeavors or mentor others. This sets you up as part of the solution, regardless of what the solution may be.

9. Be adaptable

Situations change. But in the workplace, people who resist change are often the ones who get passed over for promotions, says Bauter. Be willing to take on new assignments. Discern what is most important right now for the company and see challenges as opportunities rather than insurmountable hurdles. “Management will look for people who rally the troops,” Bauter says.

10. Have a positive attitude

“Don't be an Eeyore,” says Bauter, referring to the pessimistic, gloomy, depressed grey donkey from Winnie-the-Pooh. Negativity is like throwing ice on your career goals. Be a name people know in the company in a positive way.


This checklist can help give you an advantage when the opportunity for a promotion arises. Think about what you want to do next and where you see yourself going, advises Bauter. “Every day you are planting seeds,” he adds. “Understand the ‘Law of Attraction' and harness your mind chatter. The ability to change your mind chatter will often be the difference between the person who gets promoted and the one who doesn't. You have to see yourself as promotable.” Moreover, if you don't like your situation, change your story.

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