Middle managers: here's how to prevent getting rejected for promotion
Middle managers often feel as if they are constantly jumping through hoops. On one hand, you have a great, stable job - filled with both professional challenges and responsibility for results - keeping you on your toes. But with all of this good energy, there’s something that’s constantly nagging at you - will you ever be promoted to the next level?
These days, most of your effort is on doing a good job, but recently you feel as if you should be investing in your corporate development career path. You might’ve even filled in a few applications or had the chance to attend an interview or two. But you sort of knew you didn’t have a real chance. Was it because you aren’t professional enough? Experienced enough? Smart enough? Probably not.
It was because you knew you hadn’t prepared properly for the promotion opportunity. While each shot at promotion should be analyzed on its own in terms of how to tackle it, here’s how you can begin preventing that next rejection - ensuring a smooth corporate development career path.
1. Market your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Yes, it’s the same USP that you learned about in Marketing 101. Just like a product or service, if you don’t stand out as something special, you won’t get noticed. You’re just another boring brand of shampoo or run of the mill cellular service package. Instead, you’ve got to figure out what your core competency is. Then, position yourself in your organization so that everyone knows what it is without your having to spell it out. This is tough at the middle management level, because your duties are highly defined. So you have to think company-wide. What can you do on a company level that will show off your USP? Initiate a new product line? Head a new project? Develop a new strategy? This will help differentiate you from others when it comes time to promote middle managers.
2. Show it. Don’t flaunt it.
While you want to make sure that key decision makers know your USP, you don’t want to make too much noise. Let your actions speak for themselves. In companies where middle managers are hungrily competing for promotions, you’ll find that those who have proven track records are the ones who are eventually promoted. You can recognize these people as the exceptional middle managers who get invited to C-level meetings or who’s asked to brainstorm about a new corporate direction. These middle managers win twice. First, their USP is recognized and second, they have the opportunity to demonstrate their competency in contexts usually reserved for other company members.
3. Develop a C-level attitude.
Not haughtiness. What I mean is that you should show you’re ready for promotion by adopting the mindset of an executive level manager. First, you need to convince yourself that you’re ready to be promoted. If you truly believe this, then you’re well over halfway there. But beware of one thing: a promotion is not the be all and end all of your career. It’s part of a long professional journey. Executive-level managers know this (and that’s what got them there in the first place). You have to build up a positive attitude both towards your own abilities and how you can contribute to the sustainability of their organization. Through the development of a strong work ethic, combined with a true passion for your job, you’ll stand out from the others.
4. Make sure you’re a team player.
Many middle managers discover they’re not really team players. Sure, you can manage a small team in completing a specialized project, but on the whole, you don’t see yourself as team members. Of course, this is often felt quite clearly among your subordinates, who are quick to “spread the word.” Make no mistakes: if you’re not perceived as a team player, you’ll never get promoted. If you want that promotion, you have to develop team building skills, whether it’s through a course, informal mentoring, or formal consultation with an expert.
The transition from middle manager to a senior executive position can seem like an impossible task, especially if you’ve had the chance to experience some of the many trials and tribulations associated with applying for promotions or executive positions at other companies. As you’ve probably learned, it’s not only a matter of how professional you can do your work - there’s a lot more on the line. Begin laying the groundwork now and you’ll reach the corner office before you know it.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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