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Are you really
promotion material?

Fill in this short survey to find out:

  • 1. Have you requested a promotion in the last year?
  • 2. Have you ever been rejected for a promotion?
  • 3. Have you ever been offered a promotion?
  • 4. Has a co-worker at the same level ever been promoted instead of you?
  • 5. Has there ever been a position you applied for and didn’t get?
  • 6. Are you hesitant about asking for a promotion for fear of your boss’s response?
  • 7. Have you ever left an organization because you were passed up for promotion there?
  • 8. Do you know if your work environment values you and your work?
  • 9. Do you think that you deserve a promotion?
  • 10. Do you promote your work and yourself at work?
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** Please answer all questions **

What are the secrets to ensuring your own promotion?

For those of you who have been following my posts, you know that when it comes to promotion opportunities, I’m not a big believer in fate. As I see things, promotion opportunities don’t just appear out of thin air. They are the result of careful, focused preparation so that when the right time comes, you can reap the benefits of your own preparation and determine your own corporate development career path. So my focus in this post is how to prepare today...regardless of whether you see a promotion opportunity in the horizon.

 

One reason that middle managers don’t get promoted is that they are too bound to the positions they know (or think they know) in the company. The marketing department has X number of employees whose functions are A, B, and C. The finance department has X national teams and Y international teams...and so on. What would happen if you could shape your own corporate development career path by creating your own position? What would it look like? What kinds of unique competencies could you bring to this position, benefiting both the department and the company? This is the time to think about such possibilities - when a promotion application deadline isn’t chasing your tail. This is also the time to check the feasibility of such a position by consulting with trusted co-workers, a mentor, and your boss.

 

Once you’ve decided on the ultimate position that would take advantage of your talents - and one that has received the nod of other key players, begin some market research. Find out how this position could: bring in new business; better serve your current markets; or develop products and services more efficiently. Collect the data necessary to back up these claims: market trends, sales figures, operational expenses, etc. Also, note any insightful reactions you get from co-workers as you discuss this new position. In general, your job is to build a case for this position - a case so strong that your company would be foolish not to create it for you.

 

While you’re creating your dream position, make both the time and effort to enhance relationships with current co-workers as well as to expand your network - ensuring that you reach beyond your comfort zone - whether it’s a team or whole department. While it might seem impossible to squeeze networking activities into an already jam-packed day, think of times in which you already might find yourself interacting with others: at a professional lecture, during a volunteer activity, at the water cooler, or at lunch.

 

If you do have time to spare, ask colleagues if they need an extra hand with their project. You might then find yourself invited to meetings which you wouldn’t have necessarily been invited to. The purpose of such networking is to make yourself known to various parts of your company so that when managers from different areas have to decide whom to promote, your name suddenly pops up from more than one - thereby greatly increasing your chances of promotion.

 

Your career - and especially your promotion path - should not be left to chance. Based on over 35 years of experience, I have seen few or no promotions based on “being there at the right time and at the right place”. There’s really no such thing. If you realize this, you’ll take the concrete steps I’ve outlined above to create your own promotion path - so that you’ll be ready to seize the opportunity when it arises.

 

Don’t worry about going full speed ahead with my suggestions. You can implement them as you feel comfortable. The important thing is to get started and to plan out how you’re going to proceed on your path to success. And before you know it, you’ll be looking out of the window of your own corner office.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Middle managers: 4 things to do to get promoted now

As a middle manager, you’ve been around long enough to know that the higher you move up the corporate ladder, the more difficult it is to keep up with a successful corporate development career path. While some middle managers find it effective to move to another company, many of you are looking forward to being promoted someday in your current organization. But as many of you have discovered, getting promoted internally is sometimes harder than finding a job elsewhere. So if you’re vying for an internal promotion to embark on an improved corporate development career path, what can you do to show that you’re the right person?

 

Well, first I’ll talk about a couple things you shouldn’t do - both related to the other candidate. First off, don’t play dumb. After over 35 years of experience in this field, I can promise you that the other candidate knows you’re either interested in the job or at least checking it out. So go ahead, face your competitor with a smile. And may the best candidate (you!) win. Secondly, no matter how much you might have the upper hand in office politics, play a fair game. Your advantage might win you the job, but shaking off your reputation as the company snake will be much harder to do. So now that we’ve talked about what you shouldn’t do, what things can you do to convince the relevant decision makers that you’re the right person to be promoted?

 

Here are four productive plans of action that will differentiate you from the pack:

 

1.    Manage your time.

Being the last to leave the office - and letting everyone see it - is a time-tested way to show your commitment to the company. I’m not necessarily encouraging that you do this, but if you do decide to stay late, be smart about it. Rather than making yourself look busy, use the time you’re at the office to do online training, read up on new trends, or expand your knowledge of your company’s playing field. In other words, turn this time into an opportunity for you to build yourself up as a very well-skilled, knowledgeable candidate. In this way, you both look good for staying late and position yourself better for that next promotion opportunity.

 

2.    Get your manager involved.

If you’re really serious about achieving an internal promotion, let your manager know this right away. It serves two purposes. First, you’ll be able to get an initial reaction from your manager and know where you stand. Second, if your idea is well-received, your manager won’t have any choice but to “join your team,” so to speak. In this way, you’ll be able to slowly turn your manager into a promotion mentor, openly consulting with them about the best way to show your company that you’re the one to promote.

 

3.    Keep your eyes wide open and your ears to the ground.

In most organizations, information is power. I’m not suggesting you snoop around the break room, eavesdropping on your co-workers. However, I do encourage you to pay attention to what you hear when you hear it. Don’t let tidbits of information, such as someone’s sudden reassignment, pass you by without wondering how it could affect your career. Also, listen to the style in which people around you interact: their tone of voice, the words they use, etc. These can give helpful insight into the general atmosphere of the company - and inform you of possible changes that could help you in your next promotion opportunity.

 

4.     Go looking for problems...and then solve them.

Don’t take this as advice for creating problems. There’s no need to; every organization has more than it can handle. But there are probably some problems that you could solve, making a significant difference for those around you. For example, take a look at how files are stored on your organization’s server. Could you improve accessibility by doing a little cleaning up? What about the location of the copier? Could it be put in a more convenient place so that it doesn’t disturb the Accounting Department? If you take initiative, people will notice and appreciate you...making you a prime candidate for that next promotion opportunity.

 

So to wrap up, being promoted within your company can be tough. But based on my 35 years of experience, it’s definitely doable. Remember to play clean and to differentiate yourself from the others. You’ll be in that corner office in no time.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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If you're worried about not getting promoted, don't miss these 6 tips

Like many talented middle managers, at some point you’ll want to apply for a promotion within your company and prepare a resume for internal promotion. Chances are that when this time arrives, you’ll be faced with competition both from within and outside your company. Not only will there be other candidates, but also they might be better suited for the job than you are. So the obvious question that comes to mind is: can you really increase your chances of being hired with your current resume for internal promotion? Based on over 35 years of experience, my answer is a simple “yes.”

 

Before getting into how you can increase your chances, you need to do a little reframing. Right now, you might see yourself at a disadvantage in terms of the other candidates, but I’d like to suggest something else. Instead of viewing your relative lack of qualifications or experience as a disadvantage, look at them as an advantage Here’s why:

 

The other two candidates, who might be all-stars, are probably not as worried as you are about their chances of getting the job. They’ve done their homework and realize they have the better resume. But  because they feel so secure, they’re probably resting on their laurels. You, on the other hand, are sweating, trying to figure out how to show your best side - investing all you’ve got to get the job. So it’s actually your own uncertainty that’s giving you the upper hand. Not sure how to invest your energy while your competition is asleep at the switch? Read on.

 

1.    Get a more objective look at your current position.

Are you really ready for a promotion? Don’t necessarily take your own word for it. Instead, fill out this short questionnaire I’ve developed. It’ll give you insight into how others in your organization might see you - and hopefully a fresh perspective. You’ll get a truer picture of yourself as a candidate and will be ready to take on the next steps.

 

2.    Conduct a competitor analysis.

Find out who your competitors are within the organization and then formulate a list of what their advantages might be over you. Some people have a tendency to underestimate their competitors. The danger here is that it can lead to a false sense of security and keep you off your toes. After you finish this list, write out what your advantages are over your competitors. While this process might be relatively easy for internal competitors, finding out the appropriate information about external ones can be more difficult. Do the best you can, as the result of this mapping is critical. So get yourself busy, not leaving any potential stone unturned.

 

3. Invest in personal branding.

Once you have the critical information about your competitors, it’s time to think about how you’re going to differentiate yourself from them. Determine what makes you special and then set aside the time and resources necessary to maintain and develop your own personal brand. For ideas on how to do this, please read my post Pave your corporate development career path by branding yourself for promotion

 

4. Consider approaching your direct manager.

In most cases, your direct manager can positively influence the promotion process. But be careful, because this isn’t always the case. It really depends on how your direct manager is seen in your organization and how much their opinion is valued. If it isn’t, don’t waste your time influencing them. And don’t forget that in some cases, a recommendation from a less regarded manager can even damage your candidacy. However, if your manager does have some clout, it is important you approach them with your aspirations for promotion, so that perhaps they can put in a good word for you.


5.    Identify the movers and shakers in your organization.

In every organization, you can find movers and shakers. Such movers and shakers might carry executive titles, while others influence things behind the scenes, often through personal ties. Your job is to identify this second group of employees. Here’s a hint: they’re usually the confidants of those higher up in the chain of command. Once you know who they are, make sure they know of your desire to be promoted and clearly justify why. Then hope all of this is passed on to your organization’s decision makers.

 

5.    Go above and beyond .

Volunteering to take on a special project at the right time and place can result in both an immediate and roaring effect. Just be aware that the boom can peter out rather quickly - especially in today’s dynamic business environment. Nonetheless, it will most likely “put you on the corporate map”, acquainting others who don’t know you with what you have to offer.

 

When it looks as if the other candidates have the upper hand, it’s natural to feel you don’t have a shot. But the problem with this feeling is that it really impacts your behavior and sure enough, you’ll walk around acting as if you don’t actually deserve a promotion. That’s not the way to go. Instead, try out my advice - and your chances of getting that promotion will increase. And instead of feeling hopelessness, use your energy to think about how you can and will work towards reaching the coveted corner office.

 

And always remember:

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Promotion seekers: never assume this

Among middle managers, there’s a common misconception that getting a promotion at your company is easier than landing the same position at another company. And if you’ve got a good resume for internal promotion,  you’re a shoo in, right? Wrong. And to add a little fuel to the fire, based on my 35+ years of experience, you’re actually at a disadvantage.

 

Sounds surprising? Read on.

 

Imagine that you’re applying for the position from outside your company. As a successful professional, you’d do your best to prepare for the interview, including your resume for internal promotion. You’d read up on the company, check out its website and search for articles about its history and current performance. You’d check out your social networking contacts to see if you know anyone working there who could give you some further insight. You’d also update yourself on the industry in general. In short, you’d do enough background work to write a report that would put the best of investment analysts to shame.

 

Now, honestly answer this question: would you do the exact same thing before an interview in your own company. We both know your answer. So while you’re sure that your track record so far will get you the promotion, your competition can also in-depth knowledge of your company and its environment. Now, who would you choose?

 

Let’s say you don’t agree with me and insist your performance has been so stellar that management would be foolish not to promote you. I’ll give you even more credit than that. Maybe you’re a sales manager who’s outsold everyone else for the past three years. Naturally, everyone in the company knows you’re a star. In fact, they know everything about you: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see, when you apply for a promotion, your good points are of course known and recognized, but so are your less desirable traits. As ugly as it sounds, office lore and gossip travel fast - horizontally and vertically. You can be sure that the last time you flew off the handle at a client or mucked up an order will be just as prominent on your record as your exceptional sales performance. And for external candidates, getting this kind of “dirt” would take much more effort and probably wouldn’t even surface during the hiring process.

 

No dirt on you, you claim? All right, I’ll take your word for it. So you’re the dream of every sales department? And you’re record is squeaky clean? That’s bad, too. And here’s the reason: why would anyone in their right mind fix something that ain’t broke? If you’re bringing in tons of business, why would your company want to change this? And what guarantee does your company have that you’d be a good senior manager anyway? There are plenty of slightly less competent sales managers who can be groomed into senior managementhood. So you’ll just be kept where you are - generating lots of income for your company.

 

Does all of this mean that if a great promotion opportunity comes along, you shouldn’t bother applying? Absolutely not. But don’t assume you’ve got it in the bag. Instead, my advice to you is to treat any promotion opportunity as if you were an external candidate.

 

Do the research required to understand the industry, the company, and the department. Find out any negative flack about you by asking co-workers what they honestly think about you...and then be ready with your side. And finally, don’t wait for your company to take responsibility for developing you into a manager. Read professional material, attend seminars, meet with a consultant. Yes, just like an external candidate, you have to prove to your own organization that you are indeed senior management material.

 

Prepare yourself today for the promotion opportunities of tomorrow, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself on your way to that coveted corner office.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Aspiring C-level managers: don't ignore this 1 important thing

There’s a belief in corporate environments that when you’re hot, you’re hot. From my over 35 years of experience in helping middle managers realize their career dreams, I can tell you that this belief is only partially true and one of the real factors affecting career development.

 

As an entry-level employee, you made it your business to make sure you were the best you could be, whether it was marketing, sales, operations, finance, IT, etc. You stood out as the one to watch when it came to your particular discipline. Everyone knew you were destined for a promising career. You were hot.

 

And being hot at your discipline helped. You were promoted much quicker than other employees and you excelled at each of your positions. But recently it seems like someone has put the brakes on your career. Being hot at something doesn’t seem to be as redeeming a quality as it once was. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and there are other factors affecting career development.

 

Surprising, right? Not really. While you were becoming so ultra professional in your specific area, others were developing a managerial mindset that is just as important - if not more important than being the best programmer of financier in town.

 

And when promotion opportunities come around (if they haven’t already), you’re going to find that co-workers who are less proficient than you in certain areas are going to get the promotions you thought were coming your way. How can this be? What’s their secret ingredient?

 

Well, I’m not a fortune teller, but there are some secret ingredients to a managerial mindset you should know about.

 

1.    Looking the part

It’s true, we’re now in the age of relatively informal appearance. People come to work dressed much less formally than just a few years ago. I’ve even been shocked to see people coming to work in get ups resembling gym attire, but that’s really pushing it. However, I’m sure you’ll notice that the more senior a manager is, the less they’ll be likely to dress down too much. I’m not saying that you should wear a business suit to work every day, but I am saying that it’s important to observe how the next level dresses - and look the part yourself. Remember than when these decision makers have to determine which candidates to allow into their ranks, they’ll want to choose people that look as if they fit the role.

 

2.    Communicating effectively

You can be the most brilliant R&D developer, but if you can’t communicate your ideas to senior management, let alone potential customers, your R&D creations aren’t worth much at all. Can you make a point concisely, both in speech and writing? Or do your subordinates dread your unfocused, drawn-out meetings and poorly drafted memos? When the stakes are high, can you provide effective feedback or help a team member get back on track by demonstrating genuine empathy? Or does you intervention usually muddle up the situation even further? Without the ability to clearly communicate both your professional competence and to manage others well, a promotion just isn’t in the cards.


3.    Embracing change

Middle managers who desire to take on the role of senior managers must understand that embracing change is part and parcel of the job. Organizations, no matter what the size or industry, change and are meant to change in order to meet the challenges of today’s dynamic business world. If you are uncomfortable with the reality of an ever-changing environment, then a promotion isn’t for you. But if getting a promotion is important to you, try to develop a positive attitude towards change. View it as a constant growth opportunity both for yourself professionally and for your organization.

 

Being a true professional is the cornerstone of a successful career trajectory. But the definition of what a true professional is changes as you climb the corporate ladder. Making sure you develop a managerial mindset is crucial to this climb. I wish you luck as you make your way towards the corner office.


And always remember:

Great managers are made. Not born.

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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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If you want to get promoted, avoid lukewarm references

When applying for a job, figuring out how your references will portray you can be pretty troubling. These days, with supercharged social networking profiles, potential employees still view references as one of the most important components in deciding whether to hire a candidate. So you have to make sure that your references show you in the best light possible - it’s one of the essential factors affecting career development.

 

This is the best case scenario. But what happens when your references might not be so great? For example, maybe you and your boss don’t see eye to eye? Or perhaps your supervisor is jealous of you?

 

Whatever the reason, in these cases, the references will be somewhere between negative and lukewarm. Though lukewarm might sound harmless, it’s not. If your prospective employer gets a lukewarm reference, they’ll certainly ask for the details - and soon what seemed harmless might turn into a disaster for you. This can spiral into one of the most damaging factors affecting career development.

 

Of course, the best thing to do is to completely avoid a lukewarm reference by asking for references from others. But unfortunately, there are times when a lukewarm one is inevitable. In such cases, there are three major ways of dealing with it. Naturally, you’ll need to choose which one is appropriate for your particular situation.

 

1.    Approach your reference providers beforehand and ask what they might be planning on saying.

 

This is probably the hardest way to find out, but if you’ve had an open relationship with the reference provider, it’s the best way to go. Naturally, you shouldn’t take everything they say at face value, as telling you about you and telling someone else about you are two completely different things. However, my experience shows that such openness helps, especially when understanding in general what they’ve been satisfied (and dissatisfied) with. Interestingly enough, having this kind of open discussion with your reference provider could actually influence the reference itself in the end, especially if the meeting is done openly and without any hard feelings. In fact, if there is indeed a respectful rapport, you could remind the reference provider that their reference will of course have an important impact on whether you get your next position.


 

2.    Indirectly find out what your references providers are probably going to say about you.

 

If the first method does not work, you could always ask a close coworker to find out on your behalf. If you’re not sure you’ll get a candid response, have a friend from another company call your reference provider and ask about you.  Whichever method you choose, the important thing is that you have information that is more accurate than not knowing at all. And armed with this information, you’ll be able to emphasize (or deemphasize) certain aspects during your interview, depending on the image you want to project to your interviewer. Be ready to provide examples to justify your point of view, as this will help the interviewer see things from your side, as opposed to that of the reference.

 

3.    Tell your interviewer like it is - and do keep trying to find more favorable references.

 

Damage control caused by lukewarm references can also be accomplished by actually telling your interviewer that you suspect that the reference might not be the most favorable. Then you should explain exactly why - citing exactly what happened, making sure not to blame anyone else. Then, it is good practice to provide names of other reference providers to show the other side of the coin, which of course can include subordinates, co-workers, or other managers who’ve had the chance to see your work. Another possibility is asking for references from key customers or even competitors with whom you’ve been in touch and who can attest to the quality of your work. These actions will not only help establish an honest relationship with your prospective employer but also provide them with unique perspectives from which they can judge your performance.


 

While having to foresee the unpleasant chance of receiving a lukewarm reference can definitely be seen as a nightmare when seeking a new position, there is hope. Try out one of the three ways of of handling lukewarm references I’ve mentioned here. At the very least, you’ll reduce some of the anticipated heartache. But it’s more likely that you’ll come out ahead.

 

Good luck!


And always remember:

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Promotion opportunity in the works? Don't ignore these 5 pieces of advice.

Most middle managers have been around long enough to know when a promotion opportunity might be in the works along their corporate development career path. One telltale sign in any organization is expansion. When a company expands, whether it’s geographically or in terms of its products/services, well-qualified managers are going to be needed to help drive this expansion. Another sign, albeit at a more departmental level, is that your boss is being promoted. In most organizations, the natural successor of a promoted boss is a member of the team they’ve managed until now.

 

So if you think you’re reading the “promotion map” accurately at your organization, what are some of the things you can do to cash in on a possible climb up the corporate ladder towards a smooth corporate development career path? I don’t profess to provide “cookie-cutter solutions,” but based on my 35+ years of experience helping middle managers achieve their dreams, consider some of the following advice:

 

1.    Don’t wait for a promotion to take on more responsibility.

Many middle managers are frustrated by the fact that they essentially do their supervisor’s work, yet they aren’t recognized for it - either hierarchically or financially. Leave this attitude outside of the office. Instead, embrace the opportunity to learn more about your department and company. Volunteer to take on special projects or better yet, suggest some initiatives you think would provide added benefit to your organization. This will show not only initiative but also a managerial state of mind, so that when it comes time to promote a middle manager, you’re the natural choice.

 

2.    Shadow your boss.

By shadowing your boss, I mean begin to notice their work day. What do they do? What do they think about? What pleases them? What worries them? The more you shadow your boss, the more you’ll develop the mindset of a boss. If you get to know your boss’s job well enough, you’ll be able to replace them during critical moments when the stakes are high. Such actions are usually recalled when it’s time to decide who gets promoted.

 

3.    Plan your own career path.

Most middle managers are happy with their achievements so far. In order to get to your current position, you’ve been duly recognized for your talent and dedication to the company. There’s a sense that the company has taken care of you and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, once you reach the middle management level, this is less common. As the pyramid narrows towards the top, competition for senior positions becomes rough. So it’s up to you to decide how far you want to soar. The only way to make this happen is to first do some planning.

 

4.    Be a manager outside of your organization.

In some cases, showing off your management potential isn’t possible inside your organization. Perhaps the organization has too few opportunities or maybe roles are tightly defined. In such cases, it’s important to develop your skills in other frameworks. For example, you might get involved in a professional or volunteer organization where you can both develop and demonstrate your managerial skills. Once you’ve been recognized, you can let decision makers at work know about your achievements. What’s important is that you communicate how the added value you’ve developed will benefit your organization.

 

5.    Develop yourself on your own.

Too many successful middle managers are still stuck in an entry-level mentality when it comes to professional development. When you joined the company, you were sent to training seminars ranging from company-specific policies and procedures to professional courses in your particular discipline. At that point in your career, your company took responsibility for your development. Now that you’re an “expert,” your organization might not see the need to train you further. But this doesn’t mean it’s not a necessary part of your climbing the corporate ladder! On the contrary, there’s so much you still have to learn to be a senior manager. So don’t wait for your boss to offer you a course - find one and do it on your own.

 

In today’s rapidly changing economy, companies are opening, expanding, contracting, closing, merging, etc. constantly. While many middle managers will see this movement as threatening, others will hone the opportunities that come with such changes. If you are excited about the opportunities, prepare yourself now so that you’ll be in the best position possible to be promoted when the time comes.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Rejected candidates: here's what you need to do

Every middle manager trying to make it up the corporate ladder has experienced this common range of emotions at some point in their career. Middle managers are in a tough place. On one hand, you’ve proven yourself as professional, competent, and hard-working - many of the crucial professional development goals for managers. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been promoted so far. So as you apply to more senior jobs, your first thought is that getting the next promotion will be as easy as the others. But my 30 plus years of experience tell a different story.

 

As you rise in the managerial pyramid towards the top, getting promoted becomes harder and harder. And naturally, the interviews do as well. So there’s no need to get down on yourself if you’ve been rejected recently. Statistically, this happens more often than not. So should you just give up and remain complacent in your middle management position? Well, that’s up to you, but for those who really want to ace that next interview, you’ve got to find out what happened after you finished the interview and closed the door behind you. This is part of the professional development goals for managers who want to get promoted. Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but based on my experience, at least one of the following happened:

 

1. Your interviewer couldn’t really pin down why you’d be the best person for the job.

I don’t mean that you forgot to send in your resume or that you couldn’t answer the basic interview questions. I’ll give you credit for that. But consider this: did you demonstrate passion for the position? For example, did you move beyond portraying yourself as qualified and show how the position fits in with your professional philosophy? This clearly shows why you’d be the best person for the job. Other candidates might have the same (or better) qualifications than you do, but your interviewer was left wondering why YOU.

 

2.    Your interviewer wasn’t sure what extra value you’d be bringing to the table.

After you left the interviewer’s office, the interviewer began writing a summary of the interview. While they were able to check all of the boxes - education, years of experience, decent performance reviews - there was still something missing. Other candidates had brought up special projects they’d initiated or recognition they’d earned for exceeding targets. But your interviewer couldn’t recall anything outstanding about you. And unfortunately, this kept you off the shortlist for any further interviews.

 

So armed with this insight, what should your game plan be if you want your next interview to go well? My first piece of advice is to answer the two questions above. They are critical to your being able to sell yourself next time. Without both answering these questions and then formulating how you’d integrate the answers into your next interview, the cycle of rejection will just continue.

 

Next, once you’ve done this homework, approach the interviewer and flat out ask them why they’ve decided to continue with the other candidates (and not you). Yes, it’s extremely uncomfortable, especially with your tail between your legs, but you’ll derive a couple of immediate benefits. First, you’ll be showing that you’re open to constant learning and improvement - a must for today’s super competitive environment. Second, you’ll be gaining crucial insider information about how senior members see you - not something that necessarily comes out in performance reviews or casual conversations. This information, along with the self-analysis I described above, will help you power up for the next interview opportunity.

 

Being rejected for an interview - especially after you’ve come this far - can be a pretty tough experience. And because of this, many middle managers decide to shy away from future advancement opportunities. But if you’ve got your mind set on climbing the corporate ladder, knowing what happens once you leave the interview is your key to success.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Going for a job interview? First answer these 3 questions

For those of you about to embark on a job interview, in seeking job promotion interview answers, you’ve no doubt noticed the endless supply of how-to books, informational websites, prep courses, and advice articles.  Of course, there’s a reason for this endless supply: endless demand. And what fuels this endless demand? Simply put: stress.

 

Going for a job interview is probably one of the most stressful experiences as you make your way up the corporate ladder - whether inside or outside your current organization. And to try to combat this stress, everyone’s on the hunt for the magic formula that will lead them to the right job promotion interview answers. But even if you’re sure you’ve discovered the “right” way to approach an interview, does this mean you’ll beat out the other candidates?

 

Based on my 35 years of experience, the answer is an absolute “no”. And it’s not because you didn’t find the right how-to book or didn’t follow the prep course instructions correctly. It’s because you didn’t answer these three crucial questions:

 

 - What do my competitors have that I don’t?

 - What do I have that my competitors don’t?

 - What added value can I bring to the organization?

 

Let’s examine each of these.

 

1.    What do my competitors have that I don’t?

Whenever I ask a manager about to apply for a new job to find out what advantages their competitors have over them, I’m often met with the same response: “How should I know? I don’t even know who else is applying.” But that’s no excuse. Even in cases where you’re completely in the dark, you can always make one assumption: there are candidates out there that meet the job requirements in areas where you don’t. So armed with this assumption, your best bet is to first make a list of these areas. Once you have a list, see if you can brainstorm examples where you might partially meet some of the requirements. Remember, “partially” is better than “none” and will still make a case for your candidacy, especially when the organization takes into consideration other advantages your bring to the table.

 

I’ll give you an example. You read in a job ad that at least five years of experience are needed in a certain area, yet you have only three years. You can assume that most (if not all) of your fellow applicants will have at least five years of experience. In this case, the best plan of action would be to demonstrate that your three years were jam packed with the exact kind of experience needed for the job at hand - so much that they’ve prepared you specifically for this new role. If you frame your three years in this way, they will be seen as an advantage over the others who might have five years of experience - but not necessarily as relevant as yours.


 

2.    What do I have that my competitors don’t?

I hope you haven’t put away the list you prepared while answering the first question. Now, it’s time to examine your qualities that might actually exceed the job requirements - positioning  you above your fellow applicants. I call these qualities “surplus points”. Surplus points have to be kept close to your chest and revealed only as needed. Too much waving around of surplus points will flag you as overqualified and unsuitable for the job at hand. Instead, surplus points should be framed as extensions of the job’s core requirements.

 

For example, a job ad requires retail experience in a certain area such as supermarkets. You have this experience but you also have experience in wholesale. Such a surplus point should be communicated as an extension of the retail experience required by the organization. In other words, you don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer by touting that you can take on both retail and wholesale markets. Instead, you want to illustrate how your understanding of the wholesale markets will assist you in dealing with the retail markets - something other candidates can’t necessarily offer.


 

3.    What added value can I bring to the organization?

Added value in this context means something that you bring to the job that’s not required by the company - but is of specific value to the company. This might sound a lot like the surplus points above, but added value is different. First of all, as I said before, surplus points run the risk of flagging overqualification. Added value, however, is always positive and is usually communicated as specific knowledge the organization would be happy to have. Therefore, your added value should be communicated in a way that results in a pleasant surprise for the interviewer - and sets you leagues above the other candidates.

 

For example, you might know that the organization is currently trying to penetrate a specific market you know well. In fact, you have the knowledge to help the organization form its strategy, custom its product or service, and identifying key competitors. This is the added value you could bring to the organization that others cannot offer. It should be made clear in the interview, though brought up within the context of the organization’s current challenges in the new market. And don’t forget to include concrete evidence of your knowledge in that market.

 

The head of the pack

If you focus on any of the three questions above - or a combination of more than one - you’ll find yourself at the head of the pack when the organization shortlists the leading candidates. As you have seen, it takes some effort to answer these questions, but the payoff will be worth it.

 

Good luck!


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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