10 Ways to Land That Big Job Promotion

Last Updated Mar 19, 2010 11:24 AM EDT

Climbing the LadderThink you've got what it takes to become a hot-shot executive but your boss is holding you back? Or maybe you're just sick and tired of working your butt off while everyone else gets ahead? Well, quit your whining and do something about it.

No, don't get a self-help book or listen to so-called "gurus" who never did it first-hand. That's just a waste of time. I've got a better idea. Why don't I just tell you how I got my big job promotions while climbing the corporate ladder for 23 years? How about that?

Just one thing though. This is how it really works in the real world, so if you're looking for a quick fix, like a pill or a diet, just give it up. Success isn't easy and there are no magic formulas. Anyone who says otherwise just wants to sell you something. If there was an easier way, trust me, I'd have tried it.

10 Ways to Land That Big Job Promotion

  1. Leverage a change in strategy. If your company changes direction, go where the action is. Today, Barnes & Noble promoted the head of its website, William Lynch, to CEO because digital media and ecommerce are the company's future.
  2. Get involved in a mission-critical program. Along the same lines, get involved in the company's hottest initiative. Those folks will have visibility and get promoted faster than anyone else will.
  3. Ask management tough questions. As a young engineer, I asked my boss why my raise sucked. He said my project was low priority and nobody cared. So I got involved in a hot project and that change helped to shape my career.
  4. Get into a "network friendly" position. The most critical promotion in my career wasn't within the company, but with a partner firm that recognized and needed my skill- set. I jumped on the opportunity without hesitation.
  5. Look at the big picture. If you think small, you'll stay small. But if you think big, as in big picture, if you understand the competitive landscape your company is in, you'll come up with ideas and you'll get noticed.
  6. Pitch a big idea. Got an idea that may bring in big business or help the company in some material way? Put your neck on the line and pitch it. You'll get a lot of recognition and attention, whether it works or not.
  7. Listen with your mind, not your ears. If you stay focused on your goals and really listen when people speak, you'll hear opportunities that you'd otherwise miss. I'm telling you, this is important. Also, don't forget to answer the damn phone when it rings.
  8. Be friendly, genuine, open, and flexible. I know that's a lot to swallow, but look: I can tell you to network, but that's what everyone's doing now. Most opportunities came my way because people liked me and felt I was open to their ideas.
  9. Get close to the customer. I know, you've heard this before, but it's true. I climbed the ladder much faster as a marketing and sales executive than I ever would have as an engineer or IT person.
  10. Don't be a pain in the butt. Seriously, if you get involved in petty BS and whine and complain about stuff, you'll be labeled and nobody will take you seriously. Keep your head above the crowd and your eye on the prize.
As I look over my career, from college to top executive, these tips are the catalysts that fueled the reactions. But make no mistake. It wouldn't have happened without the basic elements: qualities, smarts, and skills, so here are a few links to help with that:
"Climbing the Ladder" image by exfordy CC 2.0