5 Tips for Landing a Promotion in Your Civilian Workplace

(Department of Labor)

Whether you see a job posted on your internal company dashboard, hear about it through a colleague or are recommended for a promotion from your boss, pursuing advancement in your company requires a different strategy than applying from outside.

When you apply for a job in a new company, you're an unknown entity. They may interview you, call your references and do a background check on your experiences, but you're still not someone they've worked with.

This has pros and cons: They might perceive you as bringing fresh perspectives and experiences, which is attractive. Your skills and competencies might be unique to the industry and could give the company new capabilities. But the disadvantages are there, too, when hiring from outside the company: We don't know you, haven't seen you work and aren't sure you'll align with our company values and vision.

An internal candidate also brings pros and cons. There are advantages to hiring from within the company because you know the teams, the business and how things work there, but if you're not strategic about how you position yourself, you could turn that knowledge to your disadvantage instead.

To set yourself up for promotion success, consider doing the following things:

1. Assess Your Reputation

Instead of assuming everyone knows you, likes you and understands your value, do some homework. Talk to your peers, your manager, other managers and stakeholders who can help you decide whether you need to make changes, mend relationships and work on your positioning before pursuing a job change with your current employer.

Ask questions such as:

  • What do you believe I'm good at?
  • Where do I add value to my team and projects?
  • For what kinds of promotions would you see me as an ideal candidate?
  • Do you believe I have blind spots? If so, what are they?

2. Build Your Sponsors

While your mentors guide you through your career by sharing their insights and experiences with you, sponsors help put opportunities in front of you. A sponsor will invite you to the right conversation, meeting, event and opportunity to help you grow your career.

Do you have sponsors? If so, ensure they know what you're looking for in a job change. Ask for their help in securing the position. If you don't have sponsors, find some. Build and nurture the relationship, as this will take time to develop. Invest in learning about them and what they care about to find synergy, showcase your own interests and passions, and inform them of your goals in the company.

3. Do Your Research

Before you apply for an internal position, learn all you can about the new job, the stakeholders who'll be influencing the hiring process and how the new position aligns with your current skills, past experiences and future goals.

Resist the temptation to "wing it," thinking you've been working there already so they know you. Learn all you can about the company's current position in the market, where the industry is headed and how competitors are behaving. This gives you a competitive edge over external candidates because you'll then have external knowledge (research) and internal insights as an employee.

4. Display Your Passion

Even if your current job is mundane, show passion for your work. People are attracted to people who care about what they're doing. Then transfer that passion to the new position. In the job interview, let them see how and why you are committed to growing into the role over time.

Some employers like to see someone act the part before being promoted into it. While you'll not be able to give orders and make decisions as you would in the new role, showcase your strengths and talents as if you've already been promoted.

5. Plan Your Next Steps

If you get the promotion, how will you tell your current colleagues, your LinkedIn contacts and your peers in the company? Plan this out so you don't share the news prematurely and be sure to align your message with the company's narrative.

And think about how you'll communicate and act if you don't get promoted. You'll likely feel disappointed, frustrated or even angry and upset. If you can anticipate these feelings, you can better plan how you'll communicate what you're going through. Remain genuine and don't fake enthusiasm and optimism, but remember that you don't have to tell everyone everything you're going through emotionally.

That next promotion could be right around the corner, and stakeholders might be watching you to see how resilient and professional you are when facing a setback.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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