A friend of mine shared with me a piece of advice from his military training — he told me that his superior officers used to tell him: The things that got you promoted this time will never get you promoted again.
This is right on the money. It\’s also completely wrong, but we’ll get to that later.
The genius behind this idea is that you — your career, your personal brand — needs to continually evolve. You need to grow and increase your skills and knowledge base. And, most importantly, you need to show that you have the skills that it takes to succeed at the next level.
It’s also genius because of one of the hidden rules of moving up the career ladder: Excel at the type of work that you want to do next.
By excelling at the work that you want to do next, it will ensure that you are developing the skills that will get you promoted, rather than getting stuck, unfairly, at your current level.
I know a woman who really wanted to move into a leadership role in her organization. She had proven herself an invaluable \”#2\” — her boss felt comfortable handing over all the details and knew that she would execute effectively and quickly.
Unfortunately, even though this woman was a leader in her community and knew she was a leader inside, she didn’t practice those skills for the job that she wanted to do. When she approached her boss about extending her responsibilities, he wasn’t as receptive as she hoped because he didn’t have confidence in her ability to lead strategy.
By excelling at her current responsibilities without stretching to the skills required for the next level, she killed her chances at being promoted. Moral of the story: Find ways to step up and demonstrate your ability to do the work that you want to do in the future.
Climbing the ladder
This can feel impossible as, generally, one doesn’t get opportunities handed to them to do their bosses work. And often we are completely overwhelmed with the task of getting our own job done, let alone taking on additional responsibility.
I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy or quick, but it is possible to create opportunities that will prove your ability to move up the ladder.
1. Make a List: Take 30 minutes to really think about the work that you want to be doing and exactly what skills and characteristics it would take to be successful at that endeavor. Make a list of the eight items you think are most important.
2. Do Your Homework: Occasionally, you may already have all of the skills or knowledge to excel in a new role already, but nine times out of 10, you’ll have to do your homework. Go on informational interviews, take an online course and borrow books from the library. Get your learning on!
3. Brainstorm Some Opportunities: Now it gets interesting. One aspect that primarily comes up for those early in their career is managing other people. Perhaps you could hire and manage an intern or two over the summer, or you could own a small project and manage the team for it. You might also get experience to move into a management role by volunteering. Explore these avenues to gain experience.
4. Put It into Action: Pick one of the ideas above. Think about it from your boss’s perspective and figure out how it benefits them. Then pitch it to them to make it happen — and be sure to highlight the homework you’ve done, too.
By taking these steps, you not only start showing the skills for the job that you want to have, but you show that you are ambitious, driven and self-motivated (in other words, exactly the kind of person that companies promote).
So what are you waiting for? Schedule a 30 minute meeting with yourself this week and get to work.
At the start I said that while this idea was genius, it is also totally wrong. What got you here won’t get you promoted again is completely correct when it comes to skills, actions and relationships in general. What will get you promoted again is your personality, characteristics and integrity. So, keep working on self-awareness, understanding and improvement!
Rebecca Rapple has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Keith Ferrazzi’s My Greenlight and more. Your can learn more about the fundamentals of a remarkable job search on her site, The Resume Revolution.