How to Get Promoted

Last weekend, I checked my bank account and I saw an unusually high number on my paycheck. When I got into the office the next day, I closed my bosses’ door and said “what happened?”

Apparently I got promoted.

Of course, being promoted is great! You feel happy, valued, etc. But what about everyone else?

Well, maybe not.

I had lunch with my CSO

(We had this lunch because he was joking about making a sitcom based on the absurdities on where we worked and I sent him a script for a scene and that convinced him to buy me lunch)

During that lunch I talked to him about promotion and why it happens, and most importantly, how to mitigate the calamity that happens when everyone else hears about it.

This article will explore how to get promoted, and how to handle it.

Timing matters

A big disclaimer is that as long as you are doing a great job, executing projects, and taking more leadership roles, you will eventually be promoted.

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It’s very rare to get promoted a year in a company. Especially a giant company like the one I work in. Startups are a different story, but the value of titles also is in a gray area. Will people take you seriously if you are a 25 year old director of R+D? Depends how well-known you are.

The laws of promotion are weird and vary from company to company, but I think the idea is, I was promoted because I had 3 years of experience and it’s ok for this to happen.

However, what if it takes longer than expected to get promoted? Depending on your life situation, maybe it’s time to move. You could be trying your hardest but people just don’t see your value. It never hurts to at least do a phone interview.

But if no one finds you valuable, maybe it’s time for an internal change.

How Replaceable are you?

My CSO and I talked about personal branding. How unique of a personal attitude do you need to make people think you’re a cool guy?

Observe this. Who in your company is so uniquely quirky that you instantly know them? My CSO is a gun loving apocalyptic crazy dude and he expresses that very well in board meetings. Developing this brand does give him a lot of leverage.

I like to say I’m a bit… unique at work too.

But what else? I’m the absolute expert at protein bars in the company. I get sent to trips to deal with issues and projects, and anyone who has questions about bars goes to me. The idea is that I’m irreplaceable because I am the best at protein bars.

To take away form this, all this means is that to NOT be replaceable, you need to be unique (funny, mean, social, get stuff done, offer free products at your desk, Zukerberg-type awkward)

Or be extremely good at a skill. Not just good, the best in your company. You have to be confident that you knowledge, you have to radiate excitement when you talk about it, you have to be in meetings where you have absolute authority in the subject.

Be So Good, They Can’t Ignore You

My favorite book ever for career advice is So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. In general, the title gives you all you need to know.

In a corporate setting, this depends a whole lot on how many people in every department actually knows you and how valuable you are in their eyes. Once more people know about you and how valuable you are, it’s not only difficult for the company to replace you, but also helps your reputation.

Virality works whether it’s online or offline. There might be hacks to get more recognition, but the honest way is just do 110% of the work. Go above and beyond what you’re supposed to do. I would even suggest trying to get into meetings where you’re not supposed to. Since joining Isagenix, I’m now in Commercialization meetings, Product Marketing Meetings and now recently, the High Priority R+D Meeting. Most of my peers are not in these meetings, or are invisible to the discussion which separates me from the rest.

But how do you get to the position where everyone knows you?

You must complete and execute a trial by fire. I was “lucky” to have the opportunity to onboard a promising manufacturer but through a lot of internal and external arguments, ultimately did not do a good job, but we launched the product…

I stood my ground and accepted the responsibility, whether the outcome was good or bad, we had to make the product. This gave me the respect of the CSO, which gave me a very powerful tool to convince people I’m doing the right thing.

In this painful onboarding process, I had terrible meetings with marketing, procurement, packaging, project management, and eventually, executives got involved.

Yes, you will get into heated arguments because you’re just a kid who doesn’t know anything. You are going to get shut down, or torn apart. But you have to endure it and learn from the experience. Eventually, I gave everyone the facts, fast. I took control on meetings and gave people the best course of action. I was shaking in my boots, about to throw up every time I spoke to someone higher than me. But as my CSO told me, you are doing the right thing.

At the end of this experience, people respect me now. Or they laugh with me. Rather than at me.

I wish I could really distill this experience and give you the takeaways, but it’s tough. You have to read A LOT OF PEOPLE while doing A GOOD JOB at the same time. It’s one of the toughest skill to do and it takes diligent practice. Luckily, some crazy leadership roles in college helped me handle the situation decently.

The best piece of advice I can give is to start with having someone believe in you. The higher up they are in the organization, the better. If not the CSO, maybe a VP, or managers from multiple departments.  However, it’s up to you to provide 110% work. Reply in less than 24 hours, directly call people to deal with the problem, honestly explain the problems technically using that fancy degree you have.

How to Handle it

There’s an article somewhere in the internet where people were asked how much better they are than their peers.

It’s interesting how some of your peers don’t handle not being promoted.

It’ll pass. It takes a week. It happens to everyone.

My only advice is to not make a big deal about it. Keep it on the down low as possible. Just keep on doing good work.


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