The 3 Steps to Set Yourself Up for A Promotion

career coaching career search how to set yourself up for a promotion job advice job search promotion tech leader power lunch Mar 04, 2021

Transcription of Video:

Hey everyone, welcome to the Tech Leader Power Lunch! I'm excited to have you join me today on the three steps to set yourself up for a promotion.


  • Is Now a Bad Time to Pursue a Promotion (or Should You Lay Low)?
  • The 3 Steps to Set Yourself Up for a Promotion

Great to have you all here. So first I'll just jump into the agenda and then we'll talk about who I am and the content for today. So first, we'll start off with a burning question you might be asking about, is this the best time for a promotion. So is now a bad time to pursue a promotion if you have a job already, or should you lay low. And then we'll dive into the three steps to set yourself up for a promotion. So excited to share these with you today. They're very simple, and not necessarily easy, but definitely simple. So we will dive in. And I will warn you I've had a bunch of coffee today, combined with the fact that I have just talking to so many people who are have such big goals and are holding themselves back and it's driving me crazy. So you might get a little tough love for me today. That's what I love doing.

So before we dive in, if we haven't met yet, I'm Melisa Lieberman. I am a former tech executive. I have a 20 year background in technology and having lived in that world myself. But now I'm a career coach, and I'm an expert at helping tech leaders achieve their big career goals. And as a career coach, I've helped countless clients land their dream roles through a job search or through a promotion, help them improve their leadership skills and management skills. As they continue to progress in their career. I help people navigate through their challenging corporate politics, whether it's someone they're reporting to, or team members that they're managing. And this is what I live and breathe and love to do really lock arms with my clients and help them achieve their goals. Just like I've been able to achieve my, my career goals, I really want the same for you.

And so that's why I created this tech leader power lunch is to be able to share with you really two things. Number one to be able to share with you some of the best practices that I see in working with clients. on a day-to-day basis. This is what I do every day, just like what you do every day you're an expert at, I want to share with you what I see working so well in out in out in in the world so that you can implement it in your own career. And number two, I really want you to be able to spend 30 minutes a week on your career. That's it, right? If you're looking for a job, it might be more. But so many of us get bogged down in the day to day and don't take a step back. And pretty soon, months and quarters and even years have gone by. And we're literally just at the mercy of our own calendar, and whatever the important things are for our job and we lose, it's so easy to lose sight of our career. And I really want you to take half an hour every week, just to focus on your career and the bigger picture and where you want to be going and how you can get there. I know you can get whatever it is that you want if you're able to focus on it. So that's a little about me, and this lunch, why I created it. Let's dive in today into the content.

Is Now a Good Time to be Thinking About a Promotion? 

So the first question that I have been getting asked is, is now a good time to be thinking about a promotion in the middle of a pandemic, or should I just be laying low?

So let's think about that for your specific situation. There's not a one size fits all answer. But a lot of times we just assume, oh, it's probably better to lay low right now. And again, we look ahead and two years has gone by and we're still laying low and I don't want that to happen to you. So I'm just going to ask you a question.

I'm going to ask you from a scale of one to 10. How confident are you that you can accomplish a promotion, either internally or through a job search? So just write down the first number that comes to you. And we're going to answer this question, should I be working toward a promotion?

If you're a 10, then you probably wouldn't be asking me this question, right? Should I be working toward a promotion or laying low? If you were to 10? You would be working toward a promotion? Right, you would be executing or at least knowing that you are able to execute against the promotion?

If you're not a 10 then you've got to figure out why. Why aren't you a 10? And this tells you where your work is? The answer cannot be we're in a pandemic, I guarantee you. People are getting promoted right now. People are getting new jobs right now, I cannot tell you the amount of activity that's going on right now. Compared literally week over week over week, it increases. There are jobs out there, there are internal openings that you can get promoted into. So if you're not a 10, you can write down the Coronavirus on there on the paper if you want and then cross it out. Because it's an excuse.

I told you I was going to give you some tough love today. It's an excuse. It's keeping you safe, because it feels very real. And I'm not saying it's not real. That's not my point here. My point is, there are still opportunities out there for you to pursue, regardless of the economy, regardless of a pandemic, regardless of anything. And so whatever you wrote down on your piece of paper that tells you why you're not a 10, whether it's the Coronavirus, or some other reason, this is where your work is. This is what you need to do in order to bolster your ability to be promoted. And I guarantee you nine times out of 10 or probably 99 out of 100 it's all about you believing in yourself that you're competent and capable enough to land the promotion.

The best time, this is one of my favorite sayings, when is the best time to get a promotion. If you have unless you're missing some huge skill set. And we'll talk about that in a minute. The best time is was 20 years ago as this Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now” the best time for you to have gone for a promotion is probably when you really like you just barely felt ready. And to push yourself into that. The second best time is now.

There's no reason for you not to go forward with this unless you have some big skill gap, which I guarantee that's very much the exception, not the rule. So first, is this a good time? My answer is yes. Yes, it's a good time. Forget about the Coronavirus. Figure out where all of your personal hang ups are. And let's work through those today. Okay.

The 3 Steps to Set Yourself Up for a Promotion

Step 1: What does it mean to decide?

So the first step of this is deciding. And I'm going to walk you through a very clear process to decide. Because whether we have a pandemic or not, whether you have the skills or not, this is the time to figure out Am I going to pursue a promotion or not. And I'm not saying you need to pursue the promotion starting on Monday. But certainly if this is something that you want, you've got to make yourself a roadmap to get there. And that's what this is all about.

This is where almost all of us go wrong no matter what it is that you're that you're pursuing. Whether it's a promotion, whether it's a job search, whether it's a move into a new industry, whatever it is, this is where most of us falter. Step one, deciding and I'm not talking about like, oh, maybe I'll think about it or maybe I'll see what happens or what hopefully this will work out. I'm talking about deciding.

And I love diving into what this word really means as a way to illustrate what I'm talking about. Deciding means that it comes from the is a root word of side, right, which denotes killing off. Things like pesticide, homicide, suicide, right? These are things or where we've killed off the alternatives.

When you truly decide you've killed off all the other options, we'll focus on the pesticide because the other ones aren't as, as nice, right. We've killed off the bugs, we've killed off fungicides, some kind of fungus, right? Whatever it is, we've killed off, there's literally no other alternative. And you've decided you're going to do this go for this promotion, no matter how long it takes, how hard it is. And you go all in, that's what deciding is. It doesn't mean I'm going to tip you know, dip my toe in the water and see what happens, 

How long does the decision take for most of us, especially those of us who are really analytical and process oriented, we feel like we need to create this whole plan, do all the due diligence, think about it, ponder the ideas, ponder the options, think about the pros and cons, what you can do.

But once you've got whatever it is, the information is that you need it literally, we always make a decision in an instant.

So you can figure out if you want to make a decision now in this instant, or take two months to kind of do this due diligence and then make the decision. But we make this in a split second. And the time that we're spending thinking about it is wasted. So we want to make sure that we're deciding on purpose. And we have a very good plan of how we're going to decide and not fool ourselves that and I believe me, I've been here many times, so I'm right there with you, but not fool ourselves that we're going to make a decision after some thing gets revealed, right, we are making a decision and setting forth a plan of action and not turning back in this process that I'm recommending to you.

Decide on purpose

  1. So number one, in terms of finalizing this decision, decide on the date, if you haven't, if you've decided you want to go for promotion, or for a new job, or whatever it is, then you're done with this step. As long as you really are pursuing it in a way that is not looking back not revisiting whether you're going to do it or not. It's all in. If you're not all in, then make a decision on the date you're going to decide it could be today. Or it could be in a week or a month, whatever it is, write it down, write it down right now on your piece of paper and stick to that date. So decide in let's just say it's at the end of August, you're going to decide whether or not you're going to pursue this promotion in 2020. Write that down on your piece of paper, and then write out all the steps you need in order to feel comfortable with.
  2. I've got I've done my due diligence. And then ask yourself what this is my favorite question, because at the end of the day, the due diligence is anyone's judgment guess right? You can get all the information possible. But at the end of the day, you're gonna have to make a judgment call. And you can make a judgment call right now if you want to. And it could be I'm not going to pursue a promotion in 2020. But I'm going to revisit it on December 1 and decide what I want to do for December 2021. I'm not trying to talk you into going after a promotion. I'm trying to explain to describe a process where you're not living in limbo, and kind of half in and half out with whatever your decision is.
  3. So when it's a judgment call like this might one of my very favorite questions to ask is what would I choose? If I knew both options would turn out perfectly? So in this case, would I choose to go after a promotion if I knew I would land one, or what I choose to stay where I'm at? And it turns out perfectly. What would I decide to do?
  4. And then ultimately, go forward with the side write the D side. Decide and don't look back, don't read question. Revisit, rethink, read aside, that's just wasting so much time and distracting you from what you can be accomplishing as we move forward with steps two and three.

Step 2: Create Your Strategy – Internal Checklist

Assuming you've decided you want to pursue a promotion, that's probably why you're on this call, figure out, are you going to pursue an internal promotion or an external promotion, or both.

So we're going to make your strategy. We want to have a strategy for how you're going to pursue and navigate through to get this promotion. And the first question is internal or external? Or both? Let's say that it's internal. I'm going to give you this checklist now, of the things to think about when you're wanting to pursue an internal promotion.

  • Do you have the required skills?
    • And if you don't think you have the required skills, which I'm It's crazy, right? We always talk ourselves out of it. Well, I'm not quite there yet. Or I Oh, I don't have this, this one thing yet? Or Oh, it's not good enough, right? Double check yourself here. Because a lot of times with my clients, I start asked, they tell me I don't have that skill. And I start asking them questions. Well, have you done this? Have you done that? What about this? Tell me more about this thing on your resume? And they're like, Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Or, Oh, I didn't really feel like that thing counted, or, oh, that probably wasn't good enough, I should have more of those things. And that's all crap. If you have enough, I guarantee you're underselling yourself. Because 99% of the people out there are, you might be one of the 1%. If you are, let me know, I'd love to hear from you too. But most of the time, we're discounting what our capabilities are, and thinking we need more of something in order to be qualified. And it's not true.

Do you know specifically how you're going to build and if you are missing something, do you know specifically how you're going to build those missing skills. I have a client who has some technical skills that he got through or you know, more recently through some online courses. And he doesn't want to put them on his resume, because he hasn't used them in practice. They, they belong on your resume.

You've completed the course you've done case work in the course, and scenarios. Now, I'm not saying you should go to the interview and say that you've been using this on the job for the last three years. But you certainly shouldn't leave it off either. Right? So really figure out where are you parse this out? Where am I underselling myself? And if I really am truly not understand selling myself? How can I close this gap quickly?

And what's the bare minimum to close the gap? We're not talking about how do we get an A plus to close the gap? We're talking about? What's the bare minimum to close this gap?

  • Then look at from an internal perspective to get an internal promotion? Where do I have internal support? and advocates? If I don't, where do I need to build them? Build build them? Right? I need the support of the people who are going to decide if I'm getting a promotion or not?
  • How do I know? Do I know the steps to get promoted For some it's more official and and very prescribed. I have a client at Amazon right now. And she's got to go through all these boards to get some of her team members promoted. For others, it's much more flexible and Ill defined, you've got to figure out for you and your specific situation. What are the steps? What is the criteria? What are the steps? What is the timeframe? And then how if you don't know if no one knows what the steps are? define them and give them to whomever you're reporting to, to the CEO or to the VP or whomever it is and say, you know, does this make sense from a promotion path perspective? This is what I think it looks like, tell me what you think it looks like make it up yourself, if no one has it.
  • And then break it into chunks like 90 day chunks. This is what I'm going to do. This is how I'm going to fill in these gaps, whether it's real skill gaps, internal advocates, what the steps are step by step and make yourself a 90 day plan and figure out how you're going to manage measure your progress as you execute against that plan. Don't just write it down and then don't look at it again. Like literally write it down and look at it every single week. How are you accomplish? How are you working against that plan.

So that's the internal checklist for your strategy. Externally, it's essentially executing a strategic job search.

Step 2: Create Your Strategy – External Checklist

  • So number one, you're going to want to define your target roles and companies. And you'll use some of that work from that prior internal checklist I just gave you, right? What are your skills? What are your gaps? Do you have anything that you need to be working on? Are you being honest with yourself or too hard on yourself, and then
  • create your branding and positioning that reflects what you're wanting to do, not what you are doing, right? Figure out what it is that you want to be doing, and how you're already doing that in so many cases that you're not giving yourself credit for, just because you might not have the right title, brand and position yourself in a way that shows that you're already doing a lot of the work that you would be doing in this next role,
  • then develop a go to market strategy for yourself. We talk a lot about this and other tech leader power lenses, right? How do I get around the process to get in front of decision makers to network and talk with people about what does it look like to have this certain role at your company? How have others accomplished getting this role? What's your advice to me to be successful in landing this role, especially because I've had, you know, this title, and I really want that title, like go out and do due diligence for yourself, talk to people get on the phone, it's amazing, I will tell you that people are a lot more open and receptive to helping other people right now, because of the situation that we're all in, compared to even six months ago. If you want to talk about whether now is a good time to be looking for a job or trying to get a promotion, in a lot of ways we have more time because we're not commuting as much where we want to talk to other people because we're literally stuck in our houses, you know, online and craving that in that that one to one interaction. And people are willing to help each other, we see that we're all kind of you know, struggling in some levels. Like go out and do some informational interviews and figure out what your strategy should look like from a go to market perspective, how you start landing interviews.
  • And then when you're ready to interview, be ready for the types of questions and objections that you're going to get both by way of what kind of questions with someone in the next level that you're wanting to get be promoted to be asked? And what are what how are you going to respond when someone says, Well, you haven't have this exact title? How are you going to be able to prove that you can do this job, get ready for those kinds of interviews? That's the kind of thing that I do with my clients of really like diving in over and over again, until they're ready, from an interview perspective to nail it. And you need to be Don't, don't do all of this work, book the interviews and wing it like most people do. And almost everyone tells me, they're amazing at interviewing, I'm like, how do you know that? Well, when I did it last time, like five years ago, 10 years ago, I was I got a job. Yeah, that doesn't mean that you even know how to interview with the current, kind of best practice based interviews, right? Don't wing it, like prepare yourself and get ready for all of the questions that you would rather avoid and hope they don't ask you.
  • And then finally, land the new role and have a plan a 30 6090 day plan for when you are ready, you know, hit the ground running, and can immediately establish credibility in this new role.

Step 3: Become the Person Who Has Been Promoted

Step number three, become the person who has been promoted. And I'm telling you that this is the secret sauce. I'll tell you what it means here in a minute. But a lot of times we we approach this as the chicken in the egg, right? Oh, well, first I'll get the job. And then I'll you know, I'll prove myself, I know I can do it. I just need the job first. No, no. First you act as if you already have the job. And I'll tell you what that means in a little bit more detail here in a second. And then that's how you get the job.

Let me say it again. First, you act as if you're already the person who has the job that you want, the promotion that you want. And that's how you get it. You don't get it first, and then fill the shoes. So let me tell you what that means in more detail. This is some homework I'm going to give you of who is the person that already has the job, the promotion that you want.

So you might have a model from others that you've worked around and with who have what you want. So you can kind of think about that answers to these questions from that perspective. Or maybe there's a peer or a customer that has the role that you You really want, like us that kind of person that you really respect and look up to as a model for how you're going to answer these questions, and then dive into this in detail. And it might seem a little airy. But I'm telling you, this is how I moved from being a business analyst all the way up to an executive team.

Before I think I was in my early 30s, as all of this skyrocketing happens, this is what I teach my clients now to embody the person who already has what they want in order to get what they want. And so spend some time here really figuring out what this answer is these answers 

If you were already promoted, or if you already had the job that you're targeting,

  • how would you be feeling? You wouldn't be feeling unsure, right? You wouldn't be feeling self doubt about Can I do this or not?
  • You would be thinking, you would be feeling confident, like I've already got this, I'm going to go out and nail it. I know I can make this happen. That's what we're looking for confident, not not shakiness? What would you be thinking about? So put yourself in that role in the day to day? What kind of strategic things would you be thinking about? As you're approaching your day to day role, your quarterly objectives, your annual objectives? What would you think you'd be thinking about as you're approaching customers? or internal making internal presentations or advocating for something internally? How would you be thinking about it? As someone who's in command, and who has accomplished everything that you want to be able to accomplish? But would you not be thinking about? Oh, I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if it's the right time. I don't know if this is if I got my head in over my head, right? You're not going to be thinking that stuff.
  • How would you be showing up? This is such an easy one. How would you be showing up?
  • Would you be wearing a baseball hat to zoom meetings? Would you have a ton of clutter behind you in your zoom calls? Would you be writing emails that are super casual? Someone wrote me the other day and said, Oh, I can't remember what it was now. I was shocked. Like, how do you show up as a professional with such casual demeanor and behavior? I think it was on a help desk, they said What's up? That's how they initiated the conversation. Like, whatever my technical problem was, I was not in any mood to be asked what's up, right? Like, as a professional, how are you showing up? And these are the littlest things, right? How do I communicate? How am I communicating professionally? Now? I'm running a little behind here. How am I communicating in writing and in person and invite demeanor? What am I wearing? am I wearing a T shirt on my zoom calls? Or am I still dressing professionally? There's some super easy things that I can be doing to show up more professionally.
  • What kinds of initiatives and ideas and improvements would I be proposing? What kind of deliverables would I be creating?
  • How is my self concept changed from the role I had to the new role that I've moved it up into?
  • And what does my self identity look like? Who is this person, essentially, that has the promotion.

And then the key here is to approach your day to day as if you already been you've already been promoted. do all of those things that are your answers from that last slide. And think about yourself as the VP, not the manager.

Think about yourself as the sea level, not the VP, wherever you're at, in this journey, step into this new identity that you literally just defined from that last slide 

And I'm not talking about literally, like don't go out writing performance reviews for your peers, obviously.

But everything you can do to constantly show up as that person who's got what you want to have is what's going to get you there so much faster.


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