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A new column by HR expert Gautam Ghosh for those who’ve just entered the workforce and are looking to get ahead

Congratulations, so you’ve landed your first job after graduating. That’s some great news. You’ve got great communication skills and you’ve heard about the great talent shortage in India and therefore you’re fairly certain that the next few years will see you get a promotion every year to make it to the top management of an organization in about a decade, right?

Sorry, but that’s dead wrong.

Getting promoted to higher levels of responsibility is not that easy. Success in your current role does not ensure that you will get promoted to the next level.

“Then how do people get promoted every year?” you might ask.

One needs to understand that organizations (and I do mean all, from business organizations to organized religion to armies and even criminal gangs!) are organized in only one way-like a pyramid. The only thing that changes is how flat or extended that pyramid is!

The truth therefore is that there are always less people in the next level than the lower level. Hence, the number of people that get promoted is always a subset of the people in the current level. How do you get a step ahead of others to get promoted?

Here are three things that done right, could considerably increase your chances in becoming one of those people who are privileged (!) to get promoted.

1. Be a star where you are
To be considered for promotion, you have to be excellent in your current role.

There is no getting away from that fact. One needs to work hard, know what one’s critical goals are and then plan and achieve those goals.

How does one go about it? Here’s what I would suggest someone who’s working for the first time :

Spend some time with your Manager and understand what is expected out of you and how will you be evaluated.

One employee who I knew always used to nag (in a positive way, of course!) his manager if he was unclear of any aspect of the job. He was also proactive in figuring out who could answer his questions if his boss was busy. Over time since he knew so much about the job that he became the default expert in his area and new employees would invariably be sent to him by his boss to be mentored.

If your organization does not have a clear goal setting process or an ineffective evaluation process, then the tendency would be for subjectivity to rule.

2. Show initiative
Focusing and meeting your goals is what is expected out of you, but to be really considered for promotion you have to a lot more.

One of the things you can do is to look or opportunities to display managerial or leadership skills. How can one do so? Simple, take initiative when any opportunity presents itself to organize, direct, plan or bring together people to reach certain goals. Ok, it’s not so simple. How can you get such opportunities? Thankfully, life in organizations presents lots of opportunities. What you need is the ability to spot these opportunities.

These could range from organizing a simple office picnic or party, to putting together a presentation for visiting clients. Showing initiative and asking for roles that help you showcase your leadership skills is a valuable way you can get senior leadership to be aware of your case for promotion. Of course, you have to execute what you have taken on your plate, flawlessly as well.

3. Solve Problems Creatively
Not everybody can get the chance to lead official or informal events, so solving problems is an excellent way to get noticed by your managers. If you’ve spent some time in organizations you will know how people crib and complain about small things!

Resolve not be one of them.

Instead, solve the most pressing issues that might be bothering your boss. Then let him or her know that you have done so. There was this lady in an IT services organization who always knew the better and more economical way to get the job done. When the organization was going through a slowdown in the early 2000s her expertise was very valuable to reduce overheads and probably helped in saving someone’s job!

4. Get to know what the next level demands
If the organization has a written job description of what the next level entails, can you demonstrate that level of performance in your current role?

You can also volunteer to do your leader relatively simpler operational tasks that will help you in
a. learning what the role is
b. free up his/her time to concentrate on doing more productive things

If demonstrated well, these skills will show your Manager that you can do aspects of his/her role well and you will be better off in your chances of getting promoted than others who have only concentrated on doing their current job role.

Conclusion: What organizations say they expect from employees is very different from what they want from employees they want to promote !

Next issue: Knowing whether the job at the next level is right for you!

About the author: Gautam Ghosh is an Organizational Consultant who has worked in Consulting, IT and BPO sectors. He blogs about Management & HR issues at gauteg. blogspot.com. You can email your queries to gautam.ghosh@gmail.com

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