You’ve been working hard, putting in long hours at the office and giving in to your boss’ every demand, and you’re still being passed over for a promotion.
Being a loyal labourer clearly isn’t enough to get you to the next level of your career anymore, so what’s a dedicated employee to do?
It’s time to stop being like Milton from Office Space and more like Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada.
READ MORE: How to make the most of a job you hate
“If you want to move up you’re going to have to demonstrate some attributes that show you’re prepared to take on more responsibility and that you can do so,” Lee Weisser, senior career coach at Careers By Design, said to Global News.
So, who is getting promoted? According to a 2015 Ernst & Young report, there’s been a shift in the workplace over the last five years that has seen more Gen Xers and millennials seeking and receiving promotions to managerial positions.
About 65 per cent of Gen X workers and 62 per cent of millennials in the workforce now say they are managers, the report states (baby boomers come in third at 46 per cent).
On average, millennial managers say they started managing between 25 and 29 years of age.
“We learned that millennials are highly committed to their careers,” writes Karyn Twaronite, EY global diversity and inclusiveness officer, in the report. “They want to work flexibly without stigmas and are willing to make tough choices and sacrifices to better manage work and home.”
Weisser agrees and adds that millennials aren’t afraid to speak up when their job is concerned.
“Millennials certainly want to move up more quickly,” she says. “If they feel they’re in a role that doesn’t utilize their skills to their potential, they’re likely to ask for extra projects or a re-definition of their role.”
But if you want to be considered for a promotion, there isn’t one opportune moment that will present itself, Weisser says — it’s up to you to make your aspirations known to your boss.
Many employees will wait to bring this up at their annual or bi-annual reviews, but that may be too late, she says. If your next review is a long way off, think about setting up a separate meeting with your superior to discuss your career path within the company. Making management aware early will help get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
While an employee’s work performance is important to managers, there are other things to consider as well, like presentation, attitude and behaviour.
According to a 2015 survey by job search website CareerBuilder, there are two types of issues that often prevent employees from moving up the corporate ladder: behavioural issues and superficial factors.
“In addition to the on-the-job accomplishments, employers also take attitude, behaviour and appearance into consideration when deciding who deserves to move up in the ranks,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said in the report. “While your work performance may be strong, if you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously.”
When it comes to an employee’s behaviour, human resource managers say these following habits led them to pass over an employee for a promotion:
Other reasons that have discouraged human resources managers from promoting an employee concern appearance and hygiene:
Getting noticed among a sea of co-workers is tough — especially when there are dozens (if not hundreds) vying for the few openings within the company. But there are ways to stand out. Weisser laid out seven key traits every employee who’s looking for a promotion should adopt if they want to get noticed in today’s workplace.
#1 Be curious
Learn everything you can about the company — its ups and downs, its strengths and weaknesses, values and mission statement, for example. A great way to do that is to talk with your superiors to gauge how the company is progressing and where they see it heading in the future, Weisser says.
#2 Give credit when credit is due
Recognize when other team members make contributions and praise them for it. By doing this, Weisser says you’ll help create a positive work environment, and it will show that you’re concerned about the organization and not just your own personal advancement.
#3 Be a part of the solution
Offer to help find a solution when you see a gap in services or efficiency within the company. Weisser says this will show that you are able to think strategically, rather than being a passive employee.
#4 Serve on a committee
By being a part of a committee that helps with the functioning of the company, you’re showing initiative and interest. This is also a great opportunity to express your ideas, persuade others and be more visible within the workplace.
#5 Make your boss look good
Give your boss ongoing support and communicate openly, Weisser says. This will show that you’re good at building relationships with your superiors. However, don’t be too clingy. There’s no need to check in with them too often as that might come across as insecurity on your part — it’s about finding the right balance.
Another thing to be careful about is always agreeing with your boss. Be honest and don’t be afraid to respectably push back a little if you disagree. It’s OK to have an opinion; it shows critical thinking.
#6 Take responsibility for your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes and it is all part of the growth process, just be ready with solutions for fixing your mistakes. This demonstrates leadership and accountability, two qualities superiors favour.
#7 Talk about your achievements
Did you help save the organization time or money, or contribute to team performance? Be proud of what you’ve achieved at work and don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments and how they impacted the company. This will help boost your confidence, and once you feel confident you’ll radiate ability, Weisser says. The more confident you feel, the more other people will sense that.
Graphics by Deepak Sharma