Five Ways to Fast-Track Your Promotion

This article, by former GE CEO Jack Welch originally appeared on LinkedIn

By Jack and Suzy Welch

Who isn’t impatient to get ahead? According to a recent national workforce survey conducted by IPSOS, a global market research firm, and the Jack Welch Management Institute, 31 percent of American professionals said they have been passed over for a promotion they felt they deserved and 43 percent thought about quitting their jobs in the past year, due to frustrations at work and limited opportunity for advancement.

And while promotions can sometimes be limited by the growth of your organization and other factors outside of your control, there are always certain things you can do (and make an effort not to do) to accelerate yours.

Obviously, the only surefire way to move up in the organization is to consistently deliver great results and deliver them the right way. But here are some additional tips to think about that have the power to help you to stand apart and get in the running – fast – so that the next promotion that comes around doesn’t pass you by:


What does that mean?  Whenever your boss gives you an assignment or asks you to figure something out, he or she usually already has a pretty good idea of what the answer is. For example, if your manager wants you to confirm that the market share of one of the division’s products is 35% and you go out and do the work only to come back with “Yes, you’re right, it is 35%”, that isn’t over-delivering. It’s just doing what you were assigned.

But guess what? School is the only place where you get an A if you do exactly what you’re asked.  Work isn’t like that.  To over-deliver, you’ve got to redefine the assignment, make it bigger, and open your boss’s eyes to a larger horizon.

Don’t underestimate the incredible power of positive surprises. If you come back with something that’s truly eye-opening and presents a new opportunity, your superiors are going to remember it for a long, long time. In the example above, for instance, if you came back defining your market share within a larger market definition that no one had thought about before – that spells opportunity… And nothing will serve your promotion ambitions better than making your boss look smarter to his or her leadership.

Don’t Make Your Boss Play Defense.

No matter where you work, your boss has a certain wonderful thing called political capital in the organization that he or she has earned over the years by getting results and being a good team player. The last thing he or she wants to do is use it up on you – especially if you want a promotion. If someone has to come to your defense because you’ve done something stupid or careless — you’ve upset the client or you’ve been late a few times, you are using up political capital. If you ask your coworkers to cover for you, you are using up political capital.  And if your boss finds him or herself forced to say things like “Please cut Mary a break because she’s really a good employee; she’s just having some problems with her dog, okay?”, you’re definitely using up political capital.

That usually works precisely one time and then it gets very old.  So, pick that time very wisely, once every five years.  ­

Love Everyone.

When you’re gunning for a promotion, you often start being very, very loving to the people above you – it’s just what happens.  And as you spend all of your time tap dancing for the powers that be, you might tend to forget the people who work alongside you and below you and start to ignore them.  That’s ugly. Nobody likes it.  In fact, even the people in power probably take note and are grossed out by this behavior.

Now, a little bit of boss-handling is always par for the game.  “How was your vacation?”, “Understand your son scored two touchdowns on Saturday… Nice going.” Fine — everyone does that sort of thing.  But you have to go beyond kissing up and also show some love to your coworkers and people who are subordinate to you. Get to know them as human beings. Find what you authentically like about each one of them — not just in your immediate group but in the whole organization.  And yes, it really has to come from a place of authenticity — this is not something that can be phony because people can sense that right away. Yuck.

Just remember the path to your promotion is paved with big love, that’s real, and in every direction.

Volunteer for Tough Duty.

Every once in a while, a boss comes along with an assignment that nobody wants. A risky new initiative. A new job that involves working overnight.  The customer with the bad personality that everyone avoids representing. These kinds of risky or unpleasant assignments that no one wants are actually a great opportunity for you to raise your hand and really get out of the pile. You may not succeed at them, but you will get points just for putting yourself out there and saying, “I’ll take the risk. I’ll do it.”

Take those tough assignments just to get yourself on the radar — even if you have to hold your nose while you do it.  It could end up being the best career move you ever make.

Seek Mentors… Everywhere.

Look, everybody wants a mentor.  Under the right circumstances, having a mentor can be great.  Just remember one thing.  You’re limiting yourself greatly if you think you have to look to a single person as your mentor. Everyone’s a mentor, everyone.  Every person you know knows something that you don’t know — alongside you, up, down, and sideways. People in other companies. People you read about in the newspaper… Everyone.

So if your definition of mentoring is too narrow, redefine it to make everyone your mentor and soak up all the insights, ideas and best practices that live all around you. You’ll be so much smarter for it.

Ultimately, these five “extras” are no substitute for delivering solid results, all the time. But if you wake up every day thinking about how to supercharge your performance with them, it will be very tough for your organization to ignore you for long.


Traits of a high performer part II – Know your shit

Know your shit! Become an expert at your job

Become a subject matter expert as soon as possible. You want to become the person people think of first when they have a question.

As soon as you join a new position or take on a new role, jump head first into it. Take ownership of that role. Don’t be a passive learner during the transition period. Take control and ask questions with the aim to re-assess the job. In fact, question everything. Why is this process being done? What value does this report provide? Who is the audience? Is there a better way to access this information?

When you’re new at a job, you can ask as many seemingly stupid questions as you want because at the end, there are no stupid questions.

By performing a critical review of your new responsibilities and by spending those long hours on learning everything you can about your role itself, the technology used and the people you interact with, you can, within a short period of time, become the subject matter expert.

The next step is to make sure everyone around you perceives you are the expert that everyone relies on.  You do this by making sure you speak up and offer an opinion any time a discussion mentions your area of expertise. At meetings, at events and even informal get-togethers, whenever your subject matter comes up, express an opinion. And be smart about what you say. Think before you speak. Make sure that whatever you say, adds value to the conversation.

As you become to go-to person for your field of expertise, you put yourself on “top of mind” for anyone who has a question.

This makes you valuable.

And this makes you promotable.

Take initiative to improve existing processes

 Don’t just do what you’ve been taught during your training. Instead, once you’ve mastered your role (should take no more than six months) begin implementing changes to make your role better and your job easier. Look for opportunities to improve as much as possible. Change the status-quo!

Creatively think of ways to simplify complicated processes. Get rid of any part of your job that does not add any value, whether it’s a monthly report or a data pull or an analysis. Find out who uses it. If you can’t find anyone that truly benefits from your work…then don’t do it.

By making noise about how the current process is ineffective and by implementing improvements, not only are you making your life and the lives of those you interact with easier, you’re also letting your boss and senior leaders know that you’re not just someone collecting their paycheck but hat you’re someone who’s invested in the company and dedicated to making it better. You are not just a complainer, like hundreds of others around you. You are a doer! You take initiative. You are perceived as someone who can take on a new role, master it and then go fix it.

At big companies, there are a lot of complainers but not enough fixers. When you’re perceived as a problem solver, you’re no longer pigeon-holed into a specific role or skill sets. You’re not just an expert at one thing. You’re an expert at problem solving.

You’re someone who can be relied upon to problem solve other areas.

When you become reliable, you become promotable.



(cont. in part III – Thump your chest)