How to nail your next promotion: 4 steps to a better career

Climbing the career ladder means self-advocating and focusing on your business impact, according to a Microsoft manager. Here's how.

How women can break into tech management

Hard work and competence are necessary to be an effective employee, but are not quite enough to earn that next-level promotion, Ritika Kapadia, a senior product manager at Microsoft, said during a session at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston.

"There are many things we need to do in addition to our job to cement our promotion," Kapadia said. "It is your responsibility, and you have no excuses whatsoever."

Here are four tips to drive your promotion plan.

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1. Be the CEO of your career, and drive your promotion plan

Getting on the path to a promotion means clearly stating your intentions to your manager, Kapadia said. This is especially important for female employees, as studies show that the biggest reason women don't earn promotions as often as men do is simply because they don't ask for them, she added.

"You need to start by having that clear conversation with your manager about your promotion," Kapadia said. This means sitting down and clearly stating your goals, explicitly using the word "promotion" instead of a vague term like "improve." "Be very specific and clear that you would like to be promoted," Kapadia said.

Employees can identify a couple of strengths that they want to work on in the promotion period, as well as a couple of opportunities to impact the business, Kapadia said. These could be opportunities that leverage your strengths, or stretch opportunities that help you learn new skills, she added.

"Try to figure out what strengths help fulfill a business need your manager has," Kapadia said. "Have this conversation at the beginning of the promotion cycle, because you want to have the leeway to do all the things necessary, and have all of the information right away to help you get the promotion."

2. Step out of your comfort zone, and be bold

Many of those opportunities mentioned above may require learning new skills, which may bring some discomfort, Kapadia said. Research shows that women in particular tend not to apply for new jobs or opportunities unless they feel completely confident that they have all of the skills needed, while men are more likely to apply without all of the skills, she added.

"We have to embrace that fear and power through it, and figure out what strategies to use to overcome that," Kapadia said. "It's important not to keep focusing on things you won't bring to the table, but think about what it is you can do to overcome that fear."

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3. Focus on measurable business impact

To get a promotion, you need to be able to clearly measure the impact you have on the business, Kapadia said. At times, this may be difficult, as there may not be established metrics in the short term. "It's your job to work with your manager to measure your impact," Kapadia said. "Unless it's measureable, it's hard to have that conversation at the end."

It's also key not to get bogged down in day-to-day to do lists, but to keep promotion priorities and the bigger picture in mind, Kapadia said.

For women in particular, having a measurable impact also means saying 'no' to office housework, such as arranging parties at work. "It's okay to be a team player once or twice, but you can't be the person doing this all the time," Kapadia said. "Make sure you're careful about what you're picking up that doesn't tie into your promotion plan. Learn to say 'no' to things."

4. Self-advocate

Self-advocating means keeping a record of all the examples that show how you are working toward your promotion plan and making an impact, Kapadia said. It may feel uncomfortable to stand up and share that progress, but "it's not bragging if it's the truth," she added.

Assuming that working hard but quietly on a project will get you promoted is false, Kapadia said. "If no one knows about it, it won't happen," she added. "Don't belittle your achievements. You must advocate for yourself, because no one else will."

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Image: iStockphoto/AntonioGuillem