Step it up: 5 tips to secure a promotion

Now is a great time to move up if you position yourself wisely.

Putting your hand up for promotion can be a daunting prospect, but the changes brought on by the pandemic are creating a wealth of opportunities to take the next step up the ladder.

As companies scramble to fill new and existing roles to help them through the disruption, finance professionals need to be proactive and carefully position themselves to be ready when their ideal job arises, experts said.

"Don't think working hard is going to get you promotion or get you noticed," said Anna Herremans, Panama-based Latin America finance officer for the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

"Raise your hand and stretch yourself in small and bigger ways. What's going to get you to the opportunities you want is to be clear on who you are," said Herremans, who also coaches international women finance executives.

As accountancy roles expand, thinking laterally, adding new skills, and broadening your experience beyond finance will open up a wider spectrum of potential positions.

Read these five tips on making the next move.

Play the long game

It's rare that the perfect promotion lands in your lap, so it's important to be strategic and lay the groundwork to increase your chances of securing your next role, experts said.

Flagging your intentions is crucial, so start the conversation with your manager early so they know you're looking for fresh challenges and more responsibilities and that you want to grow within the company.

Getting your manager on your side to champion your cause can be invaluable, particularly ahead of corporate appraisal and development meetings that help flag rising stars.

"The question to ask yourself is, 'How does my manager see the real value in what I bring?'" said Gary Cox, ACMA, CGMA, a UK business and individual capability coach.

"The outcome should be to get your manager to be a champion and advocate for you, so he'll go to HR or ask colleagues if they have suitable roles as well."

Show, don't tell

Instead of expecting automatic promotion because of your time with your organisation, it's crucial to stand out from your peers and show why giving you more responsibility would help the company and produce results down the track.

Often, it's the softer skills that can make a difference, so keep a list of your workplace wins and show how you encouraged your team or helped change mindsets to get a project over the finish line.

In a fast-changing landscape, it's increasingly important to highlight how you can think creatively to solve the myriad problems businesses are facing as they try to respond to the new environment.

"The worst thing you can do is have a cold conversation, turning up with all your medals and saying, 'This is what I've done ... I deserve promotion.' The push system never works in promotion," Cox said. "Promotion is recognition of how your skills, capabilities, and influence are needed to develop a future successful organisation."

Build your network

The days when playing golf or socialising with the boss would open the door to promotion are being consigned to history, but building your peer network is more important than ever, Cox and Herremans advised.

Managing upwards is invariably transparent and unpopular, so focus on working closely with colleagues to help them overcome hurdles and create value for the company.

As finance roles change, nurturing relationships in other business areas can help accountants piece together a comprehensive picture of how their company works, while building a positive reputation.

There's no reason working from home should be a disadvantage, so reach out to people you want to build a relationship with to organise a quick online introduction.

Find the right role

It's easy to be lured into applying for a role that comes with an impressive title and fat salary, but a post that offers room to develop and grow will prove a better move, experts say.

Instead of presuming job descriptions are set in stone, take a big-picture view and think of how you can apply your skills and experience to a role even if you don't tick all the requirements.

Likewise, rather than just consider the next move up the ladder, finance professionals should also look at smaller or sideways moves that give them the skills and experience to get to where they want to be in the long run.

"Getting a promotion is not always about making the big one step, it's also about appreciating the little opportunities," Herremans said.

Live and learn

Tempting as it may be to walk away if you don't get the promotion you've tried so hard for, it's important to regroup, analyse what went wrong, and move forward. It's vital to get a clear idea of why you didn't get the job, so always ask interviewers for honest feedback. Maybe another candidate had more relevant experience, came across better in the interview, or simply clicked with the interviewer.

Instead of taking rejection personally, look for ways you can go the extra mile to take on projects that will prime you for promotion down the track, Herremans said.

"Don't think of going for a new opportunity or promotion as success or failure," she said. "Embrace the mindset of 'This is an opportunity for me to grow ... whether I get the job or not.'"

Sophie Hares is a freelance writer based in Spain. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Oliver Rowe at


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