1 Where are you now?
Ask yourself what your current role involves and what skills earned you the position in the first place. These are your core career strengths and any promotion needs to be based upon them. Think about how you can build on these skills, and how you can outgrow your current role – remember that most promotions come when a candidate is too experienced for their current job and too invaluable to lose.
2 Shine in what you do
You’d be shocked how many people think that the fast route to promotion is doing the job they want to be doing rather than the role they should be doing. Look at your job description and make sure you’re performing each and every element of it to the utmost of your ability. Even if some of these areas are dull, don’t ever be tempted to write them off. If your boss can accuse you of not fulfilling your current job description, why would they offer you a more advanced one?
3 Decide where you want to go
Identify what role you want to be promoted to. This could be pretty obvious – for example, from designer to senior designer – but it’s important to have a reference point to aim for nevertheless. Now ask yourself what extra skills you need in order to do that job. Are there any gaps in your skill set? If so, fill them…
4 Get a mentor
Perhaps you’re a designer or artworker looking to move into a senior creative position, or an in-house illustrator wanting to take a lead role on projects. For the time being, you can’t – it’s not your job – but why not ask to shadow someone whose responsibility it is? Not only does this demonstrate eagerness, but it also enables you to see if you really want to hop onto the next rung of the ladder.
5 Be keen to learn
While a mentor might be able to give you insight into a more advanced role, the one thing no one can stop you from doing is building on your industry knowledge. If you’re one of those designers who hasn’t the faintest idea what ROI is or how accounts are won (and lost), then it’s time to find out. A more rounded knowledge of the creative industry and the way in which your company functions is essential for moving up the corporate ladder.
6 Measure your past successes
Take a look over the items in your portfolio and identify the biggest projects that you’ve worked on to date. Now try to measure these – for example, how much revenue did they generate? How smoothly did the creative process go? When you’ve done that, highlight these successes by writing up a post-project debrief that analyses what worked on the project and why it worked, and how your company can use these lessons for other clients. A memo or best-practice document will serve as a constant reminder to your boss of your achievements.
No, this doesn’t mean a victory lap each time a project is signed off, or incessantly referring to your work in the pub. It means taking satisfaction in your achievements and ensuring your manager is aware of them. If you receive positive feedback from a client, send it on to your manager. Don’t be a bore, but do elicit a sense of pride in your work; it won’t go unnoticed.
8 Be a specialist
Has your employer got an app specialist, mobile maestro or someone who knows the print production process inside out? If not, become that person. Spot a gap in your company’s collective knowledge and become the expert in that particular field. If it turns out to be a financially profitable one, then you might even be able to create your next role rather than relying on someone else to vacate.
9 Volunteer for management
Who organises your office Christmas party, day trip or social event? Who restocks the printer when it runs out of paper, orders replacement Wacom nibs or picks up loose ends that management often forget about? If it’s not you, then it’s someone earmarked for promotion, because all of these things – even the most mundane of office tasks – require valuable leadership skills.
There’s a fine line between being forward and being a pain in the backside, as all managers know. Yes it’s great to show initiative, to volunteer and equip yourself with new skills, but if your line manager has no idea you want a new role, then you need to make it plain. Be warned, though – if there was a need, the chances are it would already be advertised, and braying about your promotion-meriting skills and achievements week in, week out is a sure-fire way to raise your manager’s hackles. Be concise and direct. Don’t be brash and pushy.
All illustrations by ivind Hovland