5 Strategies for Proving Your Potential at Work (A.K.A. Getting Promoted)




Whatever sort of promotion you might be hoping for, either now or in the future, recognize: bestowing increased responsibility on an employee (and upping her salary) is a risk-based investment. This means you have to show your stakeholders that not only are you qualified, but you, too, are invested in the org.

In other words, to move up the ladder, you have to commit to building a few rungs that everyone can step on, not just you. Meaning: you’ll be hard-pressed to get a promotion if you’re heads down in your personal deliverables each day. Branch out with these five strategies and prove your potential in practice.


1. Anticipate and solve problems. 

Gaining leadership responsibilities at your org requires you first (surprise, surprise) demonstrate leadership qualities. One of the hallmarks of a strong leader is the ability to anticipate problems and take initiative to neutralize them, i.e., not waiting around for the issue to inflate to barrage-worthy scale and/or nipping it in the bud before it ever really becomes a concern.

The key with this one is if you catch areas for improvement before consequence necessitates them, your manager likely won’t notice unless you bring it up to her. Always go one step further to make your accomplishments known.

Ideally, you never want to say to your manager: “we have a problem, but here’s how we’re going to fix it.” But you should say: “I noticed [X] could cause a problem, so I fixed it by doing [Y].”

You might not always be in a position where you can put this strategy in practice, but you can certainly commit to maintaining an awareness of your team’s systems and org competitors in case something should arise.


2. Seek out leadership training. 

You can also certify your leadership capacities with elective training. What seminars, conferences, or other opportunities can you take advantage of through work?

Ask your boss about development opportunities she would recommend based on your career goals, or take initiative to attend outside workshops in your free time.

Many orgs offer internal learning sessions or even professional development stipends to cover the cost of these types of courses. (In fact, many participants in The Forem’s programs submit their receipts to L&D for reimbursement.)

Regardless of the opportunities you pursue, be sure to document all sessions and include them in your Accomplishment Tracker. Again: it’s important that your manager sees you are invested in your growth, particularly as an asset to the org.


3. Show investment in your company. 

And just as we invest in ourselves, investing your time in your company (beyond what’s expected of you in your job description) proves you’re in it for the long-haul.

Does your organization hold optional employee events? Activities, seminars, or other interactive opportunities? Make sure you attend! While the 6pm virtual cocktail hour isn’t necessarily on the top of your list of things to do on a Friday, it’s a small price to pay for internal visibility.

Companies want to promote leaders who demonstrate an interest in more than just their next title; they want to uplift those who are not just working for the org, but involved with and dedicated to the org.

If your company doesn’t offer these opportunities, find other ways to make your commitment known. Mention your voluntary investments during a review or in a career discussion with your manager. Even consider praising your company on LinkedIn or another social media platform.

Trust: it’s not “playing teacher’s pet”…it’s a baseline promotion strategy.


4. Stay informed on your industry. 

Re: promotion strategy #1…being “in the know” will always give you a one-up with stakeholders.

Keep up to date with your industry’s trends, latest breakthroughs, newest software, etc. Great leaders know their industry inside and out, and you’ll have more in-depth and sophisticated conversations with your manager and influencers if you’re informed. Discussing think-pieces or competitor press releases with your boss is also a sure-fire way to earn brownie points.

Bottom line: the more you demonstrate you’re thinking beyond your title, the more likely your manager is to envision you in roles above your title.

Subscribe to a podcast, read industry blogs, or even set a news alert on your phone. We do these things daily anyway; tailoring them in dedication to your career goals is a simple (highly impactful) adjustment.

5. Pay attention to the habits of leaders in your network. 

Leadership is a spectrum, and it manifests uniquely around each person’s particular strengths. If you’re unsure what type of initiative is valued most at your org, or what traits you could personally capitalize on, take notes on the people around you.

Who do you know who was recently offered a leadership role? What were her work habits like? How did she respond to stress, treat the people around her, and solve problems? Observe and implement the habits that work for you. For bonus points, consider asking this colleague out to lunch or coffee for a networking meeting.

While we recommend you adopt all five of these strategies to start proving your potential at work, you’ll ultimately have to find a rhythm that feels authentic to you and makes sense for the type of promotion you’re seeking. Otherwise, you run the risk of fizzling out.

Always return to your career goals and your personal brand as guideposts: what strengths do you have that you can offer your team, and what passions could drive that initiative? How can you embody those strengths as investment-worthy assets to your org?

Remember: a promotion is a risk. Give your management no doubt that you’re committed for the long-term and have the chops and initiative to add value to the org.