1. pick your employer wisely
If climbing the corporate ladder is important to you, ensure your employer shares those values. Employers with tall hierarchical structures have lots of opportunities for you to move up a rung. If your employer has very few managerial layers in their organization, you risk being unhappy when there's nowhere else to go up the ladder. Also seek out employers that have a strong employer brand (i.e. companies whose employees rave about how great they are to work for) as they tend to be more likely to hire from within and provide guidance for career growth, both of which are important to most workers. If your employer isn't the right match for you, it's best to move on early, rather than find your career hit a wall down the line.
2. do the work preemptively
If you want to take on more responsibilities and you're in a position to do so… go for it! Taking on projects of your own volition shows initiative and dedication to your company's success. If your promotion is little more than a formality (i.e. you're already handling the new responsibilities, just without the official title) you become a shoo-in when it comes time to make a formal hire. Just make sure that the promotion you're angling for actually exists. If your manager has no intention of ever hiring someone for the type of role you want, you may just be adding onto your current responsibilities with no promotion or pay raise to show for it.
3. have your numbers handy
Like it or not, most companies value performance metrics. They're often conflated with how good you are at your job. Use your metrics to your advantage and position yourself as a rising star who any manager at your company would be proud to have on their team. If you can whip out numbers that prove your current impact, you'll seem like the type of employee who's worth investing into; the kind of employee who's ready to handle even more responsibilities. It's also a known fact that hiring managers (even internal ones) love quantifiable data. If you can show that you're making a difference in your current role, your employer will want to keep that success going.
4. know where you want to go
Having a concrete goal or plan in mind is the first step to reaching it. After all… how are you supposed to get somewhere if you're not sure where you're going? Simply knowing you want to be promoted isn't enough. What kind of promotion do you want? Does it involve managing others? Or is adding 'senior' to your title enough? What kind of pay raise are you looking for? Do you plan to stay in the same field or make a lateral move into another department? Knowing all these things ahead of time will help you form a plan to get the promotion that's right for you.
5. make connections
The best way to move up in your career is to network your butt off. Yes, we know. Stifle your groans. While 'more networking' isn't always the most popular advice, it's good advice that's repeated frequently for a reason. Managers trust their networks and connections more than they do outside job applications. So connect with higher-ups at your company, you never know who could be a potential boss one day! If they know you from work functions, they're more likely to hire you than a complete stranger when the time comes to fill a new role you have your eye on. So don't skip all those potlucks and other work events where you can mingle with coworkers!
6. communicate your goals
Make sure you've had a frank conversation with your boss about what you want out of your career while you're with your current employer. They can only help you if they know what you want. These days it's rare for employees to stick with a single job for more than a handful of years. Yet it's in employers' best interests to keep employees around – retaining great employees significantly reduces overhead costs like recruiting and training. If your employer is smart, they'll do everything in their power to help you achieve your goals to ensure you stick with the company, even if it's in a new role.
7. be authentic
No one likes a suck-up who's clearly only being friendly because they want something (a.k.a. a promotion.) So avoid shady tactics like being overly complimentary to your boss or anyone who can help you step up in your career – it's much more transparent than you think it is. It's one thing to be friendly and genuinely helpful. It's another to only do so to get something in return. Be authentically you, and let your hard work and ambition speak the loudest.
8. ask for what you want
Often it's the person who shows the most initiative who gets the promotion. Asking for a promotion shows passion and ambition, two characteristics that are admired by most leaders. Also… just by asking for a promotion, you put yourself in the hiring manager's mind as a contender. Yet, many people are afraid to voice what they want out of their career. Cast aside your fear of rejection and just ask… the worst that can happen is they say no. You'll be no worse off.
Are you ready for a promotion, but it seems unlikely it'll happen with your current employer?