Early in my career I witnessed what I deemed to be travesties of justice as my colleagues were promoted ahead of me. So focused on how seemingly unfair these outcomes were, never once did I consider my own contribution to my lack of success. After many years, however, I got my senses around how to effectively position myself for promotion.

As a CEO, you might expect me to say that performance is everything, but there are some other factors that matter even more. You may not agree with my advice below, but it worked for me:

1. Look outside, not in
It is really important to spend time observing external environments that ultimately will affect your organisation’s future. Study trends, commentaries, and any other information that sends relevant signals about what is occurring in your sector. Begin to socialize these topics with operational and senior colleagues. Become known as the person who is wired in to what is going on in the market place.

2. Be the connector
Work on building relationships by involving yourself with voluntary and other groups relevant to your business. Identify individuals who may add value to your colleagues’ or your bosses’ business objectives. Introduce them to each other and leave them to determine a potential way forward together. Being an unselfish connector with an eye for market intelligence is an excellent habit to build early in your career. This will no doubt enhance your relevance, relationships and opportunities.

3. Work for respect, not popularity
In the short term, promotions come and go – in the long game, respect builds a positive career trajectory. To build sustainable respect with your leaders, exhibit the capacity to look for solutions when others may have given up. Being the positive voice when difficult issues arise will set you apart in the minds of your colleagues, and leave the clear impression that you can be relied upon in difficult or complex circumstances. Consistent and positive body language, along with a constructive attitude, will always provide long-term rewards.

4. Avoid being typecast
Too many people allow themselves to believe that they are no longer relevant in the job market, normally because they have spent too much time in one role or with one employer. You must periodically test your employment relevance by mapping your skills against advertised roles, sometimes applying for different jobs, or having conversations with recruitment firms. This keeps you attuned to your own professional growth, or otherwise, and informs you for a better conversation at performance review or promotional opportunity times. It is a lot easier to build your case for promotion when you have an objective sense of your value in the market. It also serves as an alert to your employer that you have ambition and you are marking yourself to market.

5. Always be gracious
No matter how important your role is to you, it is not who you are. This is a simple reality that took me a long time to learn. The world of business is not always fair; your reaction to defeat is often the best test of character known to your leaders. Be the first to congratulate someone who beat you to a role and thank the respective leader for the opportunity to have been considered. Not only is this, in my view, the right human reaction, but I can almost guarantee you it will work for you in some strange way into the future - remember your reputation will be with that employer forever. Having responded appropriately, now is the time to calmly reflect on whether you now consider your promotional opportunities are more likely internally, or somewhere else. Carefully listen to your instinct on this.

Apply these five principles of the long game and sooner or later that promotion will likely come, within or outside the business you currently work for. Business, like life, is all about learning more about yourself. In so doing, you will identify how you can make a valued contribution to your environment and stand out in the process.


Alex Malley FCPA is the chief executive of CPA Australia and the host of the Nine Network television series The Bottom Line. Alex is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Postand he is a regular business commentator on the nationally syndicated programs The Money News on 2GB and Sky News Business.

Alex's first book, The Naked CEO: The truth you need to build a big life will be available from 1 November 2014.

Follow Alex on Twitter


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