Promotion used to mean climbing the ladder of an organisational hierarchy, when the ladders had many more rungs than they do now. Today, organisational structures are flatter; change seems to happen much faster, with new jobs and industries regularly popping up. So promotion can mean a whole range of things to different people.
"Promotion is really in the eye of the beholder," says Rebecca Clarke, president of the Auckland Branch Committee of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand.
"Moving into another industry can be as effective taking the opportunity to develop new skills or prove themselves to a new group of people. And there are so many opportunities to collaborate with people virtually and be part of different project teams."
So, what are the key factors in gaining promotion, whether that is sideways, into a new company or field or upwards within an organisation? Clarke identifies five ways to go about this.
1. Be clear on your purpose, your personal values and the value you bring. Self-awareness is an important factor knowing what motivates you, your strengths, limitations and areas for growth.
"What are the things you like to do and how can you create a path that's going to help you live out your passions? There are so many opportunities and new careers emerging."
Organisational fit and values alignment are also critical. Employers want people who really want the job and who, "Can do, will do and will fit in, essentially."
2. Be visible, resilient and ensure that your actions support your personal and professional brand.
"Many of us are conditioned to think that self-promotion in its own right is bad, and that peer recognition is better. However self-promotion doesn't have to be about ego, it is simply the art of spreading ideas, concepts and a greater vision."
This may involve communicating your need for new responsibilities, demonstrating accountability by tracking, reporting and sharing what you are delivering, or taking on new responsibilities in critical periods.
Ask for feedback and have the courage to say what's important to you, demonstrating what you have to offer in return. Resilience goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence understanding your own battery power and capacity as well as being able to relate to others.
"People have different levels of tolerance so it's knowing what you are able to deliver. It's okay to acknowledge gaps in your performance as well you can get extra support in terms of resources or training and development."
And charisma and likeability are not enough. "It is more important to be respected, courageous, trustworthy, authentic, emotionally intelligent and to value others."
3. Build a strategic network to support your advancement. Have a clear view of what you want and review this along the way to make sure associations and other groups you belong to are relevant.
"Often people limit their networking to what is comfortable within their industry or workplace. Taking steps outside that is going to give you even more visibility and opportunities to utilise your networks and experience."
4. Keep building your capability and commercial acumen to leverage opportunities.
To prepare for promotion, increase your value to the organisation in a commercially savvy and proactive way. Understand what drives your company's success, take on more of the right responsibilities, expand your skill-set, and communicate your promotion goals to others.
5. Get a mentor AND a sponsor.
Most people are familiar with mentorship but less with the role of a sponsor who can actively promote you across the organisation.
Sponsors are usually key people so it is important to know who the key people are and to understand how the organisational politics operate.
"Often people stop at the tips and advice of the mentoring stage. A sponsor is an internal champion or advocate who will actively help elevate your visibility."
Promotion is about pushing the limits, Clarke says.
"Think above and beyond rather than just about doing what you're paid to do. It's about showing that you have outgrown your current responsibilities, and that you're ready to take on new ones."