Showing What You Can Do
You do your job faithfully every day. You may even do your job exceptionally well. Why is it, then, that you've been in the same position for three years while others - seemingly less-deserving people - have been promoted?

The people who have been promoted may know one critical thing that you don't. Promotion isn't just about doing what you're paid to do. It's not necessarily even about being the best "widget" maker you can be.

Promotion is about pushing the limits of your current position. It's about showing that you have outgrown your current responsibilities, and that you're ready to take on new ones.

Think about it. If you're busy working away, producing more widgets per hour than anyone has ever produced, why should I promote you? Clearly, your value to the company is your efficiency. If I promote you, my production output may suddenly fall!

Focusing on simply what's expected of you may be a great strategy to keep the job you have. But going beyond what's expected, and stretching yourself beyond your current role, can lead to a new job with more responsibility.

Now, before you head out to stop being effective at anything, remember - in your pursuit of a promotion, you still have to perform well and meet your current job requirements. The key is identifying ways to add more value to your contribution.

Organizations move forward by solving problems. Discover ways to be more involved in the solutions - and that may move you forward too.

Understand Your Organization
To prepare for a promotion, you have to really understand the drivers of organizational success. It doesn't necessarily mean doing more things - it means doing more of the RIGHT things.

Ask yourself these questions:

What are the strategic goals of the organization?

How does your department's work fit into the overall strategy?

How is your boss's performance measured?

What critical functions do other people in your team currently perform?
You may even want to make lateral moves - to similar positions in different departments - to increase your overall appreciation for what the company does. If your exposure is broader, you may also see and be considered for more promotion opportunities.

For example, if you're a communications manager and feel that there's no place else to go with your job, gain experience in other areas of the company. When you have the right mix of experience and skill, promotion to a more senior level may become a realistic goal.

Increase Your Responsibility
Typically, managers are given responsibility for something, and they then delegate various pieces to their staffs. They delegate in order to have more time to work on higher-level tasks. These higher-level tasks are what you want to get involved in.

To gain access to them, you first have to prove that you're capable of handling the increased responsibility. Here are some ways to prove your capabilities:

Complete your work thoroughly and with as little supervision as possible. This involves working well as part of a team, while also demonstrating individual competence.

When you have questions for your boss, come prepared with solutions as well.

Expand your skill set. Determine what you need to learn to add more value, and make a plan to acquire those skills. Also, find out about the skills you'll need in the new role, and make sure you acquire these.

Get up-to-date, and stay current in your field, perhaps by reading the industry press. Find opportunities to continue your learning and education.

Become aware of the economic and business pressures facing your organization.

Use good judgment when carrying out your responsibilities. Think about cost versus benefit, review bottom-line results, and know how your role impacts the company as a whole.
Then, look for opportunities to lead projects. This can help you practice your leadership skills and demonstrate your ability to take on new responsibilities. Try the following:

Volunteer to take on new projects and other opportunities, to learn and practice other skills. For example, offer to cover a co-worker's responsibilities while he or she is on vacation.

Identify opportunities to delegate your own work. This frees up your time and allows you to practice supervising others' work.

Offer to take on tasks that you know your boss dislikes or is weak in. You'll expand your range of experience, and you'll make your boss's job easier - it's a win-win!
Get Innovative
To prepare for a promotion, always think about how to do things better. That's one of the defining characteristics of leaders. How can you do something cheaper, faster, or with less waste? Consider the following:

Demonstrate critical thinking when you report to your boss. Rather than accept things as they are, think how you can improve them - and come up with innovative ways to do those things better.

Understand the big picture, and incorporate it into your decisions and solutions.

Look for things that aren't being done at all. Innovation isn't always improving things that already exist - it's often adding something of value as well.

Put forward your ideas, even if you aren't sure of the response. This demonstrates both your imagination and willingness to take risks. Be prepared for many of your ideas to not be accepted.
If you prove that you're interested in improving organizational performance and that you can come up with some original ideas, this can be a great way to set the stage for promotion. Learn more about innovative thinking in Practical Innovation.

Set Promotion Goals
Ultimately, you're the one who needs to work proactively to make a promotion happen. If you rely on someone else to make it happen, you'll probably end up disappointed. Take action with these steps:

Identify your career goals within the organization.

Talk to people who hold the kinds of positions and levels of authority that you want. Find out what they did to get where they are. The more you learn from other people's experiences, the better.

Evaluate your strengths, and set goals to learn the skills you need for success.

Take note of who your internal competition might be - others in your company who may want the same position you want - and work hard to distinguish yourself and make yourself stand out.

Look for a mentor within the organization. Having someone to talk to, and who might champion your ideas, is a great benefit. See Finding a Mentor for practical steps and strategies.

Set your goal, and follow it through! See Personal Goal Setting for practical tips.
When you run into obstacles, find ways to work around them. A positive attitude can go a long way toward reaching your goals, and getting noticed for your ability to inspire and motivate.

Communicate Your Desire
Doing all of the above will likely be met with great appreciation. That won't guarantee a promotion, though. Let people know what you want, and then proactively work to achieve it.

Here are some steps you can take to make your wishes known:

Identify a role or position toward which you want to work.

Using your knowledge of the organization, find out what experience and skills are needed to get that job.

Work with your boss to set performance objectives so that you can achieve the necessary skills and experience.

Network with people in the company. Let as many people as appropriate know what type of role interests you. Seek advice on how to prepare for that role.

Ask for the promotion when it becomes available. If you aren't ready yet, use this as an opportunity to develop the skills you need.
As you execute your promotion plan, let others who have influence over the decision know what you're doing. You have to be your own best champion: Preparing for a promotion is no time to be quiet and shy. You need many people to know what you're capable of and what you want.

Key Points
Earning a promotion is partly within your control. Simply doing what's expected of you, and even being the best at what you do, are not guarantees of advancement.

To prepare for promotion, increase your value to the organization. Be smart about the type of value opportunities that you create. 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.

By being proactive, you can create the path to the position that you want.