Most of us assume that with hard work and the right connections that we will be promoted. This is only partly true. There’s at least two other variables that are less frequently considered when you’re going up for an internal promotion. First, is whether you are available to take a new role. A second variable is the impact on the project if your current position becomes empty.

The next time you’re considering competing for an internal hire ask yourself:

  • When is my more significant project(s) going to be complete?
  • Is there someone who could step in for me if I weren’t in this role anymore?

While the hiring manager wants the most qualified person for the job, it’s unlikely they will be able to fully put aside that:

  1. You might have to split your time with the new role and existing prior role until it is refilled. If it’s ever filled…
  2. Hiring you may create hard feelings with your current manager. Remember, your existing manager may be in a bad predicament to be able to accomplish the task if you leave.
  3. You might leave them in a bad situation too if another opportunity arises.

These considerations may play a serious role (consciously or unconsciously) in evaluating whether you are the most qualified for the position. Luckily there’s at least two things to do to make sure you’re well positioned for an internal promotion.

First is to scope your work into 6 month increments. Second is to begin cross training your teammates to be able to do much (if not all) of your role.

Benefit of scoping work efforts to prepare for internal promotion.

Depending on the project, the conclusion of it can range from a few months or years to an indefinite end. As a result, if you’ve begun looking for an internal promotion (or are simply open to one if it became available) it’s important you begin scoping any efforts you lead into phases. The ideal length of time is around 6 months segments.

Generally 6 months is long enough to be a substantial effort and amount of work. With a 6 month timeline, the very ‘worst’ timing for an opportunity to come up would be at the start. Even then, you could probably make the argument that the start of a segment is a perfect time to step out.

However if you couldn’t make that argument, then you only have to help the hiring manager bridge the gap of 6 months. This bridge could be a delay in you start of a new role. Or the bridge might be a short period of working in both your new and old role. As you get further into the 6 month effort, it becomes easier to make the case that your current position isn’t severely impaired.

Benefit of cross training others to prepare for internal promotion.

There are many reasons why cross training a teammate is important. Reasons beyond just making sure you’re ready if a promotion opportunity comes up. For instance, it helps the team better understand the different aspects of the project. It helps with understanding, bigger-picture thinking, and empathy when decisions are made. It also helps build the skill sets of other team members to be able to do more than just their area of specialty. Thus cross training may even benefit their own career aspirations. With someone ready to step into your shoes, you are better prepared to minimize the impact of your leaving on the project.

In situations where you don’t have team members to cross train or they are not able to be trained you have another option. Another approach you could take is to make sure all of your processes and procedures are well documented. Good documentation goes a long way towards helping someone else pick up where you left off.

For more information on how to prepare yourself for a promotion, I highly recommend taking a look at Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why. It’s a book I found helpful after more than two years of trying for an internal promotion.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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