Are you on the lookout for a project or team that will provide you with promotion opportunities?
Or maybe you’ve been asked to join a project and you’re wondering whether saying yes will help you get promoted?
You’re not alone.
During my last workshop on How to Get Promoted, I was asked the following question:
“If we can select projects and teams, how do we determine which would entail more promotion opportunities? What characteristics do you look for?”
How to choose the right projects
Promotion opportunities come from having the chance to demonstrate to the right people that you have what it takes to succeed at the next level.
When you’re choosing your next project or team to join, you want to think about whether it will give you a platform for showing what you can do, developing more skills, and being seen and appreciated by the right people.
I think of figuring out what characteristics to look for as a two-part equation: what can you get and what can you give?
What can you get?
Six aspects you’ll want to look for.
- Learning opportunities
It’s important that the projects you take on provide some element of learning so you can develop into that next level professional.
This learning can take many forms. Always try to stretch yourself to take on something that broadens your horizons when possible.
- Mentoring from the leaders
The guidance and support you’ll have as part of the project team depends largely on the leaders, and the degree to which they take people under their wing and provide the kind of feedback that we all need to get better.
At a minimum, make sure you know whether the leader is someone who likes to hog the limelight and act as a gatekeeper from all the upside opportunities, such as presenting to senior management.
- Two kinds of visibility
This is primarily about being seen by people who can influence your future career prospects.
Will there be an opportunity to work with or present to senior people and those in different areas of the organization?
This could also help you with a second kind of visibility: your having visibility on what’s going on in other parts of the organization. That’s the kind of knowledge you can bring back to your own group, share and apply to foster new ideas and ways of approaching your business.
- Forming connections
Getting promotion opportunities comes from knowing and being known by people beyond your immediate circle of influence. If the project includes people from other areas of the organization, or even external stakeholders, that can broaden your advancement opportunities.
- Size of the stage
How important is this project for the organization? How big is the stage that you’ll be performing on?
Note that while it’s generally best to work on higher profile projects, the caveat is that in these situations, senior people will tend to want more control, which could mean less autonomy for team members.
In this case, look for a piece of the project that you can carve out and own.
- Does it spark joy?
Finally, make sure it’s a project and team you’ll enjoy working on and with.
Even if something ticks all the other boxes, if it doesn’t spark joy for you, don’t do it. When something just doesn’t appeal to you, it’s hard to perform at your best. And that won’t put you in a better position to win promotion.
What can you give?
While it’s important to understand what you get from the project, you also have to add value.
This boils down to two questions.
- What value do you bring?
What are your strengths, skills and connections that make you distinct? Get in touch with your set of assets.
While it’s great to bring value, if the project team and its leadership don’t or can’t make use of it, it’s hard to get any upside. Which brings us to the second question.
- Will your value be appreciated?
This is a function of the business goals of the project and the people and leadership involved.
Take a look at the value you bring in the context of the specific business needs of the project. To what extent can the project make use of the talents you have? For example, if it’s a technical project, will your expertise be seen as a valuable input or will it be disregarded? And if you’re one of five people on the project with the same area of expertise, how will you differentiate yourself?
If you’ve been approached for the project, you’ll learn a lot by asking what made them seek you out. If you’re the one promoting the idea, then it’s essential to have a clearly articulated rationale.
Open the door to promotion opportunities
When you have an opportunity to select projects and teams, look for both what you can give and what you can get.
Focus on the value you bring, the other people involved, and how the project fits within the business priorities of the organization.
Once you choose, then commit and do your very best work.
And make sure you do what you enjoy. That’s the key to opening the door to more promotion opportunities.