Take control of your career. Here’s how!

Be ready when opportunity arises

4 min read

July 2021

Woman with braids sitting at table with one hand on laptop keyboard and other hand holding cell phone up to ear

After years of interviewing others, I find one of the most common reasons people leave their jobs is that they’re frustrated for not receiving a promotion they believe they were promised. Sometimes there’s more to the story, but frequently these candidates are individuals who were waiting to advance in their roles and are unclear about why they were passed up when promotional opportunities were presented. Often times, it comes down to the candidate needing to take more accountability for their own career. If you’ve ever been in this position, there are several things you can do to make sure you’re ready the next time there’s a job opening at your company.

Utilize a mentor

In my first career-based position, a manager suggested I ask one of the senior leaders to mentor me. I was given several suggestions and I picked someone. We agreed to meet monthly. I was excited to get regularly scheduled time with someone I respected and naively assumed they’d share everything I needed to know to help me get promoted. Even more short-sighted was that I thought just having a mentor made me look like someone who cared about my career. Many individuals have an arranged ‘mentorship’ similar to this.

Do this, not that.

A true mentor-mentee relationship is driven by the mentee. I find that the best mentor-mentee relationships form naturally and are usually in place before they’re actually formalized. As an employee, if you find a peer or leadership resource who you have rapport with, one who doesn’t mind being your "go-to" for feedback, ask if they’d be willing to be your mentor. The role does come with some responsibility, and it’s possible a mentor may not want to be linked to another employee. On the other hand, if the relationship is successful, it can be beneficial developmentally for both parties. I wouldn’t recommend planning your meetings, as the most valuable discussions are ones that happen in real time when learning opportunities occur. If you utilize a mentor in this way, you’re more likely to have real developmental experiences to share in an interview versus a bunch of pre-planned meetings that weren’t very substantive.

Own your own development

When candidates try to explain why they weren’t promoted in their jobs, they’ll commonly say they didn’t receive the training needed to be ready for advancement. While this may be the case, it’s important for candidates to identify for themselves what skills they’re missing and figure out what they can do to upskill themselves. But many individuals are unwilling to take on additional responsibility they don’t feel is part of their job.

Do this, not that.

Many companies offer rotational roles where candidates can get experience in a position outside the scope of their current role. The best way to convince a hiring manager you’re the best fit for a promotion is for them to actually see you doing the job! If there’s a role you’d really like to have at your company, figure out a way to get exposure to that position. If there is no formal rotational role, speak with the leader of that department and indicate your interest in the role. Ask what skills successful candidates bring to the position, and what suggestions they have for learning those skills. This way you’ll be prepared with real experiences the next time an opening presents itself.

Solicit Real Feedback

I’ve worked with many candidates who struggle to self-assess and therefore, they tend to not acknowledge developmental opportunities they may have. Instead, they may point to office politics or nepotism as an excuse for not receiving the job they wanted. Even if this is the case, you owe it to yourself to seek feedback to better understand any developmental opportunities or skill gaps you can improve upon before your next interview.

Do this, not that.

Ask the decision maker in the process to share with you what concerns they had about your candidacy. You’ll want to present your question as respectfully as possible, clarifying that you’re not challenging the decision, but instead want to be prepared for the future. Whether you feel the feedback is entirely accurate or not, you may learn that you have an opportunity to demonstrate competency more accurately in future interviews. From there, you can seek out additional experiences that will help you better demonstrate what the hiring manager was looking for the next time you’re given a chance.

It’s my experience that promotions aren’t promised. While hopefully there are growth opportunities available at your company, tenure alone won’t prepare you for your next position. Put these tips to use, and you’ll be ready the next time you get the chance to pursue a new role.

Cole Jansen is a Recruitment Manager for Progressive. Starting with Progressive as a claims representative, he leverages his experience to determine job fit for specialty roles across the company.

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