How I Got A Promotion 5 Professionals Share Their Career Building Advice

How I Got A Promotion: 5 Professionals Share Their Career Building Advice

The big promotion. It’s an overused plot device in nearly every sitcom. It conjures images of sharp suits and slicked back hair and Machiavellian inter-office maneuverings. It’s become such a pop culture whipping post that it’s easy to view promotions with cynicism. But sometimes, people who deserve promotions actually get them!  

The following four professionals all received major promotions over the last two years, and they earned them through hard work and helpful attitudes. Here are their stories.

Phillip Hamnett | Chief Technology Officer at Chintai 

From Software Developer to CTO

Getting The Job

In 2018, I left my job as a software developer and project manager at a software consultancy firm in Hamburg, Germany, and moved to Frankfurt so that my wife could start a new job. A friend of mine had just joined a startup company there called Chintai, and asked me if I would be interested in joining the team as a fellow software developer. I agreed to give it a go.

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Career Goals

When I started at Chintai, I knew that long-term, I wanted to run my own business. But I had no experience in this regard whatsoever. So my goal was to absorb as much information as I could and learn whatever skills might help me in the future. I’m passionate about software development and leadership, so I expected to eventually rise within the company. I just didn’t expect to rise so quickly!

Moving Up

As we were a relatively small team of nine, we frequently crossed over into each other’s areas of responsibility. While my main job was to write code, I actively participated in business decisions, and often provided insight that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. This made me something of an all rounder and earned the respect of the founders. I was always proactive in my approach to problems and creative thinking, and I was always questioning what course of action would bring the largest level of impact to the company.

So when one of the founders left to pursue other interests, the promotion was a natural choice, and I quickly solidified my position by showing a strong ability to be organized.

Career Building Advice

  1. Don’t be afraid to argue your point of view. Being disagreeable for the sake of it is annoying, but disagreeing with someone for good reason is respectable. 
  1. Take responsibility, even when it isn’t yours to take. If something goes wrong, blame yourself. You will always be able to find a way to blame yourself for something if you try hard enough, and in doing so, you can find a way to either improve yourself, or to improve the systems and processes at your workplace. This shows everyone true leadership skills and creates an atmosphere where people are not afraid of being judged if they are wrong or make a mistake. (This can backfire if you work in a company that has a “blame culture,” but such workplaces are toxic, and you should endeavour to find a better job if you can’t shift the culture).
  1. Don’t play political games. In some companies, the way to get promoted is to play the system. Sometimes a company will promote you based on certain metrics, or how much a certain manager likes you/ Do not play these games. It might work, but it is not the way to set yourself up for long term success. Focus instead on adding the most possible value to the business with every action you take. If your company can’t or doesn’t appreciate that, then it is on you to convince them otherwise, or find a better job.
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Hena Kausar | Lead PR & Corporate Communication at Mercer | Mettl

From Senior Assistant to Assistant Manager

Getting The Job

Since the beginning of my career, I have been looking at a role in corporate communications, branding, and media engagement. But an educational background in Life Sciences and practically no marketing skills served as big impediments to start in the marketing field.

Before joining Mercer, I was working for an organization where there were no longer any growth opportunities. I had learned pretty much all content formats and was looking to grow my profile and skills, so when the Mercer opportunity presented itself, it was like all the things came together for me to direct my career towards branding. I took it almost immediately.

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Moving Up

I started as a senior assistant of content and marketing, where I was working with media responses, and slowly worked my way up the ladder. The leaders at Mercer | Mettl could see my good communication and writing skills and also my passion and inclination towards branding. Without sounding immodest, my abilities to understand media requirements and offer valuable and meaningful insights about the brand to the media, along with my knowledge of HR and marketing, really did the magic for me. 

The leadership also understood my career progression well, and molded me with the right KRAs (Key Responsibility Areas), which helped me improve my competencies and excel in my role. Soon enough, I was promoted with appraisals.

Career Building Advice

If you are diligent, patient, ready to work beyond the nine to five schedule, agile to learn new skills and adapt quickly, and forgiving of your mistakes, your career will keep growing.

It’s crucial to keep learning new trends and skills in your industry by reading resources continuously and listening to podcasts and webinars in your niche; otherwise, your skills will soon be redundant in a quickly-transforming career landscape. 

Your skill development should happen not just in your own niche, but also horizontally. For example, if you are into content, try to diversify your skills into SEO, design, advertising, PR, corporate communications, and events by sitting and learning as much as you can with your colleagues and network.

Lastly, be hungry to learn, but also humble enough to know you do not know everything.

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Mike Quayle | Managing Director, Marketeering Group

From Intern to Managing Director

Getting The Job

In 2012, I was doing SEO and content writing full time, but I started feeling a bit directionless and knew I needed to make a change. I quit and tried freelancing from home, but it got too lonely, so I decided to look for a job where I could work with people in an office. That’s when I found an internship opening at Marketeering Group.

I never intended to do anything more than the initial internship, but the company kept growing and I felt at home working on the team, so I stayed. 

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Moving Up

Marketeering Group was growing so quickly that there was more work to do than employees to do it. That meant there were always open positions to fill and areas in need of help. So after interning for a bit, I was offered a full-time position as an SEO specialist.

I grew that department and ran it for a couple of years before moving to the website development department when a position opened there. I ended up heading that team as well. As that department stabilized and we found some strong talent, there was a need for more leadership in the company overall. I offered to take on some of the CEO’s responsibilities — at the time, they were more focused on the long-term vision — and I ultimately worked my way into Head of Operations. 

By September 2019, the CEO wanted to seek other opportunities and decided to sell the company. As a result, the new owners promoted me to Managing Director based on the feedback from the team and my history working throughout the company. It helped that the company had big issues with turnover, so I was one of the only continuous points of contact for most of the clients over the years. 

As of today, I’ve worked with Marketeering Group longer than even the founders of the company, so this was definitely a long play! 

Promotable Qualities

I made it a point to rarely take credit for anything without also crediting the people who participated in a successful project. This helped me build good working relationships with the people who trusted me to lead. You’ll have a hard time running a company when the people working with you don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart. You need the respect and admiration of your peers to advance. 

Authority comes with responsibility, not the other way around. My superiors learned to count on me as the “go to” for anything they needed help with but couldn’t figure out. I wasn’t always successful, but I was always there to pick things up and move forward. 

I also stood out because I openly acknowledged when I made a mistake and embraced feedback — even if it was non-constructive — as an opportunity to learn. 

And finally, I made it a point to never go to my superiors with a problem unless I already had a solution or two to offer. 

Career Building Advice

  1. The best way to move up in a company is to already be performing the duties of the job you’d like to have. Look for opportunities to work with other departments and collaborate on projects outside your skillset and scope of responsibilities. Get people to count on you for those duties, and build loyalty with your team. 
  1. Don’t feel like you need to work at a large company to be successful. In fact, the best way to advance quickly in your career is to take chances with small growing companies where you can really stand out. Startups can be amazing proving grounds with enormous potential opportunities. 

Andrew Cunningham | Partner at Chicago Pest Control & Founder of DailyPest.Com

From Inventory to Partner 

Getting The Job

My original background was in Industrial Crane Repair, but I decided to leave the field due to the strain it was causing to my body. Needing to pay the bills, I took a job with Chicago Pest Control back in 2002. I started at the company working in inventory, then moved to field technician, service supervisor, service manager, and finally to service sales manager.

Then, in November of last year, the owner of the company — who was looking to retire within the next few years — made me a partner. 

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Moving Up

I rose the way I did because I wanted to. I have seen nearly every other employee I’ve worked with either maintain their current position or leave the company. It’s that simple. I wanted more, and I didn’t want to settle for less. 

So I always went above and beyond my responsibilities, and tried to cover at least one small responsibility of someone in another position. I showed my true care for the company and for the overall numbers, not just for the ones on my paycheck. The company owner really took notice of this.

Career Building Advice

  1. Learn everything you can and never stop asking questions.
  1. Learn what you can do in your current position to make the job easier for someone in a connected position that you might hope to move into one day. 
  1. You don’t want only your boss to see how above and beyond you’re going; you want every person in every position to speak about how dedicated you are to the company.

James Durago | Recruiting Manager at Google

From Staffing Channels Specialist to Recruiting Manager 

Getting The Job

I actually didn’t apply to my original job at Google, which was a Staffing Channels Specialist (which in non-Google speak means “Technical Sourcer,” or simply, a recruiter). Another sourcer reached out to me via LinkedIn. When I received his Inmail, I thought it was fake, but when I did a bit of digging, it turned out to be real, so I reached back out to him to continue the conversation.

I was in Tech Sales at this point in my career, and so the thought of going to Recruiting wasn’t in my future plans, but it was difficult to pass up an opportunity at a company I thought was unattainable for someone like me.

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Moving Up

I started at Google in 2016, and went from an Individual Contributor Sourcer helping to fill positions within our Google Cloud Platform (GCP) team to:

  • Leading the cross-functional team that was responsible for building out the Program Management Office within GCP, to 
  • Becoming a people manager leading a Sourcing team to support Program Management hiring across a handful of Product Areas (or business units), to
  • Leading teams of Sourcers (my current position) to support Program Management hiring across 10+ Core Consumer Product Areas (aka our money makers)

Promotable Qualities

I think I rose the way I did because I was hyper focused on two things: managing up (doing whatever you can to make your boss’s job easier) and aligning my work with the goals and interests of everyone above me

Simply put, being able to manage up makes it super clear to my superiors how I’ve been able to do my job, which in turn allows them to better articulate my performance during annual reviews, as well as gives them space to focus on their work without having to check on me. 

Additionally, by aligning my goals/interests with everyone above me, I’m in direct alignment and support of the bigger picture. I can clearly tie my work to the priorities of those above me. 

Career Building Advice

Learn how to manage up. Understand the priorities of your superiors, align your work with those priorities, and communicate often at a predictable cadence so that they’re clear on how you’ve been adding value. This can be applied across the board regardless of role and industry. 

Hone Your Skill Set

Want to sharpen your abilities so you can stand out at your current job? Join the thousands of people who are learning new skills and mastering old ones with the help from a tutor on Wyzant.

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