For most career-minded individuals, the ultimate goal of our day-to-day grind is to succeed at the top of our career ladder. That comes by way of earned promotions of increasing responsibility. Many of us view promotions as strictly performance-based. However, today I want to go beyond that. Earning a promotion often involves building connections throughout your workplace. There are three key relationships to foster if you want to be promoted. First, let’s look at why it’s important to build those relationships in the first place.
Why is it important to foster relationships at work?
Perhaps I should address the elephant in the room first: building relationships and seeking connections does not equate to being a minion or a “boss’s pet”. There is a distinct difference between that and strategically developing connections at work.
It comes down to communicating to others that you can influence people and more importantly, that you are trustworthy, but you can't do it alone. Below are the three relationships to foster if you want to propel your career forward.
Knowing all of that, the first of the three key relationships are with those above you in the office hierarchy. This can include your direct supervisor (who could act as a sponsor if you are lucky) or other senior leaders within the organization.
A sponsor is a person that can speak for you in the room when you are not there. They can advocate for you, but if the next step up is a job like the one they have, where you are responsible for a similar group or department, you’ll want to start making connections with others in senior management who can take the role of sponsor or advocate.
They need to know that you’re more than capable of handling your current job and the additional responsibilities that will come with a promotion. Start by providing value. Identify some of their pain points and try to ease them. Find the cracks on the wall and fix them. These actions will add trust debits in your account. But here is the key, when the moment comes and you identify an opening, don’t hesitate to ask for guidance and support. Don’t expect that they will put a good word in just because you are doing a great job. A simple, “Hey so and so, I was wondering if I can have your opinion on what is the best way I can position myself for x role” usually opens the door for them to offer some help by means of introductions or a word with their peers on your behalf.
Believe me, a mentor is great (and more to come on that later) but a good sponsor is much more effective.
Fostering good relationships with your peers is key because as I said before, promotions = performance + likeability.
Many workplaces ask for peer reviews during annual performance evaluations. These give management a deeper insight into how you interact with others, how well you act as a team player, and what areas of interpersonal office relationships you can improve upon.
Think of it this way: if you’re someone who just does their job and goes home without engaging with your peers, what do they know about you, your work ethic, and how you function as a part of the team?
A better method is to get in front of this by making sure you are being intentional in fostering these peer-to-peer relationships. Take the time to know your peers, to understand a bit more of their history, and their current lives, and again, identify potential opportunities to provide value.
Would that be to review a document before it is sent or offer to be the resounding board on a topic you are an expert on? Both of those are excellent ways to build trust that I can assure you will pay good dividends in the future as you pave your way to a promotion.
Think about somebody whom you deeply admire. What about them draws you in? What if they were willing to mentor you? How much would that affect your current career trajectory?
Everyone needs or should have a career mentor. As I mentioned earlier, that may be your direct supervisor. It could also be someone outside of your workplace yet still connected to your industry. If you are having a tough time finding a mentor, seek help from HR or your boss. They are the best to at least help you identify where to start. Also, there are a myriad of organizations offering mentorship pairings out there. If you can’t find it internally, don’t give up. Find the answer externally.
And don’t forget that you can also gain a lot by being a mentor to someone. While having a mentor is helpful, being a mentor is another way to demonstrate to senior management that you are prepared and well-equipped for the next stage of your career.
Promotion beyond performance by building relationships
Building relationships with each of these groups is a process that doesn’t happen right away. Often, it happens organically over time though sometimes it will take a bit of proactive work. Reaching out to a mentor requires effort as does getting to know those above you in your organizational structure.
How do you feel today about the workplace relationships you’ve cultivated to date? Do you feel they’re strong, could use significant work, or are somewhere in the middle? Or, do you need to talk through them all with someone else? If so, I’m here to help. Schedule a time to talk by visiting my website and booking a consultation. There, we can go over your goals and how well you’ve built relationships to help you earn that promotion you deserve.