If you feel you are ready for a promotion, there are many things you can do to propel you towards the next step in your career.

Does the following scenario sound familiar? You’ve delivered outstanding work the last couple of years, but economic conditions have kept you from receiving the promotion you deserve. You’re not quite treading water, but you’re not exactly swimming the Channel, either. You feel it’s high time you moved up to higher pay, broader responsibilities and new challenges.

Unfortunately, career advancement rarely unfolds on your schedule or in the exact way you imagined. Adding to the frustration, the range of options available to administrative professionals can be narrower than in similarly demanding fields. But by taking an exploratory, incremental approach, you can help ensure you’re moving toward a more satisfying career, not just snaring a quick boost in salary and stature.

If you’re already on a well-defined path of advancement at your company, and it matches your expanding capabilities and interests, that’s great news. But in most cases, gaining more responsibility and rewards takes some initiative and creativity. Climbing the ladder sometimes even requires helping to invent a new rung or two. With that in mind, here are some ladder safety tips — ways to go about moving up that won’t ultimately drag down your career.

Take a Look Around
Talking to your manager about opportunities to advance is an essential step, but before you do, make sure you’re discussing the matter from a position of strength. Keep in mind that excellent performance of your current responsibilities may not in itself warrant an enlarged role.

To strengthen your case, think about additional responsibilities you might realistically be able to take on. Consider recurring frustrations in your department. Are there projects that never seem to get done on time, goals that are rarely met or an initiative that no one takes full responsibility for? Are there ‘unwritten rules’ that you could help formalise into a set of procedures? Could you help entry-level administrative staff get up to speed?

Make a list of how your skills and experience could apply to the problem. Be as specific as possible and mind any toes you might be stepping on. If the project is already associated with a colleague, asking to take it on may be interpreted, correctly or not, as an attempt to poach that person’s work.

Don’t just target opportunities you know you can handle. Instead, target those that share characteristics with the type of role you want. For example, if you want to supervise people, volunteering to lead a project team or overseeing temporary professionals will do you more good, than organising the Christmas party.

Also, don’t volunteer for every project or initiative just to make the best possible impression. You can quickly find yourself to the point of exhaustion and can even harm your reputation if you fail to execute everything you’ve taken on.

Redefine Your Desires
The process of exploring possibilities for advancement might lead you to fine-tune your sense of what you’re looking for. Before you accept a new role, keep in mind that it may be difficult or impossible to retrace your steps if it doesn’t work out. Ask yourself if you’d be happy doing what the position requires every day, and how well those duties would fit in with your lifestyle and schedule. Keep in mind that an expanded role might come with such unwanted perks as a more prominent place in office politics or the need to spend more time managing people and less time completing work independently.

The best way to learn about other roles and responsibilities is to make personal connections with colleagues, especially those you don’t work with every day. A casual lunch or kitchen conversation can yield surprising insights into workplace challenges and opportunities you hadn’t thought of.

Networking internally also boosts the chances that you’ll be considered when a position opens up. And if you do get promoted, having a few familiar faces around can smooth your adjustment to the new job.

In the process of learning more about internal opportunities, you may discover that what you really want is not a promotion, as such, but rather the higher remuneration and sense of appreciation that a promotion typically brings. If that’s the case, discuss the matter openly with your manager, backing up your case with specific examples of your contributions to the organisation.

Collaborate With Your Manager
Once you’ve sharpened your sense of what you want, it’s time to discuss the matter with your manager. Even if you’ve brought it up in the past, you shouldn’t assume that he or she is fully aware of your desire to advance. Schedule a meeting to discuss your options. Be sure to frame the discussion in terms of how you can contribute more to the company rather than how you can get the rewards you deserve or eliminate aspects of your job you don’t like.

If you’ve thought of specific ways you might take on new responsibilities, present them as ideas rather than demands. Your manager will likely have valuable input about the feasibility of your plans or suggestions for even more promising opportunities. After all, he or she likely knows your strengths and weaknesses well and can advocate on your behalf — or even directly grant you more responsibility. Your manager also might help you identify prerequisites for the steps you’d like to take, such as specialised training.

In the best-case scenario, your manager will serve as a kind of ‘spotter’, helping you safely launch an ascent that benefits both the company and your long-term prospects. He or she might point out valid reasons why the advancement you want isn’t quite right for you — or that you’re not ready for it.

On the other hand, your manager may have selfish reasons for keeping you in your current position. If he or she seems reluctant to help you find new ways to contribute, it may be time to start considering opportunities outside of your current employer.

If your manager does seem willing to help, but doesn’t see your immediate future exactly the way you do, try not to be discouraged. Instead, ask him or her how you can make advancement more likely. What are the next steps you can take to improve your prospects? When might a position open up? While you shouldn’t insist on an exact date, you should come away from your meeting with a realistic sense of your future prospects at the organisation.

Rung by Rung
Promotions are often thought of as a ‘yes or no’ matter: You either stay in your current position, or you move up. The reality isn’t so clear-cut. Remaining in your current position isn’t necessarily synonymous with treading water. In fact, the best way for you to keep your career growing may be to gradually expand your duties rather than leaping to an unfamiliar level.

Almost no-one’s career path is a smooth, steady incline. Keep in mind that even the most skillfully planned advancement might not yield instantaneous results. A real step up may require a lot of patience. But that doesn’t mean you should passively wait to be elevated into the next available opening. By investigating, asserting and reassessing opportunities available to you, you’ll keep growing whether or not your altitude increases right away. As a result, you prepare yourself to move up with confidence when the next good chance arises.

Robert Hosking is executive director of the administrative and customer support practice at Robert Half, where he leads operations for nearly 300 practice locations worldwide. With close to 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, he has extensive ... (Read More)

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