Going for a Promotion? Do These 3 Things Now

Rachel Beohm is a nonverbal communications coach and trainer for FORTE, a consulting firm located in Portland, Oregon,

Want to get ahead? Your interview is happening right now.

You may have any number of reasons for wanting to take the next step up the organizational ladder. Maybe you’re currently overqualified and bored. Maybe you’ve outgrown your current position. Maybe an exciting opportunity just fell in your lap. Regardless of the situation, if you’re hoping to advance at work your interview starts today.

When you apply for a new job at a new organization, you get a fresh start. That can be both good and bad: On the one hand, you carry no baggage with you. Your prospective employer has no idea about that time you spilled coffee all over your work computer or said the completely wrong thing at an office party. On the other hand, your future rides on your ability to make a good impression in a matter of seconds. Pressure!

When moving within your own organization, however, the pros and cons are flipped—impressions (hopefully good ones!) have already been made. Yet it’s easy to be pigeonholed, too. Some people seem preordained as “leadership material” and climb up through the ranks even when their performance is sub par Others work hard and keep trying, yet get overlooked again and again. It seems so unfair!

If you’re getting overlooked, what can you do about it? How can you let upper level management know you’re ready for a promotion? How can you get colleagues and supervisors to see you as “leadership material”? How can you increase your credibility and prove that you are capable of handling more responsibility?

It all comes down to how you present yourself—not just in an interview, but every day. Being able to actually do the work, as unreasonable as it sounds, is not enough. You have to demonstrate that you are the kind of person who fits in that role. And whether or not you know that you can handle both the work and the position is irrelevant. You have to communicate your ability to the decision makers.

If you want to be a leader, you have to communicate like one. The messages we send nonverbally cue others in to how to treat us. What messages are you sending?

If you’re getting overlooked, what can you do about it? How can you let upper level management know you’re ready for a promotion?


Here are three nonverbal ways you can demonstrate today that you’re ready for a promotion:

Speak with Authority

Does your voice curl down or up at the ends of your sentences? When you’re asking a question, it’s appropriate for your voice to curl up at the end. That nonverbally signals that you’re seeking a response. But when you’re giving a directive, sharing facts, or stating an opinion, curl your voice down at the ends of your sentences. This adds weight and credibility to your words. If you’ve gotten into the habit of always curling up (commonly referred to as “upspeak”), this will lower your credibility and your chances for promotion. Vary your voice pattern to match your message.

Indicate that You Belong

Are you nervous in front of a group or in the presence of “higher-ups”? If you want to be a leader, you need to show that you are comfortable in that space. Demonstrate that you belong. How? Let go of tension. When your body is stiff, you let everyone around you know that you’re in fight-or-flight mode. In other words, it’s evident that you feel threatened. Even if you are feeling nervous, calm your body and your breathing so that your movements are free and fluid. This demonstrates confidence, ease, and belonging. When you eliminate tension from your body, you nonverbally say, “I can handle this.”

Open Up

I’m not talking about sharing personal secrets; I’m talking about body language. If you curl inward and make yourself small, you are saying, “Don’t look at me!” No wonder you get overlooked! If you want to be noticed, you must be willing to be seen. Don’t fall into the other ditch, either, and parade about like a peacock. But DO be willing to take up as much space as your body needs. Stand straight and tall. Instead of hands in pockets or arms folded, keep your arms free and open. This demonstrates that you are comfortable in your own skin and willing to stand up for yourself.

We communicate all the time through our gestures, our posture, and our voice tone, whether we realize it or not. Others make snap decisions about your competency based on how you speak and act. So, be proactive and mindful about how you present yourself.

If you want to move up, your interview is happening now. Start acting like someone who belongs in the job of your dreams, and it will come to you sooner than you think.


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