The Challenge: Ask for an Office
Having your own space isn’t just a reward—it also lowers your stress and boosts your creativity.
Why It’ll Work: If the confines of your cube are driving you nuts, here’s why: A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who work in cubicles have higher levels of stress hormones than those who work in offices with doors. True, a door between you and the rest of the world means fewer headaches. But more important to your bottom-line boss, open offices increase morale and efficiency.
While You’re At It: Network at work. Meet-and-greets don’t just help when you’re trying to land a new job. “It’s a great way to gather information about what’s going on around your company and build your reputation as someone who works well with others,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion. Make an effort to befriend 10 people outside your department who share common interests, whether they’re rugby or skiing, but don’t fake interests or you’ll look like a suck-up.
The Challenge: Add to Your Mental Rolodex
Meeting new people? Don’t just memorize names—focus on facial features, too. It may feel superficial, but it’s a great memory device.
Why It’ll Work: In a 2006 study in the American Journal of Psychology, People were able to remember about 25 percent more names when they listed as many of the people’s facial characteristics as they could, found a study in the American Journal of Psychology. Thinking about individual facial features—even if they’re not as striking as “jughandle ears” or “creeping unibrow”—helped recall, as well as matching names to faces. Build a backup plan and find something in common with every new coworker you meet. If you blank later on, it’s better to call a guy “that Lakers fan” than “the dude with the big ears.”
While You’re At It: Be eEarly. Show up to meetings 5 to 10 minutes before they start. A lot happens in those casual conversations. “Plus it will give you a chance to be settled, look prepared, and get to know the players on a casual basis,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion.
The Challenge: Time Your Tunes
Cranking music at work can reduce stress and make you feel more comfortable, but if you need to concentrate, timing is everything.
Why It’ll Work: In a 2009 study from Taiwan, people that who listened to music before taking an attention test scored higher than those who listened to music during the test —and those who took it in silence. So groove to your tracks through mindless work, but shut them off when it’s crunch time. And when you’re ready to be social, open up Spotify: sharing music helps employees bond, say New Zealand researchers.
While You’re At It: Know how to use an iPad. “See all those execs tapping away? If you want to be part of that club, you need to be comfortable with the latest mobile devices,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion. The higher you climb, the more tech will be integrated into your daily life, she says.
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The Challenge: Turn on the Charm
Learn why warming up to your coworkers has its perks.
Why It’ll Work: The personality traits employers most want to see are extroversion or conscientiousness, according to a 2009 study in Personnel Psychology. Being warm and friendly instead of cold and competitive yields noticeable benefits. It makes sense, too: You might respect the coldly efficient worker next to you, but you don’t want to spend Happy Hour with him. Be the person everyone wants around, and not just for your skills and professionalism.
While You’re At It: Increase productivity with apps. Whether they’re for your tablet or smartphone, apps will help you be responsive and tackle your workload. “The early bird gets the worm and the early responder gets the credit, so don’t let emails linger in your inbox. Getting tech savvy will help you jump on the right things right away,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion. Try out Push 4.0 for iPhone and iPad. It automatically gathers content from a bunch of different sources, like Twitter, Gmail, and Google Voice, so you can always be first to see it.
The Challenge: Spread Your Own Hype
Your resume might be impressive, but bosses want to know else what you’ve got in store. Focus on the future.
Why It’ll Work: A 2011 Stanford study shows that we’re more excited about people’s potential than their achievements. So if you’re applying for a new job, don’t talk about what you did at your last job. Frame your value in terms of what you’ll do there, in the future. And when you’re angling for a promotion, think about how you’d help the company if you got it.
While You’re At It: Cut down on the cologne. Dress for the job you want, but don’t go overboard on the Axe. “Look the part, don’t smell the part,” says Stephen Viscusi, CEO and headhunter for Viscusi Group and host of A&E’s The Job Whisperer. “You may be wearing the cologne of your boss’s ex-husband or ex-boyfriend and that will remind her of that person she can’t stand.”
The Challenge: Be Your Boss
Mirroring the big guy’s body language can have major benefits. But taking it too far can backfire.
Why It’ll Work: You’ve probably heard tips like, “Create a connection by sitting the way he’s sitting.” These nonverbal cues can say a lot, but not just to the person you’re mimicking. Mirror wisely: A 2011 study in Psychological Science showed that others pick up on body language between two people and judge accordingly. Do you really want to be known as Mini-Me around the office? Remember that while you’re watching the boss, your co-workers are watching you.
While You’re At It: Emphasize the team. Let your boss know you want a promotion but replace “me” with “we.” “Don’t assume he knows you’ve been busting your backside to perform. He’s likely too busy trying to please his boss,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. Have a conversation about your promotion, but talk about how it will help the company’s goals, not yours, she says.
The Challenge: Step Up Your Look
The five o’clock shadow works wonders for your manly street cred, but in the office a scruffy look does more harm than good. Take the time to clean yourself up.
Why It’ll Work: Good-looking men are viewed as more likable, competent, and intelligent, research shows, and their lifetime earnings tend to be higher than those of average-looking guys. But good grooming alone can generate a 4 to 5 percent wage premium in young men, according to new research from the University of Miami. And it’s okay if you’re not Jon Hamm: Being well-kempt may even offset the salary penalty of being less attractive.
While You’re At It: Be seen. Walk down their hallway or join their gym. “Who has the power to promote? Who has influence with the people who have the power to promote? Whoever it is, get in front of them,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. But don’t grandstand. “Get known in casual ways such as serving on a new, cross-functional team or making more presentations,” she says.
The Challenge: Be the Fixer
Write a list of your frustrations with your company, and then search for solutions.
Why It’ll Work: Once you’ve identified what’s bugging you, let your mind wander: A 2009 Canadian study found that daydreaming can help solve problems. Then come back to Earth and share your ideas. Before you know it, you’ll become the person your colleagues come to when they have pressing problems—and that could keep you locked in at your company for the long haul.
While You’re At It: Seek out tiebreakers. Work the grill at the company barbeque, take on extra duties, improve your golf game. If you’re up for promotion against someone with the same experience, these will tip the scale your way. “It should never be, but when there are several equally qualified candidates for a position, the higher-ups will tend to go with the ‘hard-working person’ who brings extra value to the table,” says Lorenzo Flores, Ph.D., author of Executive Career Advancement.
The Challenge: Sweat the Small Stuff
Rather than get lost in a ten-year plan, focus on the short term—identify the little things you can do now.
Why It’ll Work: The more you believe your career goals are within reach, the higher your long-term status will be, found a 2009 Journal of Vocational Behavior study. So start by tackling manageable projects that pay off quickly. An early success—or even better, a string of them—can bolster your confidence and future gains.
While You’re At It: Train your replacement. Make it easy on them to fill your spot as you climb the latter. “If you’re good at your current job, it’s possible your boss won’t want to promote you because she’ll lose a great performer that’s been making her look good,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. Eliminate that concern by mentoring someone below you who could partially fill your shoes, she says.
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The Challenge: Pursue Your Passions
That old cliché that if you love doing it, it’s not work? Still true. Find the parts of your job that inspire your imagination and go after them.
Why It’ll Work: People who tackle projects they enjoy, not ones they think will earn them promotions, are more satisfied and committed to their work, a 2008 Journal of Research in Personality study found. And that’s the way to a promotion: Seek assignments that overlap with your interests, or look for your kind of job in an industry you love. There’s always room, even in the unlikeliest places: NBA teams employ 3,900 people, and 89 percent of them aren’t ballers.
While You’re At It: Research your boss. Some might call it snooping. We call it doing your homework. “True person-to-person bonding is an art unto itself. It’s best left to the natural flow of opportunities that lend themselves to sharing,” says Lorenzo Flores, Ph.D., author of Executive Career Advancement. But that doesn’t mean leave it to chance. “Find out about your boss’s upbringing, family, military, or college through the office grapevine. When appropriate, and without exaggeration, find ways to let him or her know that you have faced similar challenges and experiences,” suggests Dr. Flores.
The Challenge: Go Mobile
Being constantly connected might feel like a burden, but increased communications means more opportunities to prove your worth.
Why It’ll Work: You probably don’t get as much face-time with your boss as you’d like, and it’s a good bet that your co-workers feel just as isolated. While it’s practically impossible to alleviate those feelings in the office, that’s when you can use your Blackberry to your advantage: A study in International Journal of Mobile Communications found that employees with a mobile connection to the office felt more “in the loop.”
While You’re At It: Talk to successful people. Figure out the next step by talking with people who’ve already taken it. “Some companies do more than others in terms of career-pathing for their employees, but the ownership of that task really belongs in your lap,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. Look for what opportunities are available and talk with those in a position to help you take them, she says.
The Challenge: Revamp Your Wardrobe
It’s true: Clothes make the man. Make sure your style works for you—not against you.
Why It’ll Work: You can earn at least 5 percent more than the other guy simply by looking sharp, according to a study in the American Economic Review. Clothes sell confidence, so keep a style kit in your cubicle. Your office-closet musts: A blazer, crisp shirt, matching tie, and gleaming pair of shoes.
While You’re At It: Ask someone important to lunch. Skip working the room and network over a meal. “If you’re an introverted promotion seeker, you do best at one-on-one encounters,” says Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. Use this to build a strong web of relationships and strategic alliances over time, she says.
The Challenge: Kiss Some Ass
Sucking up to your senior colleagues could advance your career—and keep your health in check.
Why It’ll Work: A recent study published in the Journal of Management Studies shows that schmoozing with the big men in charge helps ease tension, as well as avoid emotional exhaustion and depression. When it comes down to it, making friends at work makes everyone’s job easier.
While You’re At It: Learn your coworkers’ jobs. Pick up lateral knowledge in your field. “This will make you more valuable to your boss. More important, it will give you a strategic, big-picture perspective on how your department or company works,” explains Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. “The more you know, the more you grow.”
The Challenge: Unleash Your Alpha-Male
In competitive environments, selfish behavior wins. Don’t be afraid to dominate when necessary.
Why It’ll Work: Want to be recognized as a leader? Start acting like one. According to a study from Northwestern University, selfish and aggressive people are more likely to be promoted. In the study, those characteristics were seen as elements of strong leadership, while kinder employees were well-liked but considered weak or gullible. So indulge your inner-jerk, because it’s true: Sometimes nice guys really do finish lastYou don’t have to be a jerk, but stand up for your opinion or a project you believe in to show your assertive side..
While You’re At It: Align with your boss’s goals. Make sure you know your company’s objectives on every level. “I’m always surprised how many employers tell me their employees don’t know the goals of their organization, unit, or superiors,” says David Perlmutter, Ph.D., author of Promotion and Tenure Confidential. Once you identify those goals, talk with your superiors about how you fit into their plans.
The Challenge: Get Fit on the Job
Hey, desk jockeys: Don’t just sit at your computer all day. Taking an exercise break will improve your mood, up your stamina, and lower your stress.
Why It’ll Work: Exercising during work can lead to higher productivity, according to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Participants who worked out just twice a week reported feeling more productive. Not only did those workers complete more tasks, but they also performed them better, and took fewer sick days. And he who shows up, moves up.
While You’re At It: For 30 minutes a day, read about business and leadership practices. “There are hundreds of great leadership books that can be incredible tools for professionals looking to stand out and move up,” says Brad Karsh, president of JB Training Solutions, a workplace training and development company. No time for hardcover knowledge? Go digital. “For other quick updates,” he suggests, “follow business icons and thought leaders on Twitter.”
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The Challenge: Get a Grip
How’s your handshake? Use a firm grasp to boost your promotion prospects.
Why It’ll Work: In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers conducted mock interviews with students. Separately, the students had their handshakes graded. The interviewers graded on overall hireability, which, it turned out, was related to a strong handshake. So think of that as one more weapon in your corporate-ladder arsenal.
While You’re At It: Create an airtight pitch. Arm yourself with facts about why you deserve the bump up in title and/or pay, and clearly articulate what’s in it for the company, says Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “Think away —before your crucial ‘ask.’ Cook up every angle and practice answers to every possible objection to your promotion,” she says.
The Challenge: Write Like a Boss
Your emails reveal more than you know, so make them say the right things.
Why It’ll Work: In a study published in Social Psychological & Personality Science, researchers asked college students to analyze emails with variations in punctuation, number of typos, and point of view. Punctuation, the students thought, marked messages from superiors: women supposedly used exclamation points, while men didn’t. And emails in the third person appeared to be from an angry supervisor, but first person missives sounded like an excited friend. That means if you want to be the boss, write like one.
While You’re At It: Buy a new suit. Or a new tie. “The way you present yourself is key to making positive, lasting impressions in today’s business world. Something about a new suit or tie makes you exude greater confidence and authority,” says Brad Karsh, President of JB Training Solutions, a workplace training and development company. When you look your best, you feel your best, he explains.
The Challenge: Surf Your Way to the Corner Office
Don’t feel bad about “cyberloafing.” Taking a Web break can re-energize your workday.
Why It’ll Work: A National University of Singapore study showed that surfing the Internet can relieve workplace boredom, improve attention, and boost productivity. When you’re tired of answering email, a few minutes of online distraction can be a welcome break. And when you get back to work, you’ll be mentally refreshed and ready to kick some ass.
While You’re At It: Know when to shut up. You have to let your boss know you’re after a promotion, just not all the time. “Biggest mistake I’ve seen by someone looking to get promoted?” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion. “They talk all the time. Don’t be that guy.” Don’t talk about how well you do your job, just do it well and they’ll notice. Express interest in your career, but don’t make so much noise you drown those chances out,” she warns.
The Challenge: Perfect Your Posture
Stand up straight—it’s not just good for your back, it’s good for your career.
Why It’ll Work: A study in Psychological Science found that having good posture not only projects power to other people, but actually makes you feel more powerful yourself. Researchers found that when people played blackjack, those who had a confident, open stance were more likely to hit; those with more subdued postures tended to stand.
While You’re At It: Dress like Mini-Me. No, not Dr. Evil’s half-sized clone. Mimic your boss’s look. “Don’t worry about if you like his or her taste. Every boss likes to promote a ‘Mini-Me,’” says Stephen Viscusi, CEO and headhunter for Viscusi Group and host of “The Job Whisperer” on A&E. If their taste in clothes really is that bad, you can’t go wrong with a white button down and tie, says Viscusi.
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The Challenge: Befriend Your Boss
Ditch shop talk and explore outside interests with the big man in charge.
Why It’ll Work: According to a Journal of Business and Psychology study, workers who trust their bosses have better ratings for assertiveness, creativity, risk taking, motivation, and initiative. Getting away from work will let you see another side of your boss; sharing a beer is likely to improve trust in both directions. But remember: the point is not to talk about work.
While You’re At It: Create sports rapport. Identify your boss’s passions outside of work, whether it’s reading, or sports. “Finding things you have in common with the boss can be a good way to develop rapport,” says Lorenzo Flores, Ph.D., author of Executive Career Advancement. But be genuine, though. “Don’t fall all over yourself learning to ice skate because the boss does it,” says Dr. Flores.
The Challenge: Get Out of the Office
Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you’re working. Step away to feel more productive.
Why It’ll Work: Many people consider themselves more productive when they’re working away from the office, according to a nationwide study of workersemployees commissioned by Microsoft. Get outside, or go use the WiFi at your neighborhood Starbucks. A simple change of scenery can recharge your batteries and help generate new ideas.
While You’re At It: Beat your stage fright. Take a speech class or hire a coach. “Your ability to influence others is multiplied when you learn to speak authoritatively and authentically whether in a meeting or in front of a crowd,” says Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. Woo them with words and they won’t know what hit them.
The Challenge: Demand a Million Dollars
Asking for a sky-high salary lightens the mood, but also gives you an edge in negotiations.
Why It’ll Work: It’s the dreaded question: “And what kind of salary are you looking to receive?” Aim too low and you’ll risk making less than the intern, but guess too high and your boss will think you’re insane. Now you have a new fail-safe answer: “Well, a million would be nice.” Because you say it in obvious jest, employers aren’t offended by the high dollar sign, but it does significantly influence their counteroffer, according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
While You’re At It: Pick up another professional skill. Attend a conference or learn a language. “By learning a new skill you make yourself more marketable, beef up your resume, and gain great talking points,” explains Brad Karsh, President of JB Training Solutions, a workplace training and development company. Taking classes or getting up-to-speed on the latest in social media are effective ways to position yourself for a promotion, he says.
The Challenge: Embrace the Distractions
Buckling down and focusing on a single task means better output, right? Not always. Sometimes diversions can be your friend.
Why It’ll Work: If you’re drowning in a pile of work, your favorite CD may help pull you out of the water. That’s because a small distraction—like listening to music or talk radio—can improve your attention on simple tasks, according to new research published in PLoS One.
While You’re At It: Rehearse your pitch. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. “If you’re one of those strong, silent types who doesn’t excel at thinking out loud, you’ll benefit wildly from some practice time,” says Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. Take it to the next level by role-playing or videotaping your promotion pitch.
The Challenge: Grab a Slice of Humble Pie
Forget self-promotion. Honesty and humility can sometimes trump publicity.
Why It’ll Work: In a Baylor University study, candid and courteous people were rated higher by their supervisors than workers who exhibited agreeable and conscientious traits. So speak up, smile, and keep your ego in check—especially if there’s already a narcissist in the office.
While You’re At It: Become a go-to guy. Find an area of expertise and know everything about it. “You don’t have to be a schmoozer. Instead, get known as the one with innovative ideas, invaluable market intelligence, financial savvy, or research up the wazoo,” says Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. Eventually your expertise will have them coming to you.
The Challenge: Give Back to the Community
If you really want to reach the top, think beyond your job. Successful CEOs also promote philanthropy.
Why It’ll Work: If you want to be top dog, you’ve got to prove you can play the part. And in the U.S., a CEO’s job performance is based on a lot more than mere business prowess, according to an Austrian study. Vienna-based researchers examined the company profiles of more than 150 Fortune 500 chief execs from American and European companies. While European CEOs present themselves as primarily business-focused, U.S. executives were more apt to participate in local and national politics, they found. American CEOs were also more active in community outreach and philanthropy.
While You’re At It: Dress up for the interview. Leave the jeans and sneaks behind and bust out a suit and tie for the promotion interview. “Even if you dress down at work, when you’re interviewing with your existing boss for an internal promotion, dress like you’re going on an external interview,” says Stephen Viscusi, CEO and headhunter for Viscusi Group and host of A&E’s The Job Whisperer. A new look will help your boss see you in a new light and show you’re serious about the promotion. This includes grooming your nails and eyebrows. And don’t forget to silence your cell phone. A loose ringer can bring an interview to a halt.
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The Challenge: Get Some ZZZ’s
Give your brain a rest and it’ll pay you back.
Why It’ll Work: People who napped for 90 minutes between learning sessions performed tasks better than those who didn’t, according to a 2010 study from the University of California. “Sleep is important for being able to assimilate complex information. You’ve got the building blocks for a great idea or solution to a problem that you’re working on, but the sleep may help consolidate all of these things together,” explains W. Christopher Winter, medical director at Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Virginia. Winter recommends designating 20 minutes at the same time every afternoon for a quick siesta. Find the couch in your break room and stretch out your legs—we promise we won’t tell anyone.
While You’re At It: Evaluate your boss—it’s just self-preservation. “You have to know the people you’re dealing with so that work relationships can be as friction free as possible,” says Lorenzo Flores, Ph.D., author of Executive Career Advancement. They may be intimidating, but they’re also human. Learning and respecting their professional judgment—and tolerating their flaws—will go a long way, says Flores.
The Challenge: Fire Up YouTube
Watching funny viral videos at work can enhance your creativity.
Why It’ll Work: Chuckling not only puts you in a good mood, but it also helps you solve problems. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario had participants watch funny videos (laughing babies, for example), then attempt challenging tasks, including word and picture puzzles. Happier participants subjects proved better at completing the tests, offering a good excuse for a YouTube break next time a work problem has you stumped.
While You’re At It: Teach people how to use you. Let them know what you’re capable of. Your talents and training are going to waste away if you don’t use them to help your co-workers, says Lorenzo Flores, Ph.D., author of Executive Career Advancement. Plus you get something out of it in return. “It will provide you with more information, contacts, and resources that can boost your career,” he explains.
The Challenge: Use a Nickname
You’re not “Bradley”—you’re “Brad.” Shortening your name keeps things informal and puts people at ease.
Why It’ll Work: Men with short, easy to remember nicknames are more likely to become CEOs, according to an analysis by business networking site LinkedIn. Punchy names tend to stick in the brain. Adopting a single-syllable nickname helps put you on equal footing with everyone around you, which is key for building big relationships.
While You’re At It: Fill your boss’s shoes—temporarily. “If you can quickly and competently step into his position, it will make it easier for him to get promoted,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of 30-Day Job Promotion. Look for opportunities to help out when he’s away on business. You’ll learn his problems and support him in solving them, she says.
The Challenge: Consider Every Scenario
No matter where you work, things can change. Being ready for every possibility—especially the unexpected—puts you one step ahead of the pack.
Why It’ll Work: Leaders can be blindsided by trouble because they often jump to the most convenient or plausible conclusion when interpreting crisis signals, say University of Pennsylvania researchers. If you want to be a good leader, pay attention to potential problems while staying vigilant in the face of crisis. Prompt your colleagues to explore the possible fallout of any plan. This will encourage a degree of contingency planning. Prove yourself someone who sees everything, not just what’s convenient.
While You’re At It: Free up space for new projects. Learn to delegate, too. Taking on new projects will raise your profile, but not if you overcommit. “If you have too much on your plate, you may end up doing a bad job, not just on the new project, but also on your regular work,” says David Perlmutter, Ph.D., director of tThe School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa and author of Promotion and Tenure Confidential. When a new project comes up, talk with your boss about clearing some space. Try saying, “This project sounds really exciting. Can I delegate something so I can take it on?” suggests Perlmutter.
The Challenge: Find a Mentor
You’re climbing up the corporate ladder—now find someone else who’s done it first.
Why It’ll Work: Today’s workplace often values flexibility and adaptability over stability; few of us will end up retiring from our first job. That can make it tough to find a mentor, a wiser worker who can dispense advice over stiff drinks. But a Center for Creative Leadership study showed that 81 percent of promoted managers had a mentoring relationship. Why limit yourself to your own experience, when you can reach out to others who’ve already been there?
While You’re At It: Make a new job description every day. In this economy, you have to reapply for your job daily. “If you only do what they hired you to do, they will eventually fire you,” says Perlmutter. By taking on new and changing responsibilities, you’ll be indispensable.