6 Quick Steps to Show You’re Ready for That Job Promotion

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How to Get a Job Promotion in 6 Quick (and Simple!)

The social work field has a horde of obstacles including paperwork, resistant clients, coworkers not pulling their weight, and program managers simply looking for end results.  With so many obstacles and little time in the presence of the your agency’s movers and shakers, making a difference in how you’re viewed can be difficult to achieve.  So how can you stand out to show you’re looking for a job promotion?

You build a name and reputation for yourself that will transcend not just your program but upward to the administrators.

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And there are six quick steps you can do nearly everyday to help build that name for yourself.

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Mental health job promotion

Step 1: Do your job and do it well!  This should go without saying, but I have met many people who get envious of others’ job promotion and wonder why they were not chosen simply because of seniority.

How do you know if you’re doing your job well?  Take you ego out of the equation.

Find out how your program measures success.  In a manager’s mindset, success equals accomplishing program outcomes.  When a program accomplishes its goals, it also obtains security and likely increased funding.

If you do not know your program’s goals, ASK!  If you’ve been paying attention in your team meetings, you should already have a good idea what they are.

Scour your caseload and determine how you can achieve success using your manager’s cues.  This will put you in position to be a go-to for navigating case consults.

Step 2: Be an informal leader.  If you are looking to get a job promotion, you must demonstrate leadership.  Keep in mind, there are many forms of leadership.  Don’t worry if you’re not the most outspoken!

Meeting your program outcomes will lead to success noticed by your boss and colleagues.  They will then ask you for help.  Take full advantage of this.

Learn to train and motivate others without needing to be authoritative.  That is the key to leadership; and now you have the opportunity without the guise of power.

Here’s your brief crash course in leadership.

Social Work Interviews and Resumes!

As a hiring supervisor for a Community Mental Health, it’s evident that those who think they know how to write a resume really do not! It wasn’t too long ago that I really struggled knowing what to put into a cover letter and resume.

Take every opportunity to advocate for your team members.  Help motivate them by emphasizing their strengths.

Additionally, when new employees start, your program manager will have little time to teach the nuances of the position.

You’ve completed step one well.  You also have demonstrated yourself to be an informal leader.  Now, your manager will likely look to you to coach employees!

If your boss is having you train a staff member, it is because they want to replicate you and how you do your work.

Embrace this role! There is no better way to become an informal leader.

Step 3: Understand the administrative perspective.  So often I hear colleagues complain about policy changes and new paperwork that must be completed.

This is the world of social work.  Federal and state laws change, which cascades down to agencies and their boots on the ground- ergo you.

In your spare time, learn as much as you can about why your agency is moving in the direction they are.  Use this information in how you interact with your peers.

How grateful will your supervisor be to know they’re not the only one pushing the message of change?

That means you cannot subvert yourself to complaining or you will look two-faced.  That will undo any of the hard work you’ve put in.

Supervisors must understand where the program currently exists, and where policy will take it.

Show your boss that you see the direction of the agency and why!  Supervisors do not want to be the only preacher of change.

Step 4: Utilize supervision at every opportunity.  What better way to show your boss all the policy you’ve learned in your spare time?

Use that knowledge of policy and program goals to show your critical thinking skills.

If you do not have one-on-one supervision, these methods can work in a group context as well.

Lend support to others utilizing your knowledge.  Your boss will take notice.  Help others connect their strengths with the direction of the agency. This is much like advocating for your team.

When you have opportunities to talk to your boss one-on-one, inform him or her of your interest in growing professionally.

This is an important seed to plant as you are now likely on his or her radar.  Show initiative to your boss.  A job promotion is too important to pass up to assumptions.

Step 5: Know your competition and who the decision makers are.  The field of social work can be very competitive.

As you are growing in your professional development, it is likely that you’ve taken notice of others whose skill set is comparable to yours.  Evaluate them.

What are their strengths and weaknesses within their role?

Beyond that, you need to know who the decision makers are in your agency.   Your manager may not be the only one to determine who gets a job promotion.

In every opportunity you have, rub shoulders with these decision makers.  When you see them, say hi.  Introduce yourself if you can.

When a promotional opportunity opens up, administrators will be looking for a good fit.  If you are seen as a possible choice, it’s also possible those competitors are.

How do your skills stack up?  You will need to continually improve on your deficits to stand out!

A word of caution, however- administrators tend to be very busy people.  It is imperative to not waste their time.

If you find yourself in a meeting with them, show off your knowledge of macro policy.

If you see them at the printer or in the break room, make a comment to generate warmth.  This isn’t a long conversation, but a brief interaction that promotes positive feelings.

Let them know who you are.  If you are excelling, your boss may already be talking you up to the administrators.

When your name comes up later, these feelings of warmth will likely return.

“Your manager may not be the only one to determine who gets a job promotion.  In every opportunity you have, rub shoulders with these decision makers.”

Step 6: Identify upcoming openings.  By this point, you are likely to have an edge over most in your program for any advancement opportunities.  If you haven’t already, identify a position that you would excel in and equally important enjoy.

Be mindful of the likelihood that position will open, however.  You don’t want to set your sights on a job that will not likely open in the near future.

Go talk to individuals in those roles and develop a relationship and working knowledge of their role.  When that day comes, and the position is posted, you now have a great foundation to use during the interview.

You can work each of these six steps on nearly a daily basis.  More importantly, they plant you in the mind of your superiors.

Job promotions are not necessarily given to the most qualified or skilled; they are often awarded to who management knows and trusts.

Competence absolutely has a role here.

But if the manager cannot trust you or has had a bad experience with you, your competence may be of worthless value in considering a job promotion.

In-fact, it might solidify you in your current position considering you’ve demonstrated your ability to help the program succeed but give the higher ups uneasy feelings regarding your character.

These steps are not all you can do to demonstrate your readiness for a promotion.  There are many things that managers must consider before they can make any personnel decisions.

I encourage you to review your role and skill set.  If you are eager to get that promotion and want to understand these steps in greater detail or want a more personalized evaluation, consider scheduling a consult.

The feedback could be what you need to get an edge and promote both your value and paycheck.

Let me hear your thoughts!

Do you have a promotion you want?  How do these steps fit in?


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Hi! I'm Ben

I’m a licensed clinical social worker and addictions counselor who has also dealt with significant mental health struggles over the years. Here, I share the best mental wellness support and resources to help you live your best life.


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