Careers Clinic: strategic moves with one eye on a promotion

THE’s Careers Clinic series brings together the great and the good of higher education to answer a burning careers question

May 18, 2021
Times Higher Education Careers Clinic, looking at strategic moves in the run up to applying for a promotion
Source: iStock

As we barrel towards the end of the academic year, change could be on the horizon, so we asked five experts what strategic moves could be employed in the lead-up to applying for promotion. Here is what they said:

“Show bosses you’re willing without becoming obsequious/subservient. Demonstrate rather than pontificate – the old adage that actions speak louder than words. But if you get the chance to be involved in strategic or wider planning, grab it: promotions are usually to more senior roles, which, in turn, demand the ability to think more strategically about the bigger picture. Also, don’t be afraid to canvass the opinion of colleagues who you respect; if it’s possible to discuss the potential promotion, get their honest feedback.”
Hugh Martin is registrar and chief administrative officer at the British University in Dubai.

“Relationships and positive visibility are important. Get to know people throughout your organisation because they can talk you up but also give you valuable career advice. Participating in high-visibility projects is another strategy that may help others get to know you and create support for you to win the role you want.”
Allison Vaillancourt is vice-president, organisational effectiveness with Segal, a North American human resources and benefits consulting firm.

“Know your facts! Have data ready to support your achievements and articulate how those achievements have helped the organisation meet its goals. You have the benefit of understanding the organisation and its priorities, so use this knowledge to frame your responses to the questions. Writing your application always takes more time that you expect − prioritise your application, and don’t leave it to become a last-minute rush.

“Imagine you are submitting a paper for a journal article – it would take several iterations and reviews; you should apply the same care to your promotion application. If possible, ask a colleague or HR business partner to review your application. Take the time to approach your referees ahead of time to explain the role and competencies and prime them to be ready to give their feedback.”
Rebecca Jarrett is head of HR operations and resourcing at Cranfield University in the UK.

“Your strategic moves should be directed towards the big picture of the organisation’s strategic direction and how your work aligns to this. Instead of ploughing your own furrow, ensure you are working collaboratively with colleagues to raise the game of your team. Be clear about your development needs, and gather evidence from your current stakeholders, ideally through a 360 appraisal. Think about the impact you are having on colleagues, students and partners. Prepare an example of innovation in your current role, and think about how technology can change your practice.”
Peter Brook is an experienced HR director who has worked at executive level in several UK universities and now provides HR consultancy support.

“Most people are happy to schedule time with you if you show genuine interest in their work. Ask a manager or member of the [potential] new team for 30 minutes to chat about their work, the team or projects you may work with them. Having this first-hand information will help you succeed in the application and interviewing stages.”
Quila Cervelli is global employer branding manager at RMIT University, Australia. 

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