Although it’s still fairly early in the year, everything you’re doing at work right now is contributing to one event that may be the farthest thing from your mind: end of year performance reviews.

Yes, that fun time of the year when you and your manager pretend that you both have been carefully planning this very moment. Whether evaluations are beneficial or an utter waste of time is debatable, but it’s still often tied to being considered promotion-worthy (at least on the surface).

You’re the only person who should truly be trusted to manage your career, so now is the time to get your ducks in a row. Even if your appraisals are during another time of year, or not at all, make sure you’re following these secrets of people who always get promoted.

1. They prepare beforehand. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to only think about your work performance when you have to—which is usually around evaluation time. Your projects, attitude, and working relationships today will all be put under a microscope tomorrow.

If you want to get promoted, make sure you have a conversation with your manager to understand what exactly is expected in order for this to happen. Next, document these expectations for two reasons:

  1. It will be your guide to create a plan.
  2. It will serve as a reference when it’s time to have “the conversation” (just in case memories need to be refreshed).

If you prepare in advance, you’ll be able to present your case with facts and demonstrate exactly why you deserve to get promoted.

2. They track their accomplishments. Once you know the goals you’re working towards, take the steps to align your actions with actually reaching them.

For example, if your manager says you need to complete your degree in order to qualify for a position, start investigating the steps to get this done. If you need to take on more of a leadership role, take note of all the projects you led or were an important part of its success. Anticipate anything that may reflect negatively during performance evaluation.

Next, keep a record of every noteworthy accomplishment and objective on a continuous basis (not just evaluation time). You don’t need a super complicated template, but it must be organized with quantifiable information (e.g., objectives, successful deliverables, trainings, dates, kudos, etc.).

You can start by simply creating an Excel document and updating it on a weekly or monthly basis—depending on how often you reach your milestones. Tracking your achievements will keep you focused throughout the year as well as when it’s time to put this information to use.

3. They evaluate their personal brand. Even if your organization doesn’t enforce regular performance evaluations, always evaluate your personal brand. Self-evaluation is often overlooked because a lot of professionals either a.) think they already have it figured out or b.) skip the process altogether because it’s doesn’t seem worth the time.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an accurate picture of how you see yourself versus how others see you. This is especially important when it comes to performance evaluations and positioning yourself for a promotion.

Your manager must see the same value you believe you offer. To avoid any surprises about suggested areas for improvement, be proactive and make sure you’re clear on your strengths and weaknesses.

4. They build their credentials. Your personal brand needs your ongoing attention in order to get promoted. In the words of the lovely Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?”

It’s not just about what you did to get a job. It’s also about what you continue to bring to the table.

• Are you likable?
• Are you up-to-date on the latest industry skills and certifications?
• Do you have a professional digital brand?
• Do you have a lot of “wins” under your belt?

Make sure you can answer “yes” to these questions if you want to get promoted. If you’ve been at your job for a while, it’s easy to get comfortable and not stay sharp.

Think of getting a new car: You wash it often. Keep the inside clean. And avoid any nixes (almost like a baby). But as it gets older, you wash it a little less, the inside starts to accumulate clutter and, eh, the dents just add character (almost like a baby…just kidding!).

Next thing you know, your new shiny new car is now an old hoopty. Moral of the story? Keep your brand fresh.

5. They are willing to walk away. The reality is this: If your best efforts aren’t good enough to get promoted, you have to promote yourself by looking elsewhere.

Don’t let your desire to get a promotion thrust you into mission impossible.

You could get passed over due to budget restraints, nepotism, or just not being liked. Either way, if it doesn’t look like it’s going to realistically happen, stop jumping through hoops, chasing your tail, following moving targets, and every other metaphor that represents going nowhere.

There may never be any real intentions to promote you—point blank.

A lot of times job comfort is an expensive reason to put up with antics you would not accept in your personal life. (If you were in a one-sided relationship, that person would have to go, right?). Plus, when you do the math, a 2-4% raise with more responsibilities isn’t as appetizing as a potentially 18-20% salary increase along with a new title and fresh challenges.

Whether the move is internal or external, sometimes the biggest promotion you can get is by deciding to make your own path.

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Marietta Gentles Crawford
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Marietta Gentles Crawford

Writer + Personal Brand Strategist, Founder at MGC Ink
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of "From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career." With over ten years' experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is inspiring professionals to dare mediocrity.
Marietta Gentles Crawford
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