Promoting yourself in your workplace

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By Goke Ilesanmi

It was a sunny Friday afternoon at Financial Standard, my last place of work, where I left as Acting Editor. A man who had earlier called me on phone came in, sweating profusely and almost gasping for breath. His facial expression betrayed his mood.

He was seriously sad because he had graduated for about five years from one of the reputable universities in Nigeria but could not get a job, despite having a second upper grade in Accounting. He even told me that his elder brother working somewhere else had promotion challenges, despite graduating with a second class upper grade in Economics.

He attributed their predicament to “spiritual forces”. At this stage, I had no option but to laugh. He looked at me questioningly, probably wondering why I should be that trivial and heartless.

I had to cut him short by requesting to see his curriculum vitae (CV). I looked at it and shook my head because it was the usual chronological CV that usually deprives job-seekers invitation for interviews. I told him my bill for preparing a combined chronological functional CV and an assertive cover letter, which I have been invited twice by the University of Lagos and once by the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye to teach as a guest lecturer. He paid and I prepared them. Within a month, interview letters started flowing in his direction in torrents and he now saw that it was not a spiritual problem, after all.

As a result of my “magic wand”, he later wanted me proffer solutions to the issue of lack of promotion of his brother, which I did. And we will share some of the tips here.

Workplace and essentials

The workplace today requires you to pit your competitive fire against a horde of ambitious bosses, peers and subordinates, all seeking the brass ring of success. So you need to know how to improve your job, how to survive your boss’s foibles, when  it is necessary to ignore the incessant calls of ‘family first’, how to sell/market yourself, etc.

There are three things you need to sell/market yourself. These are competence, likeability and luck. The first two will almost always deliver the third. But having competence and likeability is not enough. Most of us already have them. What is needed is the audience’s perception that you are competent and likeable.


Moving to the top

Passing through middle management on your way to the top is often unavoidable and getting stuck there, however, does not have to be. An extended stay in middle management may occur for a few reasons. One, the manager may fall into the “complacency trap”, a sort of holding tank for those who are content with a little bit of success. Or the manager could be instructed to overhaul a project in the midst of “change”, which is like being invited to a party without an end. Another common scenario is that the manager who is viewed as too valuable to go anywhere else. Experts such as Larry Cook say being indispensable may be the highest form of workplace flattery, but it would not always help you get ahead.  You can avoid getting stuck in the middle of middle management by deploying some strategies.


The first of these strategies is to be informed. Information is still power and the more you know about why you are where you are, the better equipped you will be to move through a situation. Having the knowledge of why, for instance, you were chosen to manage a particular project will help you determine how to complete the task and move on. Ask a lot of questions and, before informing your team, make sure you have as many answers as possible. Again, this will help you maintain momentum. Staying informed is also good medicine for remaining calm.


To avoid getting stuck in the middle, you need to be bold. Research shows that sometimes being in the middle is confusing. You may ask yourself, “Am I a worker bee or the one in charge?” “Where are my alliances?” “Who’s looking out for me?” When we are unsure, we tend to be more careful, sometimes too much so. Do not show timidity or risk-averse just because you are nervous about an outcome.


Chatting with your boss

You can also discuss with your boss. Sit down and have a very direct and pointed conversation with your boss about your future in the company. Stress that you want your job performance to meet the company’s goals. Share your own career goals with him or her. Your boss will respect this display of confidence and maturity.

People skills

Having strong interpersonal skills plays a crucial role in gaining the respect of your boss and co-workers, as well as attracting the notice of outside influencers who might open new doors of opportunity for you. Be friendly, outgoing, and personable. Listen carefully to people and practise being a clear and effective communicator.

Getting a mentor

Develop mentoring relationships, either inside or outside the company. Recent studies have shown that four out of five promotions are influenced by a mentor higher up in the company. Mentors are also great sources of information and career guidance.


Strengthen your personal network by joining professional organisations, attending industry conferences, and even volunteering. The more people who are aware of your strengths and abilities, the better your chances of getting to know about any new opportunities that might arise.

Building your reputation

In business, your reputation is the most valuable thing you own. Be known for being dependable, professional, and cooperative.

Parting shot

Experts suggest that if you are starting to feel unchallenged in your present position, you may be ready for promotion to the next level and if there are not many career advancement opportunities where you work, the best next job may be waiting for you elsewhere. Nowadays, it is up to you to take control of your professional future and make sure you are progressing wisely along the right career path.


GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee,  Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.


Tel: +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425

Email:  gokeiles2010@gmail.com; info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng

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