4 Steps to Earning Your Next Promotion | Stewart Leadership

4 Steps to Earning Your Next Promotion

In a recent coaching session, the senior executive I was working with, looked at me and said with great frustration, “John, how in the world do I get myself ready for that next position? I feel like I will never be selected!” 

Perhaps you can relate to this disheartened professional. Does it seem like no matter what you do, you are never good enough to be chosen? What might you try differently to overcome this dilemma?

How to Prepare

The majority of the professionals I coach are often preparing for their next promotion. They frequently ask me how to best ready themselves for that opportunity—when it comes their way.

They may use the phrase: “…if I get the chance” or “if I am lucky enough to be considered,” to which I am reminded of the classic leadership gem:

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

The obvious application of being prepared for when that promotion becomes available is to assess what YOU bring to the marketplace. How appealing will you be to those who will compare you to all the other candidates seeking that same position?

Consequently, I share with those I am coaching a very effective method of preparing for that desired opportunity when it presents itself. This little known, but very successful method, is called a “Black Hat Review”.

The Black Hat Review

The term “black hat” has its origin in the world of espionage and covert intelligence and elicits intrigue and mystery.

Today a Black Hat review is used in the world of government contracting as a very practical, reliable, and thorough tool to assess a company’s likelihood of winning a multi-million or multi-billion dollar contract.

How it Works

The hopeful organization uses a Black Hat Review to:

  1. Learn what the future customer (employer) is seeking or needs.
  2. Evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of the likely competition that they are up against.
  4. Assess the probability of beating out the other competitors to win the desired job or contract.

The Black Hat Review essentially enables a competing company to determine their vital overall “win strategy,” which is the process they will use to beat the competition.

Win Strategy

Applying the Black Hat review to yourself and your job search, next promotion, or new assignment will enable you to use similar successful techniques and steps in your preparation so you are ready to win the desired position when the opportunity arises.

Personalize the following four steps of a Black Hat Review in your promotion plan or job search as you design your own “win strategy.”

Step #1

Black Hat Step 1: Identify what you are looking for—your targeted position or assignment. Is it a posted opening within your current organization? Is it a stretch assignment in your department? Is it a new opportunity in another company or even different business altogether?

Whatever it may be, you need to break down the required skills and experience you know they will be looking for in the person who will ultimately fill that job.

Step #2

Black Hat Step 2: Do a SWOT exercise to evaluate where you stand in light of Step 1. The SWOT tool is a very popular and effective method that many organizations and individuals use to determine how competitive they are.

A SWOT provides a gut-level and frank assessment of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This simple process provides you with a brutally honest look into a mirror to determine what you bring to the competitive marketplace.

Apply your SWOT to your job or promotion preparation as follows: 

  1. Honestly and objectively list your “Strengths” that you feel make you qualified for the desired promotion or new assignment. What do you bring in terms of skills, experience, and potential that will appeal to those who will decide who gets the promotion?
  2. Non-defensively and objectively list your “Weaknesses” that may likely be frowned upon by the decision makers.  What do you lack that will make you appear less desirable than other candidates?
  3. Write out the “Opportunities” that will help you develop the necessary skills needed for the promotion. What are the short or long-term steps or plans that will help you acquire the required skills and experience for your desired position?
  4. Identify the “Threats” (concerns, worries, and risks) that the decision makers may see in you. These often include deficiencies in your personal behaviors, skills, experience, EQ capabilities, attitude or maturity that may be viewed as undesirable in a candidate seeking the desired position?

Step #3

Black Hat Step 3: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your known competitors who are potential candidates for the targeted opportunity. Consider who the likely individuals are who are also seeking that position or opportunity. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does your Step 2 list above compare to your competition?

If you are not sure who the others might be, then imagine the ideal candidates you likely will be up against. What would they have or bring to the interview in terms of experience, skills or capabilities?

Step #4

Black Hat Step 4: To assure you are the one who is selected, calculate what you need to do more of, and less of, to be the one who is the ultimate choice—the winner. This means that you need to collect data on yourself from various sources.

This may include trusted colleagues who know you, work with you, and support you. They need to be honest with you in giving you feedback, and you must NOT be defensive in receiving it. They need to be able to tell you their perceptions of what you bring to the marketplace in terms of the desired position you are after, along with how they realistically feel your chances stack up against other candidates.

Other good sources of reliable data about your skills and experience are assessment instruments or feedback tools. These will provide you with a data-based analysis of your capabilities. Armed with good data about yourself from these sources, you will be able to develop a strategy that will help you realistically prepare for the next desired position when it becomes available.


The Black Hat review provides a complete and straight-forward process that you can follow as you move ahead in your personal preparation to “win” your next assignment or promotion.

Following the above four steps will open your eyes to your own tool kit of experiences and capabilities today. By then comparing your present skill set with the one you need to have for your desired next opportunity, you will be able to steadily reduce the gap between where you are now and where you want to be—namely, what it takes to achieve your next position!

Questions to Consider

  1. Is there another position of increased responsibility, or a stretch assignment that you are interested in? Would it bring you greater challenge and satisfaction than your current job?
  2. Are you aware of your entire professional tool kit to the extent that you know what you are good at, and what you need to improve?
  3. What might you do to become more appealing to your future employer or supervisor than other candidates?


Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn

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