As a business grows, its employees must grow with it. It's a given that employees need to do their jobs thoroughly and effectively, but to be worthy of a promotion, you have to go well beyond what's in your job description.
Cultivate these five traits to show your superiors that you're ready and willing to make your company stronger, smarter, and more profitable than it was when you first joined.
When you're part of an early stage startup, or even a growth-equity company, the road ahead to achieving real growth is long and steep. One advantage you do have, though, is agility: the ability to move and react quickly. When you work for a young company one of the most valuable traits you can cultivate is a willingness to see things through, no matter the obstacles you encounter.
Reacting quickly to problems without the help of managers is extremely valuable. If your company is developing new software and you've been charged with finishing the job, you shouldn't give up and ask for help just because you find a certain algorithm confusing. The same goes for more practical problems, like the always frustrating task of setting up wireless internet in your office. There's some valuable truth in the old adage, "It's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission."
Perseverance is a crucial part of what makes a good leader -- it shows that you're quick-thinking, innovative, and willing to go the extra mile to do what's expected of you. People who get promotions are people who can be trusted with responsibility, and nothing earns that trust faster than the ability to get all your work done quickly and on your own time.
2. Professional Aggression
There are plenty of people in business who avoid conflict, working generously to accommodate others so that problems can be resolved quickly and painlessly. These natural-born people-pleasers may make great partners for internal projects, but they're ineffective at negotiating with outside parties.
The best employees use a kind of professional assertiveness in business dealings, pushing back against the demands of others without asking their manager for permission. People in leadership roles don't want to hear what the other side is asking for, and they certainly don't want to see their own people bending over backwards to make it happen. Those who are willing to be professionally assertive will better secure their company's interests, which in turn makes them better-performing employees.
3. Good Attitude
It's become something of a clich, but there is a culture of entitlement in our workforce today. Far too many employees feel comfortable expressing that "they know better" than their superiors, that they aren't being promoted fast enough, or that they deserve more from the company without working any harder.
Unfortunately for these people, most managers can smell this bad attitude a mile away. Entitled behavior is not only guaranteed to keep you from a promotion, but also to cost you your job come the next round of recruitment. Employees who get promotions don't tell superiors that they're being underutilized -- they demonstrate it through hard work and trust that their managers will take note of it.
If they're going to promote someone, managers want to know that this person has perspective -- that they can handle delicate situations in the workplace with a view to what's really important, instead of getting fixated on petty issues. You simply can't be an effective leader if you don't have the maturity to put the right things first.
That's not to say that people who are worried about the wrong things have their hearts in the wrong place. Oftentimes, employees will come to their superiors with low-priority concerns because they think they've got an insight that others have missed. But the truth is that most managers only want to hear that you're seriously concerned about issues directly related to the health of the business. Those workers with real maturity will demonstrate a good sense of timing and priority about what's worth bringing to their superiors and what isn't.
5. Interest in the Art of Business
At a certain point, there's a ceiling for employees of growing businesses who are only interested in doing their specific, given jobs. You can be the best copywriter or best graphic designer at a company, but until you show that you're interested in using your skills to build the whole business -- and not just be a technician -- it's unlikely that you'll reach the highest tiers of leadership.
By showing an understanding of the steps and risks involved in scaling a company, you show your employers that you're aware of and willing to take on the tasks involved in a higher rank. For example, if the issue of raising private equity comes up around the office and you demonstrate a mature understanding of what that would mean for your company, you immediately become a more attractive candidate for promotion. Even if your job is a transactional one, this business sensibility indicates you're capable of applying yourself to that role across the business.