Jeff Bezos’ former assistant explains 3 stages to securing a promotion

  • To get promoted, find a way to solve your manager’s problems, set goals, and stay relevant.
  • That’s the advice of Ann Hiatt, who worked for Jeff Bezos and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
  • As a starting point, ask, ‘What do I want to learn next in my career?'” Hiatt told Insider.

If you want to be considered for a promotion, you should “look for a way to solve your manager’s problems,” Ann Hiatt, executive coach and former assistant to Jeff Bezos, told Insider — it’s part of her three-step advice for the career advancement ladder.

Hiatt was hired by Jeff Bezos’ executive assistant in 2002. She later spent 12 years at Google, initially working alongside Marissa Mayer before being promoted to chief of staff under then-CEO Eric Schmidt. She has been an executive coach since 2018. In her memoir, Bet on Yourself, she distils some of her lessons from working with billionaire CEOs.

Why do you want to be promoted?

When asked for her advice on a promotion, Hiatt says she refers to the “win, win, win” method, something she’s learned from working with other CEOs.

The first step is to look at your goals and what you want to achieve.

“Always start with, ‘What do I want to learn next in my career?'” Hiatt told Insider. “‘What expertise do I want to be known for?’ Which teams do I want to lead?’ “What stages do I want to be on?” — whatever that looks like,” she said.

Then look for ways to solve your manager’s problems in a way that helps you achieve some of your own goals, Hiatt said.

Perhaps your manager has taken on too many appointments and needs to delegate, or is too busy to attend a speaking opportunity they have been invited to. Imagine to help, Hiatt said.

“That often involves volunteering for things outside of your traditional job description and/or team,” she added.

Another important consideration at this point, according to Hiatt, is to ask yourself what kind of leader you want to be. Not every manager is worth emulating, she said.

How can you stay relevant?

The last phase of the process is about “future-proofing” your career, Hiatt said.

Make sure you help your manager solve a core business need. Otherwise, you can accidentally stray into a skillset or area that risks cutting you.

“Unless you consistently push the boundaries of your expertise, you’re primed for disruption — you’re the one who’s going to be fired or furloughed in the next crisis,” Hiatt said.

The best way to do that is by constantly learning new and relevant skills, Hiatt said. For example, if you work in a small business or live in a small town that doesn’t have a lot of opportunities, getting involved in community projects can be a great way to learn new skills.

Carriage is never guaranteed

Creating a promotion is not an easy process. It’s not always fair either.

Women and people from minority ethnic groups have historically faced – and continue to face – a “glass ceiling” that has held them back from their white male peers due to unconscious prejudice, social factors and sometimes outright stigma.

Some companies have also historically focused on the wrong skills when recruiting employees, for example by focusing on how much a salesperson has sold rather than their soft skills.

Gallup, the leadership consultancy, has estimated that in up to 82% of hirings, companies promote a candidate without adequate managerial skills.

However, career experts say it’s important to be intentional and plan to give yourself the best chance of securing one. Part of it involves knowing what not to do.

Acting like a know-it-all, staying calm, or becoming overly defensive are among habits to avoid, experts say.

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