How to Move Up in Your Company, with Tristan Layfield

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If you feel bored or discontent at work, maybe it’s time to seek a new position- in your current company. Find Your Dream Job guest Tristan Layfield says internal job-seeking can be a great way to get that promotion or gain the skills you need to further your career. Tristan suggests you begin with setting goals for performance and tracking your success, then sharing those successes with your managers during performance reviews. It’s also crucial to build relationships with others in your company that you can learn from and who will support you.

About Our Guest:

Tristan Layfield is a career coach and resume writer. His articles have appeared in Business Insider, Black Enterprise, and The Muse.

Resources in This Episode:

  • Tristan shares more tips on career development on his podcast, Tap in With Tristan.
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResumeTop Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 292:

How to Move Up in Your Company, with Tristan Layfield

Airdate: April 21, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

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Sometimes the job you want is where you already work. How do you get promoted or land a new position inside your organization?

Our guest today says you need to know your goals, network internally, and track your accomplishments.

Tristan Layfield is here to talk about how to move up in your company.

Tristan is a career coach and resume writer. His articles have appeared in Business Insider, Black Enterprise, and The Muse.

He joins us from Detroit, Michigan.

Well, let’s jump right into it, Tristan, why do you recommend that job seekers look to move up in a company?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, that’s a really great question. I recommend that job seekers look to move up into a company because there are many opportunities in the company that you’re in, and it’s always easier to land a role when you have connections with a company rather than building those connections from scratch. So, I always say, we want to look and see what opportunities we may have inside of a company, especially if we already like to work there. We like the people that we work with, and we like the benefits and pay that we’re receiving. So, I think it’s a really great opportunity to progress your career without having to do all of the external relationship-building work that you did previously to get to where you are.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find, Tristan, that many job seekers don’t even consider the internal option, that they just start looking outside?

Tristan Layfield:

I think, most cases, yes. Oftentimes when I have a lot of clients come to me, they’re thinking that they need to switch up their company immediately, typically because they’re not getting the pay that they want or they’re not getting the promotion that they want. And so, oftentimes, they’re looking to move externally. While we do have some people who are doing that job-seeking internally, I would say that the majority of them are looking externally almost immediately.

Mac Prichard:

Is the internal job search different from looking outside an organization? Does it require different skills, for example?

Tristan Layfield:

Actually, I would say that an internal job search tends to be a little bit easier oftentimes than an external job search. When we think about external job searches, the average job posting gets anywhere around 150 to 250 applicants, which really boils down to you having around a 2% chance of landing a role by just applying online to an external company. When you are internal, oftentimes, your application and your resume are fast-tracked to that recruiter or that hiring manager, so you have a bit better chance of being interviewed than you do actually applying externally because you first have to get through the applicant tracking software and then you have to get vetted by the recruiters and the hiring managers and then they have to decide to bring in about 5 people for interviewing.

Oftentimes, applying internally can be a little bit easier than actually, the external process.

Mac Prichard:

Does an internal candidate for either a promotion or a position have a built-in advantage over people who are coming in from the outside?

Tristan Layfield:

I would say that oftentimes it’s a process advantage; it doesn’t necessarily give an advantage all the time based on skills or expertise. Sometimes that is the case though. These are typically people who can pull your file and see what type of results you’ve already created for the organization. Look at the performance management reviews that you’ve already had inside of the organization. So, oftentimes those things can be taken into account but I wouldn’t take that process for granted and say it’s a “little bit of an easier time.” I think you still have to prove that you can do the job, that you have the skills and abilities, and that you can provide a return on the investment for the organization if they put you in that role.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad that you’re making that point because while we’re talking about moving up within a company, often, when applicants for a position hear that there are internal candidates, they think that they’re doomed, that they’ll never beat an internal candidate, but that’s not necessarily the case, is it?

Tristan Layfield:

No, it is not. I’ve seen many cases where internal candidates have gotten the interview along with external candidates and the external candidate actually ended up with the role. Now, sometimes that does create a situation where the internal candidates become a little bit jaded and then that goes back to what we were talking about earlier, how many of my clients will come to me wanting to start an external job search, simply because they’re not satisfied with where they’ve landed inside of their career with their organization, currently.

That’s why I always say, don’t take your internal status for granted, and also don’t think your external status actually counts you out.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned promotion and salary as common reasons for looking to move up in a company. What are some of the other benefits of doing this?

Tristan Layfield:

Some of the other benefits of moving up inside of a company, you get…quite a few things. First of all, you get to build your skill set, you get to be exposed to different things, different projects, different opportunities. Sometimes that skill set can be leadership, you can start to lead a team, which builds a whole new separate set of skill sets because oftentimes you have to begin hiring for that team, and so if you’ve never had that experience, you start to gain those type of skills. As you move up inside of a company, you tend to start gaining more visibility, whether that’s mid-level or senior-level management. Which oftentimes, can lead to other opportunities down the line if you’re performing well.

I think that many people want to move up mainly for those two reasons. Obviously, as you said, we mentioned salary, most people are looking to get paid for their experience and expertise, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest motivating factors but I think that there are other things that come along with it. There are benefits sometimes, as you progress inside of a career, there are stock options, sometimes there are professional development budgets that you start to get, and things of that sort that can really be enticing when you begin to move up inside of a company or an organization.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about your tips for how to move up in a company and I know that often your advice is to pay attention to your own performance. What do you mean by that, Tristan?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think it really starts with making sure that you’re setting the right goals. When we’re talking about performance management, typically at the beginning of the year, we’re working with our leadership to set goals, and when we’re doing those goals, there are three things that you want to keep in mind when you’re setting them. You want to make sure that they’re relevant, impactful, and measurable. And so what I mean by that, I talk about that, you want your goals to be relevant, your personal and professional goals. Yes, your goals need to be relevant to what the company is looking for but you also want to make sure that you’re getting something out of the deal here.

Whether that be skills development or whatever the case may be, you want to make sure that you’re getting something out of that deal. The other thing when it comes to R, I, and M, so relevant, impactful, and measurable; the impactful part is that you want to make sure that the goals that you set are impactful for the business. Really take the time to understand the overall team, department, and company goals to better understand how your goals will have a direct impact. Will it create efficiencies or increase productivity? Will it streamline compliance, eliminate fines for the company? What will it actually do?

Ultimately, you want to make sure that your goals help the company in some way, and then the last thing is measurable. And in business, if you can’t quantify the impact, then it’s like it never existed, so you want to ensure that there is either a method in place to capture the data or metrics or whatever the case may be, or you need to create one. If you need to create one, then you need to speak to your boss about what metrics they believe are the most important to capture and the most efficient and effective way to do so.

I think that it really starts with setting those right goals. Then, from there, it’s really focusing in on those goals during one on ones with your boss. In those one on ones, you want to make sure that you’re checking in with your boss on your progress towards your goals but also talk about the pitfalls that you’re having because sometimes goals need to be adjusted and that’s okay. And maybe that was because the goal was too lofty or maybe that’s because the organization has shifted priorities, but you need to make sure that your energy is focused in the right area.

Then, from there, you also want to make sure that you’re having conversations about relevant metrics and key performance indicators to understand how your work really plays into the organization’s larger goals. This is something that so many professionals miss, and it becomes very apparent during the self-reviews at the end of the year, and when it comes time to do their cover letters, resumes, and LinkedIn. If you can’t confidently tell someone how your work impacts the organization, you aren’t diving deep enough to understand how your work relates to the bigger picture.

You really need to get in there and understand how that really plays into the larger organization’s and department’s goals. And then, also, during the mid-year review that most people have, typically we set the goals, we’ll have a mid-year review, and then we’ll have a final review at the end of the year. During that mid-year review, I suggest that you openly ask, “Am I on track to receive a promotion at the end of the year? And if not what do I need to change for that to happen?”

You want to get as clear as possible on the expectations of that promotion, so that way, you can really understand how you get there, and then you can thoroughly fill out your self-review or your performance review at the end of the year to show how you’ve made that progress.

I think that’s really where this starts, and oftentimes, I see a lot of professionals not doing very well on setting those goals or advocating for themselves during their self-evaluation process.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to pause here, Tristan, and when we come back, I want to talk about how to take that information and advocate for yourself, not only in the position that you have but to use that information if you decide to seek another position within the organization.

Stay with us. When we come back, Tristan Layfield will continue to share his advice on how to move up in your company.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Tristan Layfield.

He’s a career coach and resume writer. Tristan’s articles have appeared in Business Insider, Black Enterprise, and The Muse.

He joins us from Detroit, Michigan.

Now, Tristan, I love the point you were making about the importance of setting goals, measuring your progress, keeping your boss plugged in throughout the course of the year, and how that can lay the foundation for a promotion.

Talk more about how you can use that information if you want to pursue another position in the company.

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, I think that really how you use that information is, what you’re doing here is you’re gathering receipts, that’s what I like to call them. Basically, you’re documenting what you’re accomplishing along the way and that’s by collecting, sharing emails, testimonials, awards, whatever the case, what you might have gotten from the work that you’ve done to achieve those goals, and those things are what are going to help you make the case for a promotion. What happens is, I’ve talked to many clients and they’ll say, I’m not getting that stuff from clients or internal stakeholders, how do I start to get those receipts?

If you aren’t receiving those things willingly, then I suggest that you begin to solicit feedback from the people that you work with, leaders, and those external stakeholders, like your clients and customers. So, maybe you create surveys- one you can send internally and one you can send externally that will allow those stakeholders to rate you against your goals, company values, and that promotional criteria that you got from your boss in your one on ones.

Now, when you’re gathering that information, you then want to just sort of collate it and share it with your boss regularly, and then utilize that in your self-evaluation during your performance review. Because what’s going to happen is, as you continue to share that regularly with your boss and put it in your self-evaluation, that means that the work that you’re doing, the good work that you’re doing is going to stay top of mind with your boss. So, when they’re having conversations about those promotional opportunities or who really shows up for the team and who really performs on the team, your name is going to be something that is there, top of mind.

That’s what we want to do, and as I said before, when we’re doing those internal applications, sometimes they do refer back to our performance management reviews. So, as you’re filling those self-evaluations out, you’re really documenting the metrics, the KPI, and the feedback that you’re getting to make the case even before you actually know you’re going for another role. So, I think that’s really how you take that and you utilize it from there.

Mac Prichard:

What have you seen work successfully for people who are perhaps reluctant to ask for those receipts, say a testimonial or an email or a note attesting to something that someone has said about their performance? What have you seen work, Tristan?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, so sometimes we’re not comfortable soliciting that feedback, and that’s completely okay. There’s another method that I like to utilize and usually, I like to try to do these things in combo, not separately, but sometimes they can work as one-off situations. The other thing is really just networking internally. Usually, people think about networking strictly as an external opportunity. Going to networking events for people who are in your industry, going to conferences, but this is always about external opportunities, but there are plenty of opportunities to network internally. You want to take the time to make sure that you are connecting with peers and leaders to understand what they do in the organization, so you can figure out how you can be of assistance to them. I know that you’re there to do a certain set of tasks but if we can find ways to make ourselves useful to people who could potentially sing our praises, that’s going to be beneficial for us as we make the case to potentially move up.

The idea here is that you want to gain a couple of things. You want to gain fans and you want to find mentors and sponsors, and oftentimes, when I say those things, people are like, “Well, what’s the difference between them.”

The first thing is fans, this is your hype squad. These are the folks who amp up the crowd, they just come in and they give you a break from hyping yourself up. These folks are really ready to sell anyone on how great they think you are, which helps to put your brand out there for you. At the same time, even though they may like you, they’re not necessarily personally invested in your growth or development.

The next thing is mentors; they share investment in your development but for whatever reason, either they’re unable or they’re unwilling to extend their social capital or political capital for you. Most often, the reason for that is that they care a lot about you but they may not have the juice in the organization to make things happen, that really comes down to having the power. That leads us to the third group which is sponsors.

Sponsors are like superfans. They’re willing to spend the political and social capital on you but these folks take it one step further. They invest in grooming you. They view you as a protege, they help you by bringing you onto teams, projects, things that they’re working on that align with your interest, your skills, to really help you advance inside of the organization, but they also then advocate for you in rooms that you’re not in. Whether that’s for raises, bonuses, or that promotion that you’re looking for.

If you take the time to network internally, you can start to build these three categories. The other thing that you can do when it comes to networking internally is join employee resource groups to connect with people across the organization and with leaders outside of your department. This really helps to raise your profile inside of the organization and it makes you more visible to large swaths of the organization which is key to the growth and development inside of a company.

It also gives you insights into opportunities to work on projects outside of your immediate scope and your immediate department, which then, goes back to the first point, raises your visibility, and this is another way that you can find those fans, those mentors, and those sponsors, because oftentimes you have people, like I said, from across the organization who are in there, so you can build that fan base or you can get those mentors but they also have people who are in mid to senior-level management and also often executive people who are sponsoring the group so these guys could become sponsors for you and they could be people who advocate for your advancement inside of the organization.

We talk about the things that you can take on but then there’s other things that you can do to build…people who advance your brand and advance the results that you create inside the organization to position you for that promotion.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to do that. What are some of your best tips, Tristan, for approaching possible mentors or sponsors and not only connecting with them but building a relationship with them?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, I think that’s a really, really great question. I think that first, it starts by just having a little bit of an understanding of what they do. And so, reaching out to them, maybe saying, “Hey, I just wanted to understand what you do inside of the organization.” Have a little bit of a conversation with them. I don’t know if most of you have heard of informational interviews but have an informational interview with someone that you’re interested in potentially being a mentor or sponsor to learn more about what they do in the organization, what projects they’re working on, some of the things that they’ve learned, and some of the advice that you might be able to grasp from them and I think that that really starts the…it sort of jump-starts the relationship-building process.

Then from there, you want to be consistent in communication with that person. You want to check in with them. I’m not talking about checking in with them every day or even every week; maybe it’s that you check in with them monthly and see how things are going. Maybe you ask them, “Is there anything that you’re working on that I could potentially help you with?”

What you really want to find out is how you can be of service or how you can provide help to that person because what happens too often is that we go into mentorship or sponsor relationships really thinking that these people only owe us something, they’re only going to give us something. But really what it should be is, it should be a two-way street, and first, you need to show them that you are of value before they’re willing to lay down their name, their political and social capital on you.

It’s really important that you figure out what they do, figure out how you fit into that and how to potentially help with that, and I think that really helps jump-start that relationship and then have consistent communication with them from there to continue to develop that relationship.

Mac Prichard:

How about fans? What is the best way of remaining connected with your fans and how can you be a fan for others and what should you do to help them inside of an organization?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, so typically fans are a little bit easier than the mentor and sponsorship relationships because they’re not something that you consistently maintain all of the time. These are the people that you work with on a regular basis, that you’re doing something for, maybe you’re pulling those reports for, or maybe you work with them on an ongoing project. These are people who are consistently around you. In your department, on the project teams that you work on, and really how you build those fans is you consistently show up and you do your best in the work that you’re doing.

You pull your weight, you communicate, you provide solutions, you provide that resolution to problems that they’re having and these people will start singing your praises naturally. “Tristan just showed up and he solved our issues and he’s just so amazing. You should absolutely have him on your team next time.” They just start telling people throughout the organization and so, I really think that that’s how you develop those fans.

It’s a little bit less about, particularly finding out how you can be of use to them. You already know how you can be of use to them because you have those relationships with them on a regular basis. You’re always checking in with them, you’re always talking to them.

Now, how can you be a fan is sort of the exact opposite. When somebody is showing up for you or your team or your project, make sure that you pat them on the back. Most of us have reward and recognition programs inside of our organizations; maybe go into that program and actually send them a reward or some type of recognition, maybe shoot them an email and copy their boss and really say how grateful you are to have them on the team and what type of difference they made, because that then provides them receipts for them to use any time they’re looking to advance or looking for that raise. So, really think about…put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

What would you like to receive from your colleagues, and do that exact same thing for them because you aren’t the only person in the organization that’s trying to advance or trying to get that raise, and so if you can spread a little joy or cheer by shooting an email, it doesn’t really cost you that much at that point and time. It’s just simply an email that you send and copy their boss on singing their praise.

Mac Prichard:

Finally, how do you know it’s the right time whether to seek a promotion or apply for another position at a company?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, so I think it’s when you feel like you’ve developed all of the skills that you could inside of the role that you’re in. And typically that leads to you being very bored with work, being discontent, you just don’t like going to work anymore because you feel bored, things aren’t engaging you. When you feel like you’re not engaged but you’re able to show up and just robotically do your job now, oftentimes that means that you’re not being challenged, and that’s a great time to seek out an opportunity to…maybe it’s a promotion, maybe it’s a lateral move into another department to develop a new skill set but it’s still a good opportunity to seek out a chance to really developing and growing yourself.

Oftentimes, that’s when people start to check out and think that they need to move externally, which is completely fine as well, because there are other factors that may play into that, like raises and salary, pay and things of that sort, but I think you want to start and see what opportunities are available for you in the company that you’re in, especially if you already like to work there. Yeah, I typically think it’s about if you’re actually being challenged inside of the role that you’re in or if you feel like you’ve developed all the skills that you could here and it’s time for you to move on.

Mac Prichard:

It’s been a terrific conversation, Tristan. Now tell us, what’s next for you?

Tristan Layfield:

Yeah, so for me, I actually host a podcast called “Tap in with Tristan” on the Living Corporate Network and I provide really short-form tips on a weekly basis. I’m actually bringing all of those tips together to create an ebook for people. So, I think we’re going to have 3, maybe 2 or 3 ebooks on resumes and cover letters, LinkedIn and networking, and possibly interviewing and other career tips, and so I’m really working hard on developing those right now.

Mac Prichard:

I know people can learn more about those books, once they’re published, as well as your other services by visiting your website

Now, Tristan, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to move up in your company?

Tristan Layfield:

I want the listener to remember that they need to always be their own biggest self-advocate. No one else is going to advocate for you better than yourself.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Kyle Elliott. He’s a career coach whose clients have landed jobs at companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Employers hire candidates who stand out. So what makes you different from your competitors?

Kyle says knowing what makes you distinctive is the key to getting the job you want.

Join us next Wednesday when Kyle Elliott and I talk about how to identify what makes you fabulous.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.