How to Position Yourself as the “Candidate in Waiting”

If you are looking to be promoted in your organization, you have a golden opportunity. Ironically, it’s one few people take.

It’s called ‘being proactive’. 

Rather than simply fulfilling your current responsibilities, you are tuning your antennas to detect subtle changes in the organization which may provide possibilities for the near future. Taking action on these changes allows you to be a ‘candidate in waiting’.

Proactivity is about being ready for action, ready to react to situations to take advantage of opportunities around you. It’s having the right attitude to spot an opportunity and go for it, to adapt to economic, technological, and market changes. 

Rigid, fixed-plan mindsets find this difficult. Keeping yourself flexible and open-minded is the way to navigate, or you may miss out on some great career possibilities.

What are some “indicators of opportunity” that may be knocking at your door? The following are some examples which, if acted on, will give you the edge:

  • A critical worker is about to retire.
  • Your company’s revenues have tanked, and budgets are going to be a problem.
  • You hear through the grapevine that a coworker interviewed with another company for a job.
  • A new manager is coming on board one, two, or even three levels up from you.
  • A critical worker one or two steps up from you is pregnant and may be taking maternity leave during a time in which a critical project is due.
  • The company adopted new software or vendor and needs to integrate or reorganize the acquisition.
  • Your boss gripes about a problem, or your boss’s boss gripes about a problem.

These changes in an organization affect people differently. Their power to impact you depends on where you are in the org chart of your company. If you are a middle manager, you need to worry more about potential staffing changes at the top, external forces, competitors, and the economy as a whole. If you are just starting in your career, you need to worry more about your department, your immediate work area, and the personalities of the people closest to you. Interns must be especially vigilant since they are on a short assignment and have limited time to demonstrate their value to the company.

Of course, you should read the internal job postings on your company’s intranet every day with your morning coffee, but it is anticipating organizational needs that drives a true competitive advantage. Once that posting is public—even internally—you’re going to face competition, an existing job description, and managers who have envisioned a solution that may not look like you.

Being a ‘candidate in waiting’ doesn’t mean just sitting around. You will need to be active in waiting. Here are five things you can do now to stay fresh and position yourself for the next opportunity.

1. Ensure your portfolio, resume, and social media accounts are fresh and up to date.

2. Acquire and apply new skills in your job performance, either by applying new technologies or work methodologies. For example, using Dashboards in place of dry Excel sheets for illustrating work metrics.

3. Maintain a good working environment and develop good working relationships with your colleagues, because at the end of the day, these relationships will help you in the final year work evaluation.

4. Engage with your network. Have all your social networks in order, scrub any unhelpful content, and make good use of tools like Linkedln to position yourself as the ideal candidate.

5. Be current with your work, show interest, solve problems, and be organized in your current position!

These five actions are the closest thing to a magic wand you’ll find to make yourself that very special ‘candidate in waiting’.

Peter Spellman helps people discover and develop their next calling through online courses and coaching. Find him at