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12 phrases that make you sound smart enough to get promoted

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Regardless of how your firm did during the first quarter, you should always be thinking about ways to separate yourself from peers to keep your job, if your company is making cuts, and position yourself for an eventual promotion.

Here are phrases that make you sound smart, competent, ambitious, hard-working, professional, in-the-know, capable, well-suited to the organization, confident … whatever it takes to get promoted.

“Here’s what I learned…”

The mistake that candidates often make is not establishing credibility before making a statement in business meetings or with seniors, according to Diane Baranello, a career coach and the founder of Coaching for Distinction and a former training director at Citigroup.

Instead of saying “I think…,” which presents whatever follows as an opinion, effective communicators might say, “I’ve had some experience here. Let me tell you what I learned,” she said.

“I give the credit to…”

Don’t overlook the emotional intelligence side of what it takes to be recognized as promotable material, said Amy Adler, executive resume writer, career coach and founder of Five Strengths Career Transition Experts.

For example, say, “I give the credit for the project’s success to my team’s effort.” This shows that you are not taking credit for someone else’s work, but rather that you have hired and coached the right people to achieve your company’s goals, Adler said.

“I’ll post you on that”

The inverse of a manager saying, “Keep me posted,” many Goldman Sachs employees say, “I’ll post you on that” as shorthand for “I will provide you with an update at the appropriate time.”

The idea isn’t to adopt that phrase per se, but rather to demonstrate that you fit in well with your own firm’s culture.

Know the prevailing buzzwords for your company, said Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.

“Every company has some sort of lexicon that is specific to the organization,” he said.

“Good point, but…”

Business professionals who want to be heard begin by acknowledging what’s already been said before contributing to the conversation, Baranello said.

For example, instead of saying “I don’t agree…,” a more influential leader might say, “You make a valid point. I’d like to put another perspective on the table for discussion…”

“I have a number of solutions…”

When you’re put on the spot or faced with a difficult nut to crack, say, “I have a number of potential solutions to this problem.” Rather than come to your boss with an endless stream of problems, come with solutions and viable next steps that you can recommend, Adler said.

“Yes. When?”

Managers want to know that the people reporting to them will deliver. In order to get your boss to feel confident, you should say yes to whatever request they make – but you need to know what kind of deadline you’re operating under, Cohen said.

What not to say: “How?” or “I can’t.”

“On Wall Street, people don’t want you to ask them how to solve a problem,” Cohen said. “They also don’t want to hear ‘I can’t do it,’ so you figure it out and make it happen.”

“I’d like to broaden our discussion…”

Making positive impressions begins with engaging others in a dialogue that broadens the conversation like, “We’ve heard many great ideas at today’s meeting. I’d like to broaden our discussion by taking a contrarian position,” Baranello said.

“I am curious about you…”

Find informal opportunities to create new connections and learn more about people from a position of pure curiosity.

For example: “I’m very curious about your career path [or to learn how XYZ project went]. May I invite you to lunch/coffee/have your ear for five minutes?”

“You might find that these connections become advocates for your advancement down the road,” Adler said.

“It sounds almost as challenging as that time I….”

On Wall Street, particularly at hedge funds, participating in hyper-competitive events or activities that are only available to people who have the resources to participate carries cachet, Cohen said.

For example, have you run a marathon or completed a Tough Mudder obstacle race? Are you an excellent poker player or golfer? Bring it up in conversation.

“The key is being able to talk about stuff that will single you out as someone who has an edge and is slightly more in the flow than other folks,” Cohen said.

“I hear you”

Empathic, reflective communication creates enduring connections, both up and down the corporate hierarchy, Adler said.

Simply say, “I hear what you are saying.”

“I have a view on that…”

It’s important to have a point of view on important issues, but it’s equally vital to know if and when to share it.

“Exercising good judgment about what you think about the market and the direction it’s taking positions yourself for success,” Cohen said. “You need to know when and with whom to share that perspective.”

“…” Pause at the perfect moments to give your words additional weight

To increase your degree of eloquence, pause slightly to create suspense before saying something important. When executed properly, it causes anyone you’re speaking to, including your boss, to pay more attention to what you’re saying.

In addition, if you pause after saying something important, it gives listeners time to reflect on what you’ve said and it’s more likely to sink in.

Now that’s how you get promoted.

Photo credit: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

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