How to Get Promoted in the Workplace
Posted on May 3, 2018 by Ally Powell
It’s the question on the minds of thousands of today’s working professionals: How do I get a promotion at work and climb to the top of my dream career ladder — without sacrificing authenticity or slipping into problematic, proverbial, dog-eat-dog behavior?
The line between working smarter and harder has never been more important to career advancement. We hear time and time again from clients who clock in the hours, put in the effort and bring their A-games to their jobs every single day — all for that promotion — yet still find themselves struggling to stand out from the corporate crowd. They itch for more, with doubts and questions lingering on how to ask for promotions, understand the signs of getting promoted and navigate the landscape of today’s workplace.
We’ve put together a complete career guide of our own — one that covers the gamut of what it takes to separate from the pack and get a promotion. From salary negotiation tips to communication strategies to rectifying being overlooked for advancement opportunities, we’ve got answers on how to stop struggling and get a promotion at work, starting today.
Signal You’re Stepping up to the Plate: Ways to Get a Promotion at Work
Opportunities for career advancement and growth abound. In fact, unemployment rates are at some of the lowest in more than a decade, meaning it is the time to walk the walk and talk the talk to get your managers to realize your full potential.
Those seeking a promotion often find themselves in one of two situations: they’ve been with their employer for several years, or they’ve handled their share of successful projects from ideation to implementation. It’s easy to see why these folks start to wonder: Why am I not getting promoted?
If you have your sights set on serious career advancement, and you’re in a similar situation as above, ask yourself this fundamental question: Am I signaling I’m ready for a promotion? Here’s what a resounding “yes” entails.
Take the initiative:
Initiative is the spark that can quickly light a professional fire. It affects your actions and your attitude, signaling to all that you care and are ready to invest in the environment around you. Managers and bosses use initiative as a key indicator for promotional potential — and they know who has it and who doesn’t.
Look for new projects and responsibilities to take on at work. Take note of common problems your co-workers experience during the day, and be the one who addresses them. Analyze and keep track of potential problems that may arise that you can proactively solve. Keep your eyes open for new, more creative or efficient processes and propose them to relevant people. These efforts won’t be in vain.
Quantify your impact:
Numbers don’t lie. When it comes to how to get promoted, having data to back all your hard work is key to climbing that ladder. It states in a clear, comprehensive, inarguable way, “You need me. This is what I bring to the table.” Document anything you’ve done that’s positively contributed to the revenue or operations of your organization. For example, did you bring on new clients? Make extra sales? Trim operational costs? Help discover or implement time-saving software or computer programs? Find creative ways to stretch the budget? Were you part of a key project or change at work, attend industry conferences, network the organization or promote new products or services? Anything you can do to prove your results demonstrates your commitment and loyalty.
Be a lifelong learner:
Organizations want employees who are curious, adaptive and explorative. Make yourself a student and see each workday as an opportunity to learn something new. Subscribe to industry-relevant newsletters and blogs. Read trade publications. Ask questions during meetings. Take a class or two to expand your professional skills.
Be a mentor: Promotions often court both team and individual management. Yet the best managers are more mentors than delegators. They invest in those around them, take time to know their employees and work to create an environment where others thrive. Mentors also balance roles with those all-important “soft” skills, like stellar interpersonal communication and public speaking.
Keeping Eyes on the Prize: How to React After Not Getting Promoted
Even the most successful CEOs have been passed over for a promotion at some point in their career. The situation is inevitable — yet it doesn’t have to be paralyzing.
Whether getting overlooked took you by surprise — or you considered yourself a long shot to begin with — there are several questions to consider so you can avoid this situation in the future. Keeping your career progression top of mind means both practicing and enacting the following strategies when you discover someone else was promoted ahead of you:
Did you inquire about the promotion?
We know it’s daunting. But did your employer know you were interested in the position? Were they aware of your current contributions, as well as your future career plans, and how this position fits them perfectly? Take ownership of your path. You should never assume your manager “just knows” about your aspirations. Learning how to ask for a promotion is more than a skill — it’s a career necessity.
Did you keep promotion-related communication lines open?
When the prospect of a promotion at work arises, there are several people you should reach out to. First, speaking with your boss directly is the most practical and useful way to ensure you express your interest. If you’re interested in taking over the spot of someone leaving a position, have a conversation with that person and ask plenty of questions.
On the other hand, when you get passed up for a promotion, communication is still key. Schedule time with your manager to discuss how you could have prepared or made a stronger case for yourself, as well as touch base on your overall skill set and career direction. You can leverage all your experiences, and asking for this kind of feedback only shows further initiative.
Are you in the right place for a promotion?
Why are you interested in the position in the first place? Are you feeling unfulfilled or unchallenged with your current responsibilities? Are you looking to pivot career directions? Are your performance and skills suited for that role, or are there other positions — present or not — where you’d provide an elevated fit? During these personal audits, it’s important to be open and honest with yourself. Your answers will likely shape how you approach promotions in the future.
If you find yourself still struggling with being overlooked for a promotion, there are further ways to assess your situation. Get your hands on a complete org structure to see where your position sits. Ask yourself what drew you to the promotion in the first place, and why it’s still on your mind. Are there other places in the company where you can find the same satisfaction? Could it be time to look elsewhere?
Don’t Throw in the Towel: How to Handle Losing a Promotion
How you react to not getting promoted says a lot about your attitude and professionalism. Don’t blow your chances for future advancement by channeling negativity or hostility — even if you really want to.
There are several strategies and activities to employ instead. Each one redirects the potential for negativity into reflection, action and growth — the exact fuel you need to keep your feet on the ground and your head held high.
Don’t see it as a personal failure.
Getting overlooked for a promotion is not the end of your professional career, and it’s certainly not a final judgment of your character! Rather, try to see the situation for what it is — an inevitability in the life of a hardworking, hustling professional. Not a rejection, not a personal slight — just one door closing and another set to open.
Make it a learning experience.
What it means to get a promotion varies from person to person. Even in the sting of the moment, this, too, is a rich experience for you to learn about yourself. Losing a promotion gives you the chance to ask questions and plan new changes for your work, both internally and externally. These questions and changes will likely shape your future professional path. Don’t let this opportunity slip by while you lick your wounds.
Have a conversation with the person who got the promotion.
How did they prepare? Did they keep lines of communication open, or inquire ahead of time about the role? What were their interview tactics or strategies? Be open and curious. This person offers a unique perspective into the promotional hiring process of your organization, as well as what relevant hiring managers look for. Nurture this connection as a prime resource for next time.
Remain positive and available.
Attitude is everything at work. In the midst of your situation, remaining positive and upbeat will not only impress your manager, but will actually improve your work ethic and overall health, too.
Make sure your boss remains aware of your interest in career advancement, as well as professional development opportunities and interests. By keeping them engaged and tuned in, you will reap the rewards down a not-so-distant road.
Keep your finger on the pulse.
Now is a great time to redouble your mentoring and networking efforts. However, it’s essential to ensure they’re authentic, with you getting to know others in meaningful and organic settings, rather than short, surface interactions. What’s more, keep tabs on similar opportunities for advancement in your company’s org structure. Ask around and cultivate career conversations. Remain insightful of the needs you fulfill, the talents where you excel and problems you take off others’ plates. The more your co-workers can see and know these things about you, the more you stay top of mind for the next round of promotions.
Avoid playing a game of comparisons.
It’s easy to let your disappointment color your take on the situation. In an effort to reconcile confusion or lingering feelings, some people fall into the trap of comparing themselves tit-for-tat against other candidates. They put tremendous time and effort into listing every possible reason they got snubbed — or detailing why they were never good enough in the first place. Comparing yourself to the individual who earned the promotion will only do one thing: put you in a bad mood. It’s impractical and unhealthy. Be aware of your thoughts here and where they take you, instead focusing on how you learn from and complement others in the office.
Up Your Game: How to Land That Next Promotion and Become Your Best Professional Self
You’ve worked hard to be where you are in your career. No matter what life has thrown your way, you’ve handled yourself with grace, enthusiasm and initiative while keeping your eye on the job prize.
Still left wondering how to get a promotion at work?
Here are some strategies for next steps to polish your professional self and land that dream promotion.
Don’t be afraid to question authority.
People in higher positions are still, well, people! Like you, they have areas of strength and development, as well as innate preferences and work habits. The best workplaces are those open to collaboration, constructive criticism and change. By participating in these activities with authority figures, you display your thoughtfulness, attention to detail and commitment to bettering the company — all traits to help you stand out.
Just make sure you do it properly!
Respectful brainstorming, negotiation and feedback sessions with superiors allow them to view you as a peer rather than a subordinate. They also highlight your confidence and willingness to speak your mind within a crowd. Just make sure you back up any suggestions with research and data.
Network wisely to put people first — including yourself.
Doing great work is imperative to success, but so are interpersonal skills, networking and overall likeability. Don’t be afraid to become your own biggest cheerleader, sharing your professional achievements and goals tactfully with those around you. Likewise, don’t let the goal-oriented atmosphere of an office prevent you from interacting and befriending those around you. The best professionals balance both productivity and personality.
Leverage your time to make room to do so.
Use lunch breaks, coffee runs and even happy hours to get to know co-workers and managers alike. Inquire about likes and interests, backgrounds, tastes and upbringings. There are a ton of conversation hacks to get people to like you, a skill you should never underestimate.
Accepting the Win: How to Accept a Promotion Through Proper Communication
With a little patience and a lot of diligence, your hard work has paid off. You’ve sharpened your professional skills and persona to the point where managers couldn’t pass you up any longer. They’ve finally offered you a promotion.
The excitement is palpable — yet in all likelihood, you’re asking yourself, “Now what?” What are the key steps to take after your boss offers you a promotion?
Learn how to negotiate a salary.
Compensation is critical, and in some cases might even be key to your making a career-changing decision. You don’t want all your effort to go to waste if you’re not getting the complete compensation package you need.
- First, research the average market salary for your new role. Keep in mind your experience and skill levels, as those will factor into net salaries.
- Second, consider additional monetary perks, such as insurance or retirement packages, paid time off and more.
- Third, management will likely ask you what your salary expectations are. Determine if you’re comfortable giving an explicit number, and back that figure up with relevant experiences and market data.
- Finally, take a breather. It’s OK to take your time when negotiating salaries. Give yourself a night to review variables and come back to the offer with fresh eyes.
Stay open-minded and aware of the new parts of a “new” job.
Promotions carry a lot of change — some we’re aware of and some we are not. Be prepared for this reality beforehand, so you’re not caught off-guard when hidden tasks or unpronounced aspects arrive on your desk. With any promotion comes a great shift in responsibility — and it will be easier to adapt if you have a flexible mindset going in.
Set authentic limitations.
Promotions mean more responsibility, yes, but that doesn’t mean you should lose yourself or your preferred work habits. Have discussions with your boss on what helps you stay productive and tailor your schedule accordingly.
Keep lines of communication open.
Solidify yourself in your promotion as someone open to collaboration and communication. Whether it’s with employees on your team or your new manager, keep communication channels horizontal and eliminate unnecessary functional hurdles. And never be afraid to reach out if you feel your communication skills could use some development.
Envision the Victory: Why Choose VoicePRO®?
It’s not a solo climb to reach the top of your career ladder. Whether you’ve just landed your first post-college, entry-level position or have 20 years of seasoning in your vocation, your career success takes dedication, strategy, mentorship and years of nurturing. You don’t — and shouldn’t — have to navigate it alone.
At VoicePRO, we live to make your professional presence the best it can be. When it comes to promotional and communication services, we set ourselves apart with our vision.
- We know promotions are earned, not given. They require time, focus and commitment. We work with you to know you — the real you — to sharpen and brand your best communication skills and set you on a path for growth.
- We know it takes a village. Knowing when to reach out and seek assistance is the hallmark of a leader — the kinds we work with and coach every day.
- We aim to build confidence, relationships and influence. Leading, engaging and connecting are our mottos. From quality executive speaking to team-building communication strategies, we deliver people-first results.
VoicePRO offers ways to raise your communication and engagement skills, from learning to sell to creating an executive presence. Connect over a 30-minute consultation with an accredited VoicePRO coach so we can tailor to your needs, at your location, today.
VoicePro delivers transformative leadership and communication programs for individuals and companies across the globe. Through VoicePro, professionals develop the advanced skills needed to communicate clearly, influence audiences and achieve results.
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