How to get promoted: The do's and don'ts

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You’ve been in your job for a while and feel you’ve mastered every aspect of your job duties. Now, you’re ready for that next step up: a promotion. But, it’s not as easy as asking your boss to move up the ladder. So, what do you do? 

Promotions at work are a tricky field to navigate for many workers, but there are ways you can stand out to your manager and prove that you're worthy of that higher position. Building a good relationship and performing well in your role are a couple of basic ways that you can show that you deserve a step up.

On the flip side, if you push too hard for a promotion to your boss, you could actually hurt your chances (not to mention your reputation). 

To help you out, let’s break down five things to do to help you get promoted as well as five things that might hurt your chances of a promotion:

Table of contents
How to get promoted: the do's
How to get promoted: the don'ts
Invest in yourself and your company will invest in you

How to get promoted: the do's

1. Have candid conversations with your manager

Many times, employees are nervous to tell their boss that they want a promotion—as if it's overly greedy. However, you can’t expect to get promoted if your boss doesn’t know that you're hoping to advance.

It’s okay (and even encouraged) to tell your manager that you’re looking for career growth opportunities, ask for their career advice, or even directly ask how to get promoted at your company. A good manager will be happy to hear that you’re excited to grow your career. If you express your interest in moving up, your boss will know to keep you in mind for potential promotions or projects that would prove your capabilities in a higher-level role.

Be open to the idea that if you want to move up the corporate ladder, you may need to take on additional responsibilities before your title is changed to a higher level. Many leaders want to see employees stretch and show their skills in an assignment or role that’s outside of their typical duties before granting them a promotion. Ask for those opportunities and then prove you are ready for the next step in your career.

2. Identify and solve problems (without being asked)

The best way to show you’re ready for the next step in your career is to demonstrate yourself to be a problem solver. Every business, project, or team has things to improve upon, and you can prove to be a valuable employee if you can identify those problems and find solutions.

For example, if your team constantly complains about the lack of organization in the filing system, volunteer to reorganize and set up a process to ensure things are stored and labeled correctly going forward. Your willingness to jump in and find a new way to work will show upper management your leadership skills and potential for career advancement.

In addition, anything you can do to make your boss’ life easier—whether or not there is a problem to solve—is a good way to put yourself on track for a promotion. Anticipate potential issues and bring your proposed solutions to your boss. They’ll likely be impressed by your initiative and appreciate your willingness to find fixes to problems.  

3. Regularly ask for feedback

Something all successful people do to put themselves on track for their next career move is ask others for feedback. While getting your manager’s insight on your performance and potential growth areas is a good first step, there are other ways you can gather additional feedback.

A popular strategy to ask others for feedback is conducting a 360-degree review. These reviews involve asking your peers and colleagues to evaluate your performance, either anonymously or directly. The benefit of this review process is that other people may notice areas of your work that your boss may not have visibility to. You can also invite a mentor, friend, or cross-functional partner to provide feedback.

It can be difficult—and sometimes even humbling—to ask others for feedback, but this may bring items to your attention that you can improve upon now, so you’re ready for a new role down the road.

4. Create and track your own career goals

Once you’ve received feedback on ways to improve in your current job, you can begin to create and track goals based on those areas of opportunity. Be sure to share your goals and the specific actions you’re taking to achieve them with your leader. Then, update them on your progress regularly and reach out if you need their help or additional feedback.

Let’s say you have a goal to be a better leader in meetings. Some specific actions you could take are sending out meeting agendas in advance, sending meeting recaps following the meeting, and tracking down status updates in advance of meetings to streamline the meeting time. Then, share how these actions have improved your meetings with your leader on a quarterly basis. You can discuss your progress with your boss and gather any additional feedback they have so you can continue to improve. Eventually, your boss will see how you’ve grown and will appreciate that you’re willing to work on your development to get yourself to a higher role.  

Another great way to work on your career goals is by working with a personal coach. A coach can be there to support you as you work on your focus areas and can provide unbiased feedback on your progress. F4S has a variety of coaching programs that can help you in the areas you want to improve upon, like attention to detail, big picture thinking, or how to start fast. You can even create a strategy on how to achieve your goals with F4S’s goal catcher program.

5. Develop strong relationships

Having solid relationships within your team or greater organization can be key to securing a job promotion. Contrary to popular belief, strong relationships go beyond playing into office politics. Focus on building good working rhythms with your coworkers and supervisor, and take the time to get to know your team on a somewhat personal level so you can bond and trust each other.

It’s also important to develop good relationships with people outside of your team. Expanding your network can set you up to understand the overall business better and keep you in the loop of other opportunities that might set you up for career growth.

Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Promotion decisions are often made based on the relationships you have with upper management or people who can advocate for you to leadership. While it’s not always the most comfortable thing to do, establishing bonds with leaders or coworkers can help you get to the next step.

How to get promoted: the don'ts

1. Ask for too much

A big mistake people make when asking their boss for a promotion is asking for too much. If you want to move up, don’t expect to get a job two levels up with a 50% salary increase. This will only annoy your supervisor and slow you down on your career growth.

Instead, work your way up the corporate ladder by asking for small, reasonable things, such as additional responsibility or a level-up promotion. This will show your leader you’re interested in moving up without coming off as entitled.

2. Expect a promotion based on tenure alone

If you’re wondering how to get promoted because you’ve been in your job for a few years, you’ll have to have a better reason for your manager to get promoted than just time alone. The best case you can bring to get promoted is by showing the value you bring to the team, such as:

  • Targets you've achieved
  • Projects you've led or contributed to
  • Deliverables you've completed
  • Problems you've solved

Don’t spend years biding your time because you feel like you're bound to get a promotion after a certain time period. If that’s your strategy, you may be disappointed when your supervisor isn’t keen to promote you. Get to work showing what skills you bring to the table and how you make a positive impact within your team and organization.

3. Overwork and overwhelm yourself

Sometimes you’ll have to put in extra time and effort into your work to impress your boss and snag that promotion. No one likes an employee who isn’t willing to invest a little extra elbow grease to get a project done.

But, it’s important to avoid working too hard and burning yourself out. Be sure to take care of yourself and manage your mental and physical capacities. Regularly check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling and how you can decrease unnecessary stress in your life. Promotions can be important, but they shouldn't come at the expense of your happiness and wellbeing.

4. Compete with your coworkers

Seeing your coworkers as competition only creates a negative atmosphere in your workplace. Don’t let your ambition or any insecurities cause you to sabotage or be rude to colleagues. There’s no need to put your team members down to make yourself look better, and usually, that will only have an adverse effect on your chances of being promoted.

Managers want to put people in leadership positions if they can work well with others and develop talent in other people. If you are only out for yourself and don’t collaborate well with your coworkers, you probably won’t set yourself up for promotion success.

5. Have a negative attitude

If you ask for a promotion and your boss tells you, “not yet,” adopting a negative attitude is the worst thing you can do. While not getting promoted is disappointing, use this moment to ask for feedback and create an action plan to set you on track to get ready for a new role.

No one likes to work with someone who has a bad attitude or is ungrateful for the opportunities available in their current role. Maintain a positive outlook on your situation and keep your relationships with your manager and coworkers strong. If you are enjoyable to work with and don’t let setbacks ruin your employee experience, your supervisor will take note and may consider you for the next opportunity to come up.

Invest in yourself and your company will invest in you

Promotions often take time to plan, execute, and demonstrate to leadership that you’re ready for that next step. While the process might seem frustrating, it’s important to remember to keep a good attitude and strengthen your working relationships with your boss and colleagues during this time.

To help you stay on track of your goals to get promoted, it may be helpful to invest in personal coaching. Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help you become your best self, boost your confidence, and inspire you to try new things in the workplace.

Once you’ve set and made progress on your career goals, show your manager the results and what you’ve learned. If you regularly update your manager about your progress on your goals and go the extra mile in your work, a promotion may very well be in your future.

Get a jump start on creating and achieving your career goals to secure that promotion. Get started with career coaching for free now.

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